What does it mean to produce Pokémon? / The Pokémon Company President and Chief Executive Officer Tsunekazu Ishihara

President and CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara has been involved in the planning and creation of Pokémon ever since it came into this world as product. What are his thought regarding producing Pokémon so far? And what are his dreams for the future of Pokémon? Here, he explains what it means to “produce Pokémon” with anecdotes.

What does it mean to produce Pokémon?

I believe that our name, The Pokémon Company, expresses what we do as a company more clearly than the names of most companies. No one who hears the name of our company thinks we are in the Doraemon business, right? As our name suggests, The Pokémon Company is a company that works only for Pokémon. To say it another way, we do nothing but Pokémon here. I named the company that way to make clear the role and function of our company. On the other hand, the name does not indicate what exactly Pokémon work is and what is necessary for this kind of work.

I am often asked in interviews, “What does The Pokémon Company do for Pokémon?” When I answer, “We are a company that produces Pokémon,” I am often met with puzzled looks and asked, “What does it mean to produce Pokémon?” When this happens, I explain, “Imagine something like a talent agency. Talent agencies decide what jobs to give their talent, how to nurture their skills, how to cultivate them. In much the same way, our job at The Pokémon Company is to produce Pokémon, meaning that we think about what types of media our talent, such as Pikachu and Snivy, should appear in, what products to use them for, and how to nurture them,” and then the interviewer seems to grasp what it is that we do to a certain extent. But while this is an easy way to explain a part of what it means to produce Pokémon, it isn’t everything.

A slightly more accurate description of what it means to produce Pokémon would be to say that we play a leading role in creating the most appealing Pokémon products possible, and that we strive as a business to get the best possible results when these products are sold.

So, what makes for an appealing product? It’s hard to say because people have different thoughts and feelings on this. For example, some people want something they can keep for a long time, others want something that they can’t put down once they start playing with it, and other want something cheap and convenient. I personally think that the most appealing products are ones that make anyone who picks them up want to recommend them to other people.

Making appealing products is the first step toward successful business. It is precisely because of appealing products that a company can receive widespread support and take its business to the next stage. Being involved in everything, from manufacturing to publicity and promotion, in order to create appealing products and maximize business—that is producing, and you could say that this work demands our collective capabilities as humans.

As a result of this production, the Pokémon brand has a reputation as a high-value brand and is supported by a great many people. The very “producing”, the brand management of Pokémon, is the work we should be doing at The Pokémon Company.

Pokémon Now

Pokémon Red version and Green version

As we enter the 20th year since the birth of Pokémon, I am often asked what the secret to its popularity is and why it continues to be so well loved. I regard the universal appeal of Pokémon that you can collect, raise, trade, and battle as our strength and the reason we have been loved for so long. Not only our games, but all of our Pokémon content shares this point in common, an element that all players can relate to regardless of time or place. While it is also important for us to evolve in accordance with changes in device and communications technology, nothing brings us more pleasure than if we can let people experience the memories and excitement of something like bug collecting, which everyone has experienced as children.

The Future of Pokémon

Something that even still stands out clearly in my memory is when first time I played Pokémon Red and Green and a human character in the Vermilion City requested a Pokémon trade, and I received a Pokémon called Farfetch’d. Then, in the same way, when I handed over Spearow to a real life friend in a Pokémon trade, I understood that the human characters in the game and real life players occupy the same role, creating a mysterious experience of going back and forth between the real and virtual worlds. Wi-Fi communications have at last enabled players from all over the world to exchange their Pokémon, turning Pokémon into a medium that connects people beyond space, borders, and race. In Japan, there are ten Pokémon centers (official stores for Pokémon goods) where fans get together to shop for products, download content, battle each other, and find like-minded friends.

In addition, this year we have been releasing ambitious new content that allows even greater opportunities to interact with Pokémon to reach and even wider audience, including the first ever Chinese language support in Pokémon Sun and Moon (Traditional and Simplified) and the application game Pokémon Go that uses the real world as its stage.

Our mission statement, “To enrich both the real world and the virtual world with Pokémon characters”, is not an ideal but a reality that is occurring right before our eyes. We will continue to build and release better works so that all people can realize this.

Tsunekazu Ishihara
Tsunekazu Ishihara was born in Toba City, Mie Prefecture, in 1957. He graduated from the University of Tsukuba Graduate School of Art and Design in 1983. He was involved in the development of various video games as a game producer before founding Creatures, Inc. in 1995. In 1996, he produced Pokémon Red and Greem, which became the basis for all subsequent Pokémon related products, and after that, he became the producer for all Pokémon software. In 1998, he founded Pokémon Center, Inc. (now The Pokémon Company) and became the president and CEO. Currently, he handles brand management for all Pokémon products, including video games, card games, animated series, and movies.

Activities and Awards
  • 1998
    MMCA Special Award at the 13th Multimedia Grand Prix
    (Multimedia Content Association of Japan)
  • Since 2003
    Agency for Cultural Affairs Japan Media Arts Festival Entertainment Committee Member, Committee Supervisor in 2006
  • 2008
    Digital Content of the Year 07/ 13th AMD Award Achievement Award
  • 2011
    CEDEC Awards 2011 Special Award
    Japan Game Awards 2011 “Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Award”
Interviews, etc.
  • TV Tokyo Cambria Kyuden Ryu Murakami X Financial Expert
  • TV Tokyo Senshi no Ippin
  • NHK Professional Shigoto no Ryuugi
  • 97 Things Game Creators Should Know, Naoto Yoshioka (O’Reilly Japan)
  • I Was Taught the Meaning of Life through Pokemon, Shoko Nakagawa (Shogakukan)
  • Nikkei, Yomiuri, Asahi, Mainichi, Sankei, Keizaikai, Diamond Online, as well as a variety of other media including TV/newspapers/magazines/web

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