|Satoshi Tajiri (田尻智)|
|Alma mater||Tokyo National College of Technology|
|Occupation||Video game designer|
|Years active||1989 – present|
|Known for||Creating the Pokémon franchise|
|Notable work(s)||Pokémon; Mendel Palace; Pulseman|
|Home town||Machida, Tokyo|
Satoshi Tajiri (田尻 智 Tajiri Satoshi , born August 28, 1965) is a Japanese video game designer best known as the creator of Pokémon and the founder of video game developer Game Freak, Inc. An avid fan of arcade games, Tajiri wrote for and edited his own video gaming fanzine Game Freak with Ken Sugimori, before evolving it into a development company of the same name. Tajiri claims that the joining of two Game Boys via a link cable inspired him to create a game which embodied the collection and companionship of his childhood hobby, insect collecting. The game, which became Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue (With Pokémon Blue being released as a third version, and as one of two main versions (Along with a second Red Version) outside of Japan), took six years to complete and went on to spark a multi-billion dollar franchise which reinvigorated Nintendo's handheld gaming. Tajiri continued to work as director for the Pokémon series until the development of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, when he changed his role to simply executive producer.
Tajiri was born on August 28, 1965, in Tokyo to a Nissan car salesman and a housewife. Tajiri grew up in Machida, Tokyo, which at the time still maintained a rural atmosphere. As a child, Tajiri enjoyed insect collecting as a hobby; it would prove to be an inspiration for his later video game work. In fact, other children called him "Dr. Bug", and he wanted to be an entomologist when he grew up. As the urban areas of Japan spread and more land was paved over, many of the places for hunting bugs were lost. Tajiri wanted his games to allow children to have the feeling of catching and collecting creatures as he had. The character of Ash Ketchum (Satoshi in Japan), is largely a version of Tajiri as a child.
He became fascinated with arcade games as a teenager and used them to pass the time, though his parents thought him a delinquent for it. He particularly enjoyed playing Taito's Space Invaders, which drew him into other video games. His interest eventually evolved into attempting to plan his own games. He took his Famicom apart to see how it worked, and ended up winning a contest for a video game idea sponsored by Sega.
Because of his fascination with video games, Tajiri frequently cut classes; as a result, he nearly did not graduate. His father attempted to get him a job at The Tokyo Electric Power Company, but Tajiri refused to take the position. However, he did manage to take make-up classes and eventually earn his high school diploma. Tajiri did not attend college but instead went to two-year technical school at Tokyo National College of Technology, where he studied electronics.
At 17, Tajiri began writing and editing a fanzine called Game Freak, which focused on the arcade game scene, from 1981 to 1986. Game Freak was handwritten and stapled together. Nonetheless, Ken Sugimori, who later illustrated the first 151 Pokémon, saw the magazine at a dōjinshi shop, and decided to get involved. As more contributors came to Game Freak, Tajiri began to realize most games were lacking in quality, and he and Sugimori decided the solution was to make their own games. After Nintendo released the Family BASIC programming language, Tajiri studied it to better grasp the designs of Nintendo Entertainment System games. He then purchased the hardware to develop games. Tajiri and Sugimori evolved the magazine into the video game development company Game Freak in 1989. Soon after, the two pitched their first game, an arcade-style game called Quinty to Namco, who published the game. Tajiri also wrote as a freelance writer for the magazine Famicom Hisshoubon, later called Hippon, and previewed video games during his guest appearances in the VHS series Famimaga Video.
Tajiri first conceived the idea of Pokémon in 1990. After he saw a Game Boy, the idea came together, and he decided it made the most sense on the handheld console. Tajiri pioneered the idea of connectivity between handheld game consoles, by suggesting that Game Boys could use its link cables in order to have friends do more than simply play against each other. This ability to communicate between consoles drew Tajiri to the Game Boy as a system.
Tajiri had worked on The Legend of Zelda before, and so Nintendo was willing to consider his new game idea. When he first pitched the idea of Pokémon to Nintendo, they could not quite picture the concept, but were impressed enough with Tajiri's prior game designing that they decided to explore the concept. Shigeru Miyamoto began to mentor Tajiri, guiding him during the creation process. Pokémon Red and Green took six years to produce, and nearly bankrupted Game Freak in the process; often, there was barely enough money to pay the employees. Five employees quit, and Tajiri did not take a salary, instead living off of his father's income. Investment from Creatures Inc. allowed Game Freak to complete the games, and in return, Creatures received one-third of the franchise rights.
In between the approval and finish of the project, Tajiri assisted in the design of two Mario spin-off games for Nintendo: Yoshi and the Japanese-only release Mario & Wario. He also worked on the 1994 Pulseman.
Once the games were finished, very few media outlets gave it attention, believing the Game Boy was a dead console; a general lack of interest of merchandising convinced Tajiri that Nintendo would reject the games. The Pokémon games were not expected to do well, but sales steadily increased until the series found itself among Nintendo's top franchises. Rumors of a hidden Pokémon, Mew, which could only be obtained by exploiting programming errors, increased interest in the game. Tajiri had included Mew in the game in order to promote trading and interaction between players, but Nintendo was not aware of the creature upon release. The franchise helped revive Nintendo, whose sales had been waning. Tajiri deliberately toned down violence in his games. In this vein, he had Pokémon faint rather than die after defeat, as he believed it was unhealthy for children to equate the concept of death with losing a game. After the completion and release of Red and Green in Japan, Tajiri later worked on the 1997 Bushi Seiryūden: Futari no Yūsha. Tajiri also continues to be involved in the more modern Pokémon titles as well. On the most recent incarnations he supervised the process from start to finish and approved all the text. While developing games, Tajiri works irregular hours, often laboring 24 hours at a time and resting 12 hours.
Tajiri cites Shigeru Miyamoto as a major influence, thinking of him as a sort of mentor. For this reason, his developmental style closely matches that of Miyamoto. In the Pokémon anime, the main character is named Satoshi, while his rival is Shigeru. Tajiri claims that Western audiences understand his work better; instead of focusing exclusively on prominent characters like Pikachu, he believes they understand that the games are about partnership and identification with one's team.
Tajiri drew much of his inspiration from old Japanese shows and anime, including Godzilla and Ultraman. He has stated that if he did not design video games, he would most likely be in the anime field.
Awards and recognition
IGN named Tajiri one of the top 100 game creators of all time, mainly for his ability to turn Pokémon into a "worldwide phenomenon". Electronic Gaming Monthly credited Tajiri as one of the 10 most influential people who made the modern video game market. Video game magazine Edge placed Tajiri on their list of the "Hot 100 Game Developers of 2008".
- Mendel Palace (1989) — Director, Game Designer
- Smart Ball (1991) — Director, Game Designer, Scenario Writer
- Yoshi (1991) — Director, Game Designer
- Pulseman (1994) — Director, Game Designer
- Pokemon Red and Blue (1996) — Director, Game Designer, Scenario Writer, Map Designer
- Pokemon Gold and Silver (1999) — Director, Game Designer
- Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire (2002) — Executive Director
- Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen (2004) — Scenario Writer, Executive Director
- Drill Dozer (2005) — Executive Producer
- Pokemon Diamond and Pearl (2006) — Executive Producer
- Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver (2010) — Executive Producer
- Pokemon Black and White (2011) — Executive Producer
- Pokemon Black and White 2 (2012) — Executive Producer
- HarmoKnight (2012) — Executive Producer
- Pokemon X and Y (2013) — Executive Producer
- "Satoshi Tajiri Biography". IGN. News Corporation. 2010. Retrieved 27 January 2010.
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- "Top 100 Game Creators of All Time". IGN. News Corporation. 2009. Retrieved 27 January 2010.
- Morrison, Don (22 November 1999). "To Our Readers". Time (New York City: Time Inc.) 154 (20): 2–3. Retrieved 27 January 2010.
- Gifford, Kevin (7 April 2008). "'Game Mag Weaseling': Just Checking In". GameSetWatch. Think Services. Retrieved 27 January 2010.
- Szczepaniak, John. "Before They Were Famous". Retro Gamer (Imagine Publishing) (35): 75.
- Kohler, Chris (2004). Power-up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life. BradyGames. p. 238. ISBN 0-7440-0424-1.
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- Barnholt, Ray (30 July 2008). "25 Sorta Significant Famicom Games: #19". 1UP.com. UGO Networks. Retrieved 27 January 2010.
- Gifford, Kevin (18 February 2007). "'Game Mag Weaseling': The Bluffer's Guide to Famitsu's Competition". GameSetWatch. Think Services. Retrieved 27 January 2010.
- Nutt, Christian (3 April 2009). "The Art of Balance: Pokémon's Masuda on Complexity and Simplicity". Gamasutra. United Business Media. Retrieved 27 January 2010.
- Shinn, Gini (16 March 2004). "Case Study: First Generation Pokémon Games for the Nintendo Game Boy". Stanford, California: Stanford University. p. 4. Retrieved 28 January 2010.
- Fulford, Benjamin (26 July 2009). "Monster mash". Forbes.com. Forbes. Retrieved 28 January 2010.
- Peterson, Helen (15 November 1999). "King of Craze Too Shy For Spotlight Pifather Is an Introvert". Daily News (Mortimer Zuckerman). Retrieved 28 January 2010.
- "Pulseman". MobyGames. 2010. Retrieved 28 January 2010.
- EGM Staff (30 June 2005). "Top 10 Most Influential People". 1UP.com. Hearst Corporation. Retrieved 27 January 2010.
- Closing credits of Bushi Seiryūden: Futari no Yūsha.
- Harris, Craig (13 May 2004). "E3 2004: The Pokemon Creators Speak". IGN. News Corporation. Retrieved 27 January 2010.
- "Pokémon". Encyclopædia Britannica. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2010. Retrieved 28 January 2010.
- Staff (20 February 2008). "The Hot 100 Game Developers of 2008". Edge. Future plc. Retrieved 27 January 2010.
- Satoshi Tajiri at Bulbapedia, The Pokémon encyclopedia
- Satoshi Tajiri at the Internet Movie Database