How Pokemon failed, and still became a multi-billion dollar success



Pokemon Go is sweeping the globe. Practically everyone has the app. You find people of all ages wandering around parks at all hours of the night looking for that rare find. It seems that Pokemon has steadily grown to become a giant in the video gaming industry reaching the ultimate prize now. That’s not really the case though.


Humble beginnings


Even Pokemon has humble beginnings. Satoshi Tajiri came up with the concept for a new game in the late 1980s. While working for Hudson Soft, he made his own promotional copy of Pokemon for the NES. It was never published after being shopped to Hudson, Nintendo and others. A few promotional copies have floated around in various markets, though it is not a part of Pokemon history. Go ahead, Google it.


In the early 90s, Tajiri landed a job with Nintendo. Apparently, the unpublished Pokemon game had slipped through the cracks. Just like every major company, Nintendo sent him to the proving grounds. They let him lead up the new Yoshi puzzle game, which had moderate success. He spent the next 5 years begging for the chance to make his own game.


His big shot


Tajiri’s big shot finally came in 1996, nearly 10 years after his first efforts, when he was able to release his game on the handheld GameBoy system. It was an instant success. Practically everyone that owned a GameBoy, owned Pokemon Red and / or Blue. It should also be noted that before these games were released globally, he had to prove himself with smaller releases in Japan. Red and Blue were actually the third game published in Japan.


Once he got his chance, he developed a steady fan base and kept the hits coming. The series became a cult classic for years, until finally suffering from a dwindling and aging fanbase. Pokemon sales were down and Nintendo was at a crossroads.


After the 15 minutes Were Up…


Nintendo, with Tajiri’s persistence, decided to relaunch the brand to a wider market. They knew they needed to go after the global smartphone app market. They teamed up with a developer and we got Pokemon Go.


Now, Pokemon Go makes over $2 million globally each day. It is consistently downloaded over 100,000 times daily. Pokemon was no longer a middle of the pack game. The recent massive success has led Pokemon to surpassing Mario, Donkey Kong and Zelda as the most financially successful Nintendo franchise of all time.


Your billion dollar franchise may have the same humble beginnings. Perhaps it’s time for you to consider new markets for expansion or a complete revisioning of what you’re doing. The most successful venture of your life awaits.


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