A Pokemon Company executive has stated their developers have “thicker skin than many people do” thanks to angry fan feedback.
In an interview with Axios, The Pokemon Company’s Director of Consumer Marketing J.C. Smith explained how the franchise was doing on its 25th anniversary. The franchise generated $5.1 billion USD in 2020, a far cry from the Satanic Panic of the 90s.
As musicians such as Katy Perry and Post Malone produced music videos for the celebrations, other fans had hit a fever pitch with the Trading Card game. Both Target in the US and the Pokemon Center stores in Japan announced this year they would stop selling Pokemon cards for the safety of their customers. Though it should be noted Target also banned sports card sales as well.
Scalpers also bought McDonald’s Happy Meals en masse, and employees accused of selling boxes of the cards, selling for around $800 USD. As such, the promotion will reportedly have a one additional “toy” per customer restrictions in the UK.
Smith revealed that while Pikachu still remains the most recognizable Pokemon “by far,” it did not even breach the top five favorite Pokemon. Instead the likes of Greninja and Dedenne were favorites, though their exact position were not revealed. Pokemon are chosen to market based on their “character feel;” such as cuddly or fierce.
Speaking of fierce, Smith addressed the outrage over Pokemon being cut from recent games, dubbed Dexit by some fans. Smith explains that fans are clear about what they desire, “but there’s also a vision for what the creators want to provide, and it’s [a matter of] finding that delicate balance throughout.”
When pressed on how The Pokemon Company considered the more angry feedback they got, Smith explained that the experience seems to have grown hardened to it. “We have a group of creators and professionals working at the Pokémon Company that have been through a lot — seen, heard [a lot]. They have thicker skin than many people do because they’ve heard it.”
Smith also discussed how as the fanbase ages, there had been requests for more complex games and sophisticated plots. “We hear it, and I think the creators definitely understand that there’s a desire for maybe something. But we try to focus on making the core accessible to everyone.”
Ever since the series had entered 3D with Pokemon X and Pokemon Y; fans have been critical of animation quality, and cut features. This came to a head when Nintendo and Game Freak confirmed not all Pokemon would be making it into Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield, and those not compatible could not be transferred into the games.
Game Director Shigeru Ohmori and Producer Junichi Masuda explained that as the franchise had grown to over 1,000 different Pokemon (including different forms), that improving the visuals and balancing all of them was becoming difficult.
As such, future games would not feature a true National Dex (with all Pokemon). Instead, Pokemon could be stored in Pokemon Home between generations, though a premium subscription of $15.99 USD a year would be needed to store more than 30 Pokemon, along with other perks.
Fans were outraged, leading the #BringBackTheNationalDex hashtag on Twitter. It only grew worse as pre-release footage showed animations and textures fans felt were of poor quality. These included Pokemon models hopping on the spot for most attacking moves (for example, showing a giant foot sprite over the foe to evoke a kick) and one particularly low-quality tree texture.
The matter was exacerbated by the series success. For example, the franchise has made $100 billion USD in lifetime sales; surpassing Marvel and Star Wars. Many fans felt the game’s budgets were paltry in comparison; only made worse when an Expansion Pass was announced for Sword and Shield.
Nonetheless, Smith notes in the new interview that the Pokemon Company tries to “make sure that all the generations are getting some attention” and are represented on modern gaming platforms.
These new comments about thicker skin are likely inspired by incidents such as fans still asking Masuda about the cut Pokedex on his birthday.
What should The Pokemon Company’s approach be to keep everyone happy? Should they keep everyone happy? Are the complaints fans make legitimate? Sound off in the comments below!