Inspiration for Creatives’ of Any Brand: Nintendo’s Eternal Genius and World Building of the Billion Dollar 20+ Year Pokemon Franchise
How to apply Pokemon to building your own brand
This article here is directed to any creative of any profession, especially visual artists, writers, animators, musicians and essentially any creative who hopes to create a world of their own that can make them revenue for years, as well as inspire people for years. The case study here will be that of Nintendo’s 21+ year old (by the time of this article) franchise called “Pokémon”. Lessons will be given that could help grow and give inspiration to whatever grand project you may be visualizing for the world. Let’s begin.
1. Make the idea relate to something that has always been your passion and forte.
If you are TRULY passionate enough to birth something and are dedicated to seeing it grow, you will always find a way to fund it and keep it alive no matter what, much like a parent to their child. Keep that mentality true throughout the entire fleshing out of the idea. Pokémon started simply as a hobby of a young Japanese boy from the suburbs of Tokyo, named Satoshi Tajiri, who loved catching insects and tadpoles in his childhood (sounds peculiar but stick with me here folks). Desiring to give children the same jubilance he felt as a child, Satoshi decided to put his idea of catching creatures into practice.
2. Find an entire crew that will not only do the work but bare the storm for the success of the vision and advocate for its survival.
Satoshi Tajiri formed Game Freak with his friends and began building his desired world to pitch to Nintendo once finding out about their new portable gaming device, the now vintage Game Boy and its supplementary device, the Game Boy Game Link Cable. Even with all of his team’s planning, Satoshi and Game Freak failed in their pitch to Nintendo over 6 times. Yes, creatives, you will fall flat on your ass many times, and not just your first time at the races. However, this is where the power of networking and ally building comes in handy for whatever you are trying to bring to life. Even after the failed pitches, a new friend of Satoshi, the legendary mogul and greater than average Nintendo figurehead, Shigeru Miyamoto, advocated for Satoshi by pitching Satoshi’s idea to Nintendo one last time. This recommendation, as powerful as Donald Glover’s live national endorsement of Migos’ Bad and Boujee, finally gave success to Satoshi and Game Freak, funding the creation of project for 6 years.
3. Polish your project as much as possible with your team before releasing it to the world, again, even if it gets tough.
As I said before, the process is deep, time and money taxing, but if you never stick it through, you will never know. Satoshi and Game Freak grinded ridiculously to make their vision come to life. They had to first make sure all legalities were taken care of, changing the original name from Capsule Monsters to Pocket Monsters (which is now Pokémon for short.) The original artwork for the games was drawn by Tajiri’s friend, artist Ken Sugimori, while the music and sound effects were composed by Junichi Masuda (and still are today for all of the handheld series). They spent many years debugging and riding the game as many errors as possible. As I said, you will likely fall flat on your ass the first few times, as one could obviously see through the glitches throughout the entire Pokémon franchise. Despite the failures, the initial release was still a priority. Toiling for the project’s completion at the time nearly drove Game Freak to bankruptcy. Five employees quit and Satoshi himself (the boss) worked many unpaid hours. However, they finished, and the rest is history.
4. Begin to “world-build” with your wildest imaginations, especially with options for expansion of concepts and plot lines.
Let’s be honest: Back in the day for 90s kids, it wasn’t the Bloods vs. the Crips, it was the Blastoises vs. the Charizards. Game Freak initially built an entire world on their own through extra-detailed story- mapping, scripts, plot devices, protagonists, villains, and iconic characters/events that generations of players worldwide will remember. Let’s analyze a brief summary of the entire plot line of the original game.
As silly as this may seem, you start off as a 10-year embarking on a lifelong journey to become a “Pokémon Master”, capturing over 150 (and a moreeeeee to see!!!) magical creatures of many sizes and shapes with diverse and phenomenal power. You are the first in the world granted the usage of a digital encyclopedia device by the world’s leading professor to register the biographical/biological/physiological/environmental data for EACH of these Pokémon. You fight a childhood rival who grows stronger by the battle, battle through hundreds and hundreds of waves of other Pokémon Trainers vying for the same goal, travel through cities, forests, caves and entire oceans for days on end to achieve this dream with a maximum of 6 Pokémon on your team you have trained extensively for hopes of success and survival in this perilous world. Then you go on to beat 8-governor like trainers to earn certification to become hailed as the strongest while encountering three demigod elemental bird Pokémon of fire, ice, and lightning with extraordinary power. In your travels, you battle and defeat the ruthless, mafia organization of the region in such a thorough manner by liberating the whole region and even causing the leader to disband the entire mafia. Eventually, challenging the heads of the government of the land, defeating your rival from childhood to become the champion (the undisputed strongest) of the entire region. Now you enter the previously closed off cave containing the cloned monster you read about in your travels and fight to the death to capture it and become the first in history to complete the PokéDex granted by the world-renowned professor. In lure of the mythical 151st Pokémon, Mew, the one the cloned monster was made from, you embark on a secret journey to a secret mountain to grow even stronger than your legendary status proceeds you with.
See how wild that sounds in retrospect?
5. Develop a brand around your product in forms that can be distributed amongst media and other mainstream platforms.
I bet you $100,000 Pokémon Dollars that you or someone close to you can recite the Pokémon Theme Song from the American version of the original anime word for word. That’s how powerful the brand of Pokémon is and has been for years. Once their initial project was successful on a worldwide scale, Game Freak/Nintendo simply made it accessible to every avenue possible, even all forms of media. They turned the video game series into a manga (Japanese style comics), a TV show, movies, a collective card game and even began producing merchandise representing items from the video game. From the next 20+ years, through consistency, the Pokémon series was set for life into a global phenomenon.
6. Allow your brand to be continuously evolving for room for improvement as well as continuing to make it interactive/accessible to the masses.
Although 800 Pokémon (by the time of this article) is rather ridiculous, Pokémon has been able to sustain itself for years because it has allowed for its brand and product to never stop growing for future generations. Game Freak/Nintendo has established protagonists, consistent villains, bringing back of popular characters, Easter eggs from the world built, deities, multiple timelines, and even multiple dimensions to continue the grand stories. Individuals of all ages across the world at any time or place are able to interact with one another by competing or assisting one another. Game Freak and Nintendo have evolved with the times as well to grow even better with their brand while harping on nostalgia, which is the reason why they have continued to sell in the millions and also why Pokémon GO and the 20th-anniversary rollout was so incredibly successful. The Pokémon GO phenomenon in 2016 became the single most viral event to ever happen in history while Pokémon has continued to captivate over 20 years worth of players in its global outreach.
I am a serious fan myself, with over 50 Lv.100s and multiple completed PokéDex’s, an avid player of close to all of a majority of the games (even spin-offs) from the Gameboy through all other Nintendo systems, merchandise for everyday use (Pokeball speakers, Pokeball backpack, Pokeball headphones, Pokémon clothing) and a network of friends I am able to connect with no matter how many businesses we own, with a multitude of initiatives that we are undertaking and no matter how far we travel.
With Pokémon Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon due out in mid-November, and gearing up to be the greatest Pokémon games of all time and the final game of the Nintendo 3DS series, we are seeing a franchise that has evolved with us.
Thank you, Pokémon for teaching me lessons about business, life, relationships and more while being the most consistent thing in my life to help me be the very best like no one ever was.