Pokemon wouldn’t have made it to the US without Satoru Iwata
Back in the late 90’s, The Pokemon Company and Nintendo were strongly considering not releasing Pokemon Red and Blue in the US. They were going to focus on Pokemon Gold and Silver in Japan but the determination of then HAL President Satoru Iwata (who would become Nintendo’s President years later) led to the original Pokemon titles being brought to the US.
In an interview recently translated by Siliconera, The President of The Pokemon Company said Iwata worked endlessly to figure out how to release Pokemon in the US:
Yes, indeed [laughs]. Even so, Iwata-san first did the analysis, and with those instructions, Nintendo’s Murakawa-san [Teruki Murakawa, then Assistant Department Manager of the plan production headquarters] went on to work on its localization. The story I heard from Murakawa-san was also a very funny one. Murakawa was an engineer in the hardware field, but one day he was told by his superior to “go do an employment examination for the project.” This basically meant to go visit Iwata-san and for Murakawa to carefully examine and see if he could accomplish the work himself. So he stepped into Hal Laboratory, and you had Iwata-san there telling Murakawa-san about all the work he has done up until then. They say that the talk ended up lasting from noon until midnight.
It seems gamers don’t just owe Iwata their gratitude for the DS and Wii but for the birth of Pokemon in the west. Can you imagine a Nintendo that doesn’t have Pokemon fly off shelves in the late 90’s? The gaming landscape would be very different today than what it currently is.
Nintendo could have kept Pokemon a Japan exclusive like it did with Fire Emblem until the early 2000’s. You’ve got to wonder if Poke-mania would have been as big as it was if it released in the US in 2002 or later.