The Power of Pokemon: How Tajiri Took the Bugs Out of Success

According to some reports, Tajiri has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a disease that shows itself in the form of social awkwardness and public clumsiness, among other things. Despite this, he has managed to become one of the most beloved and successful video game designers in history. How did he do it?

Passion: Tajiri had two passions growing up: collecting insects and playing video games. In creating Pokemon, he was able to turn his two hobbies into a business. It was because Tajiri knew both insects and video games inside out, and because he followed his heart, that he was able to become a success.

Tenacity: “Yeah, everyone was using it to compete,” Tajiri says about Game Boy. “The idea I had was for information to go back and forth. It wasn't about competition.” Tajiri’s colleagues at Nintendo have called the video game designer everything from “reclusive” to “eccentric.” But Tajiri is not one to listen. Since he was a child, Tajiri has been refusing to listen to others and insisting on doing things his way. From how to hunt for beetles to how to design a video game, Tajiri followed his instinct. In the end, it all paid off.

Pursuit: “Every new insect was a wonderful mystery,” recalls Tajiri. “And as I searched for more, I would find more.” Tajiri learned from an early age the importance of searching for success. He knew that much like the insects were not going to come find him, neither was success. Instead, he went on the prowl, and engaged in a never-ending quest to be the best.

Caution: “I’m very careful about violence in games,” says Tajiri. “I’m not interested in creating violent effects.” Because Tajiri knew his Pokemon game was vastly different from the violent games that American children were used to, he knew that he would have to approach the new market entry with caution. He discussed with Nintendo executives how to engage in a more strategic expansion of his brand into new markets, adapting the product to meet its needs.

Marketing: Of the way he captured beetles, Tajiri says, “Nobody else thought to do that.” So, too, did nobody else think to put the twist of a secret character into Pokemon. Nor did anybody else think to create a game where players could only win by trading and interacting with each other. Tajiri might not have been a professional marketer, but he knew how to design games so that the kids would be hooked.

It took him six years to complete, during which time he also had to endure the doubts and skepticism of those around him, but when Tajiri finally released Pokemon, they all finally realized what he had been talking about. In Pokemon, Tajiri was able to preserve his past, while also cementing his place in the future. Today, Tajiri is known as one of the world’s most successful game designers of all time. That is not bad for a boy who just wanted to play with some bugs.

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