Game Freak (ゲームフリーク, Game Freak, often stylized as GAME FREAK inc.) is a Japanese video game development company. They are best known for being the main developer of the Pokémon series. They also share ownership of The Pokémon Company with Creatures, Inc. and Nintendo.
Game Freak was founded by Satoshi Taijiri, Ken Sugimori, and Junichi Masuda. The name is taken from Taijiri's pen name from his time as a freelance writer. Long before their foray into video game development, Game Freak became involved with the industry as a self-published video game magazine written and edited by Taijiri and illustrated by Sugimori. It wasn't until April 26, 1989 that the video game development company was formed under the same name. Its first game as a development studio was Mendel Palace for the Nintendo Entertainment System. They soon afterward made games for both Nintendo and Sega, with the titles for the former notably being the puzzle games Yoshi on the NES and Mario & Wario on the Super Famicom.
In 1990, development began for a new original game from Taijiri known as Capsule Monsters, based on his experiences with bug collecting during his youth. The initial prototype was pitched to Nintendo but was unfortunately rejected. After further revision of the concept, the project was finally approved, mainly thanks to Shigeru Miyamoto's confidence in the game and being the deciding vote. The name, however, had to be changed due to issues copyrighting it; it was first shortened to CapuMon, then to Pocket Monsters, and then finally shortening it to Pokémon.
Development of the first Pokémon games, Pokémon Red and Green, was met with some considerable strain on the development team. The development cycle had gone on for six-years and brought upon low finances, leading to many of the staff moving on to find other work. Satoshi Taijiri worked long hours (most of which were unpaid) in order to get the games completed. Their efforts, however, were not in vain as the two titles became an overnight success after its release on February 27, 1996 for the Game Boy. Multiple sequels soon followed and, as of 2020, the Pokémon series is the highest-selling franchise in the world.
Though Game Freak primarily works on Pokémon, they have been known to develop other projects (mainly for Nintendo). 1998 saw the release of the Game Boy Camera, a small handheld camera cartridge that could take monochrome photos and featured a photo editor, which was developed by Game Freak themselves. Within the company, there is something known as the Gear Project initiative; an initiative that encourages developers to pitch original ideas during quiet periods. These have resulted in:
- Click Medic - A Japan-exclusive PlayStation game where the player tries to fight off viruses and diseases from a patient's body through vaccinations and other remedies.
- Drill Dozer - A Game Boy Advance game that follows a young engineer named Jill, who battles enemies with her Drill Dozer vehicle. The cartridge was unique in that in featured a built-in gyroscope, as the game is controlled by tilting the system.
- HarmoKnight - A rhythm/platformer for the Nintendo 3DS that follows a young boy named Tempo, who must travel across a musical land to stop the evil invading Noizoids.
- Pocket Card Jockey - Released on the 3DS (through the eShop) and on mobile phones, it is a game that combines equestrian racing with the card game solitaire.
- Tembo the Badass Elephant - A 2D side-scrolling platformer published by Sega and released for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. It follows the titular Tembo, who must rescue Shell City from the invading Phantom army.
- Giga Wrecker - A 2D action game for PC and Nintendo Switch (as Giga Wrecker Alt.) and published by Rising Star Games, it follows a newly revived girl named Reika Rekkeiji, who must use her new cybernetic abilities to thwart the evil Ajeet and save humanity.
- Little Town Hero - An RPG title released for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC with a more medieval setting. It is published by Nippon Ichi Software and notable for having its score composed by Toby Fox, the creator of Undertale.
In February 2020, Game Freak moved to its new office in Nintendo's Nihombashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo building, which was considerably much larger than their previous headquarters. They share the same space with Nintendo EPD, Nintendo PTD, 1-Up Studio, and HAL Laboratory.
Involvement in Super Smash Bros.
The Pokémon series has had representation since the original Super Smash Bros. game on the Nintendo 64 with the inclusion of Pikachu and Jigglypuff as well as with the stage Saffron City, and the Poké Ball item, which can summon a random Pokémon.
Further representation was made in the sequels starting with Mewtwo and Pichu, who joined as newcomers in Super Smash Bros. Melee with new stages Pokémon Stadium and Poké Floats and the inclusion of Generation II into the Poké Ball rotation. The Pokémon Trainer (commanding Charizard, Squirtle, and Ivysaur) and Lucario joined Super Smash Bros. Brawl with new stages Pokémon Stadium 2 and Spear Pillar from Diamond and Pearl, new music tracks, and new Poké Ball Pokémon from Generation III and IV. Greninja from X and Y joined Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, bringing with him the new stages Unova Pokémon League from Black and White and Prism Tower & Kalos Pokémon League from X and Y. New music tracks and new Pokémon from Generations V and VI were added. Incineroar from Sun and Moon was added as a newcomer in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate alongside all previous playable Pokémon characters. New music and Pokémon from Generation VII were also included.
Aside from the Pokémon series, other games have been represented in Smash, the most notable being Jill from Drill Dozer making a cameo in Brawl as an Assist Trophy. Tempo from HarmoKnight also appears as a Trophy in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and returns as a Spirit in Ultimate alongside Jill.
- Several Game Freak employees have made cameos in several of the mainline Pokémon games, usually as special NPC opponents or to hand trainers their diplomas for completing the Pokédex. These have included developer Shigeki Morimoto (who appears in Black and White, Sun and Moon, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee!, and Sword and Shield), map and battle designer Kōji Nishino (Black 2 and White 2), developer Kazumasa Iwao (Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon as Morimoto's battle partner; he is also the game's director), and director Junichi Masuda (inside X and Y's Hotel Coumarine). A group of developers also cameo as vacationers in Ruby and Sapphire and as hotel guests in Diamond and Pearl.
- Their headquarters itself has also made appearances within the games: it has been located in the Celadon Condominiums in Red and Blue, inside an unnamed building in Castelia City in Black and White, and inside another unnamed building in Heahea City in Sun and Moon.
- Excerpt from Biweekly Famicom Journal. Twitter.
- Gifford, Kevin (04/07/2008). COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Just Checking In (English). Game Set Watch. Retrieved on 2020-08-19.
- Swider, Matt (03/22/2007). The Pokemon Series Pokedex (English). Gaming Target. Retrieved on 2020-08-19.
- Robinson, Andy (05/22/2019). Game Freak ‘prioritising’ original game projects (English). Video Game Chronicle. Retrieved on 2020-08-19.
- Pocket Card Jockey. Nintendo.
- GIGA WRECKER ALT.. Nintendo.
- Sahdev, Ishaan (02/02/2020). Pokémon Developer Game Freak Is Moving Closer to Nintendo’s Headquarters (English). Video Game Chronicle. Retrieved on 2020-08-19.