Video transcript provided courtesy of Descript AI. May contain minor errors.
Pokemon is a legendary gaming franchise, developed by Game Freak back in 1996, and has been going for almost 30 years. He has released 122 games in total, and collectively sold 480 million copies worldwide, making it one of Nintendo’s top 3 earners and in the world today. Game Freak rightfully became synonymous with everything Pokemon related.
But their rise to top Nintendos developers has not been playing sailing. You see, Pokemon has had its ups and its downs, and when it first debuted gen one known as red, green, and blue in 1996, it wasn’t actually a good game. No, no, no. I’m not talking about sales as it made over a million dollars in gross revenue, but more to do with how the game was programmed and designed.
From this perspective, the game is very glitchy, unbalanced, and with some very mid Pokemon designs. Yeah, I said it. Regardless of its downsides, it created the blueprint for Game Freak to work on, although they don’t work on every game. In fact, they outsource to over 20 different companies for their main games.
But to make it easy though, I’m just gonna collectively use Game Freak going forwards. So what is the Pokemon blueprint? Well, it’s the basis of Pokemon. You catch Pokemon, to beat 8 gym leaders, to collect 8 badges, to then challenge the Elite Four in the Pokemon League. Each game has its multiple towns, routes, Puzzles, and mini bosses in between, like your rival and Team Rocket variants.
But main changes are portrayed in three key areas, the region it’s based in, the Pokémon that they have in that region, and the gimmick they install in every single game.
And yes, other design changes, which JPR, talks about in detail, are still very important, as they shape the Pokémon landscape. However, those three key areas I talked about, region, Pokemon, and gimmick, along with the basis of Pokemon, gives Game Freak basically an infinite amount of possibilities to make the game look new enough to sell as a new product every single year, creating a consumable product within a clever modified planned obsoletion strategy.
What on earth is that, you may be asking? Well, a planned obsoletion strategy is a way to ensure that the current version of your product will become out of date, so customers need to buy the new one. It’s a viable business strategy, like Apple does with its iPhone, as once you’ve locked down your loyal customer base, you can keep selling the same product.
Game Freak does this by releasing a new Pokemon game every 1 2 years, and for the past 8 years we’ve seen a yearly Pokemon release, which makes perfect sense while they have to outsource those 20 companies that I mentioned at the start, but the consequence of this has meant the quality has gone all over the place.
And due to this, it’s caused a change of heart in the Pokemon fanbase towards the games. But before we talk about that, we need to talk about Legends Arceus, a game that changed the blueprint entirely. I like to dub this the Birth of Blueprint 2. 0, as Legends Arceus changed the blueprint by being the first 3D free roaming Pokémon game by moving away from the beloved 2D pixel design that had been going for 26 years.
And by switching to 3D, it allowed Game Freak to reset the clock on their planned obsoletion strategy. And not only was it 3D, but it also removed the basis of Pokémon by having no gyms, random battles, and no Elite 4. This shook the Pokémon fanbase to its core, as it was unlike anything they’d seen in any other Pokémon game.
You could, for the first time, interact with Pokémon face to face, creating a level of immersion not seen since Pokémon Snap.
It added RPG elements, including crafting, side quests, a new battle style system, and a unique difficulty, where you could battle a multiple Pokémon at once, among many other new features, like being able to throw Pokéballs without being in a battle. This resulted in Legends of Arceus doing what Red, Green, and Blue did back in 1986, creating a new blueprint for what the future of Pokemon games would be, or at least so we thought.
And even though it wasn’t perfect, like, know what Pokemon is, Game Freak could easily build upon this foundation it’s laid. But, ah, sadly, due to Game Freak’s toxic schedule and the unfortunate pandemic, Legends of Arceus was delayed to January 2022. This put it square in the crosshairs of Pokemon Scarlet and Violet that was set to come out in the same year, which was the worst thing to happen.
Now, this is what I like to dub the death of Blueprint 2. 0. I know it sounds dramatic, but trust me. Scarlet and Violet is like someone looked at your homework in class and thought, I can do that better, and then royally screw it up. The split in workforce for two games that came out in the same year, along with the pandemic, caused the game’s downfall.
It was nothing like Legends of Arceus, other than the 3D world, I guess, as gyms and the Elite Four were back on the menu, and the ability to instantly catch Pokémon and battle multiple Pokémon at once were gone. They went back to safe original basis, which is perfectly fine. But then they removed features fans really enjoyed in Legends of Arceus.
And I guess I need to mention JPR Poketrainer98 again, as Game Freak has a history of removing features, sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. But the biggest feature that they removed from Scarlet and Violet had nothing to do with Pokemon itself, but the quality of the game. It is a shambles.
Scarlet and Violet, upon release, and to this day, is an unfinished buggy mess. Players can fall through the floor, Pokemon pop in and out, and the framerate drops so badly that Gordon Ramsay would have something to say about it. What is that? Ah! And many people will blame the Nintendo Switch, but you cannot do that, as they’re really stunning games like Breath of the Wild.
And the reason for that is that the developers care about Zelda, unlike Game Freak, which we’ll get to later, and took longer to make them. Did it have its merits? Of course! The story was good, the music was awesome, and the new Pokemon like Tinkertonk and the Paradox forms were a massive surprise and very welcome.
Even though they’re obviously a clear nostalgia bait. However, the merits didn’t outweigh the negatives. The fans voiced their disgruntled opinions on Scarlet and Violet, giving it the lowest Metacritic score of all Pokémon games at 3. 4, not good for your newest release. And when you compare it to Legends of Arceus at 8.
1, it makes Scarlet and Violet look like a sad laughingstock. This game effectively tore up the new blueprints, nullified the resetting of the strategy, and built a terrible home upon the foundations that Legends of Arceus laid. And even the mainstream media had something to say, with the Washington Post saying we can’t give Game Freak a pass.
But one good thing came out of this product, and that is that Pokemon’s company’s eyes are wider than Snorlax during his Z move on the topic. As from a ComicBook. com article, they are considering a possible change. Always having these products able to be introduced are new experiences for our customers, and that’s how we’ve operated up until now.
I think we’re still operating in that way, but there’s still more and more conversations as the development environments change. About how we can continue to do this, while making sure that we’re ensuring really quality products are also being introduced. If they ensure a change of pace, and introduce a higher quality product going forward.
It’ll keep the franchise going, but when you look into what the employees at Game Freak are saying, it spells a really worrying sight, guys. So, Game Freak is a company, like all other companies, they need to make money. As you saw in my introduction, Pokémon makes hella cash. But they’re making cash at the expense of quality of their games.
Thanks to Giriam Redd for his video on the matter. In his video, he narrates the reviews of employees and ex employees of Game Freak from a Japanese website that you pay a subscription fee to view. He followed up with another video, showcasing that the website seems trustworthy, but we do have to take every review case by case basis.
So let’s start by talking about the positives of working at Game Freak. It seems everyone is getting paid well, there’s a nice office, and they did a bank job at remote working during a time of a global pandemic. Also, it seems there’s a lot of young people working at the company, with a horizontal organizational culture, which is important in an Asian country like Japan.
So that’s some really good positives to start off with. So what are the negatives about working at Game Freak? That the number of employees is too small, the technical prowess of the company is several years behind the industry, there’s too many people in the company that’s not skilled enough, and worst of all, They’re never allowed to delay games because it’s f ing greedy Pokemon.
So Larry, the gym leader from Scarlet and Violet, is eerily similar to some of the state of Game Freak’s employees. It’s sad to say that it looks like Pokemon will never be the game that it could ultimately be, but if we can hold onto any hope Game Freak needs to look at Scarlet and Violet and the comments from the employees, such as Even if the quality’s low, it will sell well.
It’s a series that sells well anyways, so there’s no need to make an effort. That comment is what Scarlet and Violet was. And if that wasn’t clear enough, Radioactive Magic put it brilliantly. The games are the roots that the whole Pokemon tree grows from. What would happen to the new toys on the shelves if so few people are interested in the games that introduced them?
At what point will the company get desperate? At what point will they actually work to iterate on design? So thanks for the insight and research from Gideon Red and Radioactive Magic. It would seem that the planned obsoletion strategy may need to be discarded, or else the Pokemon fanbase will discard Pokemon, and that, that would cause an end to the franchise.
You see, the Pokemon fanbase is getting old, and Game Freak aren’t catching up. It’s no lie that the Pokemon fanbase is aging, as the current demographic of Pokemon fans is predominantly male, aged 20 to 29. Because if you grew up with a Game Boy in your hands, I’m sorry to say, but you’re hitting your 30s or are over it.
And it’s further backed up by, again, radioactive magic, which really hits home the age demographics of what Pokemon fans are now. If you were 6 at the time of Pokemon Platinum’s release in 2008, then in 2020, you turned 18. Well, and truly old enough to be considered an adult. And if you were 6 when you got your hands on Pokemon Red or Blue, then in 2021, you are roughly 29.
If you were a teenager when you got Red or Blue, then you are well into your 30s. And these adults need to be catered to, not as kids, but as 29 30 year olds who want a challenging experience, but we’ll get to that later with ROM hacking. Which is why Game Freak, and frankly Nintendo, need to consider something very important.
Making adult Pokemon games. No, no, no, not like that guys, not like that! Now, this is not a new hot take by the way. You can find many YouTube videos on the topic, but one article dates back to 2015, when they released a non main title game called Pokken Tournaments. Which was intended to target adults.
Harada did say, This title’s been made as an adults Pokemon game. For that generation of people who grew up with Pokemon, Those in their 20s and 30s today, Have spent a lot of time during their school days with Pokemon, And have some strong memories looking back at their games in anime. So Harada can clearly see that the demographics gotten older, But Game Freak, as you saw in our previous segment, aren’t on the same page.
Therefore, when it comes to what the fans want in Gen 10, They need to listen, and add the great features of Legends Arceus back in, the return of challenge mode from Black and White, and a way to turn EXP share off to name a few. Will we see it guys? Well, probably not, but fans have seen the highest Pokémon and the lowest of Pokémon in the same year, and Game Freak and Nintendo are on thin ice.
Because it may cause a massive loss of valuable customers, and they’ll turn to ROM hacking old games because they’re fed up of the new ones. When Game Freak loses a customer, they either go away from Pokemon entirely, or they turn to ROM hacking. It’s like the dark side of modding Pokemon games, playing them in a way that Nintendo did not intend.
The earliest point of modding Pokemon games dates back to Pokemon Red, where minor adjustments were made to the game such as sprites or dialogue choices. But as the game’s engine and hardware improved, so did the modding quality of these games. Which brings us to Pokemon Brown made in 2004. It’s one of the most notable ROM hacks, as they made a new region and plot, opened the floodgates to modding, akin to how speedrunning community blew up with Super Mario 64.
Now with the doors MASSIVELY opened in 2023, ROM hacks can range from making all Pokemon available to catch, difficulty adjustments, additional language, to full blown revisions of the game. Games such as Pokemon Quartz, the fake Pokemon, and Pokemon Emerald Rogue, which is a roguelike based Pokemon game.
And an honorary mention needs to be given to Pokemon Uranium, a fangame, not a romhack, that was worked on for 9 years, and got 1. 5 million downloads. was discontinued due to a copyright strike sent by Nintendo. What this does show is that Pokemon fans have latched onto certain games, to ROM hack with the intention to create the games they envision Pokemon should be.
Which is why you’ll find Pokemon modders who will take games such as Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, a very unloved game, and turn it into something you actually want to play with Pokemon Luminescent. Which brings me to the people who play these Pokémon and ROM hacks. The Poketubers who got me back into Pokémon.
I was reintroduced back into Pokémon last year with Radical Red and the Nuzlocke ruleset played by Gameboy Luke. Radical Red, made by Supercell, is a FireRed ROM hack. that according to developers is at its core a difficulty hack, but with massive additional features added to help you navigate the game’s difficulty.
Difficult changes in Pokemon games is a massively sought after change in the mainline series. As the demographic gets older, they want to feel challenged by the game. They are playing Radical Red along with Emerald Kaizo to satisfy their almost souls like esque ideals for Pokemon. But what really sells it is the people who play them.
Poketubers such as Pokemon Challengers and Junosy, who even tier listed every fangame he’s ever played. However, the ones that I got into, like I said, was Gameboy Luke, but also United Gamers, Original151, and ShadyPenguin. These poketubers were what my partner chose to show me to introduce me back into Pokemon after almost 20 years.
And at first, I honestly had no clue what was going on, but they were truly entertaining, which is why I have to thank these people for getting me back into Pokemon again, albeit in a new format. And maybe if Game Freak decided to make a game similar to like Radical Red or Emerald Kaizo, really pumping up the difficulty, adding in a national dex.
I personally would get back into Pokemon again, but until then, ROM hackers and Poketubers who showcase them are breathing life into all discarded products of Game Freak’s obsoletion strategy. And no matter how Game Freak diminishes Pokemon, or completely annihilates it for all we know, ROM hackers will always be there, twisting and turning whatever they fancy to make the Pokemon game they’ve always envisioned.
So basically what I’m trying to say is that Pokemon is a franchise unlike no other, and rightfully so. It’s garnered millions of dollars and loyal fans over its almost 30 years of existence. But as the franchise has gotten older, so have the fans. And that divide between what Game Freak and Nintendo want versus the fans has gotten wider.
Far too wide, I have to say. Especially with what we’ve seen from recent releases, the comments from their employees, and the way they’ve chosen to develop their games in a way that doesn’t target their demographic anymore. But it would seem that they have no interest in doing any changes, as they found a game and a loyal fan base.
that they can repeat over and over to, and they’ll eat it up like rare candies. But how many rare candies does Game Freak have left in their bag? They’re on the way to making Pokémon obsolete if they continue to make games like Scarlet and Violet. But if they can go back to their 2D pixel roots, bring back a game like Legends Arceus, or do something to show that the fanbase, that they understand the demographic, understand Pokémon, and deliver something that everyone wants.
I know it’s a tall order, but if they don’t, it’s going to spell the end of Pokemon. Well, you’ve got to the end of the video. Thanks for watching. Hit that like button to supporters. Smash your brain against the subscribe button to be extra awesome. Ring that bell to be notified whenever we put new content out.