Relying on one series is never good, unless that series is Call of Duty, FIFA, or Pokemon. Japanese developer Game Freak has been around since 1989, and since 1996 -- when it released Pokemon Red and Blue -- it has been releasing almost exclusively Pokemon games. And it's gone well for the studio. That said, it's increasingly putting more priority on making new games, and is even prioritizing new game projects more than Pokemon at this point, according to one developer. Speaking to VGC, Game Freak programmer and director Masayuki Onoue revealed there's two production teams at the studio: one for Pokemon and one for new projects. This allows the team to take breaks from the Nintendo series, but it's also becoming a bigger and bigger focus for the Japanese studio.
In addition to the Pokemon team, Onoue says Game Freak has a "Gear Project" team, which recently produced GIGA Wrecker and is also working on Town (working title).
"There are two different production teams here, simply named Production Team 1 and Production Team 2,” said Onoue. “Team 1 is fully dedicated to Gear Project, while Team 2 is for the Pokemon operation. What that means is that Game Freak as a company is prioritising Gear Project, which is production team number one, more than Pokemon in general. We are always trying to create something that is equally exciting, or more exciting than Pokemon.
According to Onoue, there's a lot of back-and-forth between the two teams. The director and designer also pointed out that "Team 1" is a bit more diverse in terms of what it can do, because it's working on hardware that isn't just Nintendo hardware. And from the sounds of it, this development approach is making Game Freak more well-rounded.
“When you’re a programmer working on Pokemon, you’re one of many programmers. However, as a director on GIGA Wrecker the experience opened my eyes to the other aspects of game creation, all the way up to users playing the game,” said Onoue. "It’s really difficult to expect a programmer to have that kind of perspective, but as director I learned how to make a game more appealing and accessible to players, plus aspects of marketing as well.
“Gear Project has helped me become more creative. I’ve now seen the whole process of creation all the way to marketing and selling the game to players. I can now bring that knowhow back to the Pokemon team and try to create something different for Pokemon. It’s a good synergy between Gear Project and Pokemon creation.”