How Satoru Iwata Helped Bring Pokemon to America

You might not have known it, but the late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata played a major role in bringing the now-popular Pokemon video game series to America. The Pokemon Company president Tsunekazu Ishihara shared a great story on the subject in a new interview with 4Gamer, as translated by Siliconera.

Ishihara said when the team at Game Freak made Pokemon Red and Green, “the thought of bringing it to countries outside of Japan didn’t even occur to us in the first place.” Then-Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi said it needed to happen. But Game Freak wanted to instead work on Pokemon Gold and Silver instead of localizing Red and Green because they thought “overseas development is just a dream within a dream.”

They gave up on the idea, Ishihara said. That is until one man–HAL Laboratory president Satoru Iwata, also a programmer–raised his hand and said he had an idea for how it could be done.

“To begin with, Iwata got the source code for Red and Green, and bam, read through it all, then began mapping out a course on how to make a foreign version for it,” Ishihara said.

Here’s another interesting anecdote from the process of localizing Pokemon from Ishihara:

“Iwata 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 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 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 there telling Murakawa about all the work he has done up until then. They say that the talk ended up lasting from noon until midnight.”

Iwata passed away in July at the age of 55. You can read more about Iwata’s involvement in the Pokemon series in this Iwata Asks feature (via Polygon).

The Pokemon franchise celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2016. Nintendo and The Pokemon Company have big plans to celebrate the milestone.

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