"They didn’t like us very much"
Remember the original Pokémon Pokédex toy released by Tiger Electronics and Hasbro Toys back in the day? Well, apparently Nintendo's Japanese team made it an absolute nightmare to bring to market.
Speaking to Johto Times recently, former Tiger & Hasbro senior game producer Chris Nicolella (between 1997 - 2001) revealed the entire story behind the development cycle - explaining how Nintendo's Japanese headquarters wasn't a big fan of the US toy company and made the entire process "very difficult" due to concerns about the device taking sales from the Game Boy releases.
Chris Nicolella: "The process was very difficult from several aspects. While we were awarded the Pokémon license, we didn't get much help at all from Nintendo of Japan (NOJ). In fact, they didn't like us very much and didn't see our value in expanding the Pokémon brand into the toy market. They felt [that] our toy product line would take away sales from the Game Boy game which wasn't the case at all. The next problem I had was the lack of assets and licensing material they were willing to give us to study."
After Nicolella and his team were provided with the basic materials to get underway with the project, Nintendo's Japanese branch supposedly "freaked out" about the Pokémon graphics and animations featured on the device, which apparently "almost killed the entire toy":
"We were strictly forbidden to have any type of graphic game function because of the Game Boy game. I wanted to at least have an image of each Pokémon just to give it some fun visuals as opposed to just a complete text-based toy. So, I had my art team come up with a simple 2 frame animation of each of the 151 Pokemon characters... When NOJ saw the screen animations they freaked out and said we couldn't do that and it was too close to the Game Boy game. We disagreed and said the toy needed it [but] NOJ would not let us move forward."
Although Nintendo of America and 4Kids Production were supportive of this new electronic toy, Nintendo's HQ made the "final call on everything and final approval". The device apparently got put on hold for 6 months until a big meeting that got "a little heated" but resulted in a solution:
"I was so frustrated I didn't even want to work on it anymore and wanted to get back to working on Star Wars toys. Finally, we had a big meeting...We had to again promise there was not [a] game element in the Pokedex and the 2 frame animations of each Pokémon needed to be removed and a senior art manager from [the] Japan Pokémon art team had to design each [Pokémon] graphic image for us."
In the end, the Pokedex electronic toy did make it to market, but it came "so close" to being cancelled. You can read the rest of the interview on the Johto Times website.
Do you remember this device? Do you own one by any chance? Comment below.