Pokemon is currently the world’s biggest media franchise. I want you to take a moment to understand that— it’s not just the biggest video game franchise in the world (cumulatively, that would actually be Mario, albeit Mario has a roughly fifteen year headstart), but the biggest media franchise in the world, period. That means it’s bigger than Star Wars, Harry Potter, and even the MCU.
And it almost didn’t happen, all because of one computer crash. Speaking to Polygon, reminiscing about the early development of Pokemon, Game Freak’s Junichi Masuda recalled how an early computer crash, that they had no idea how to recover from, and no backups for, caused them to possibly lose all the data for the game.
“Somewhere midway through the development, maybe in the fourth year or so, we had a really bad crash that we couldn’t, we didn’t know how to recover the computer from,” he said. “That had all of the data for the game, all of the Pokémon, the main character and everything. It really felt like, “Oh my God, if we can’t recover this data, we’re finished here.” I just remember doing a lot of different research. I called the company that I used to work for, seeing if they had any advice to recover the data.
“I would go on this internet service provider back then called Nifty Serve. It’s like a Japanese version of CompuServe. I’d go on and ask people that I never talked to for advice on how to recover the data. I would look at these English books about the machine itself, because there wasn’t a lot of information in Japanese, just to figure it out. We eventually figured out how to recover it, but that was like the most nerve-racking moment, I think, in development.”
At least I can hope that Game Freak learned to keep backups better after this incident. Of course, they eventually managed to recover their data, and the game came out, was a huge hit, and spawned, as noted, one of the biggest game franchises of all time. But can you imagine if all of that had never happened? Because of a misplaced computer crash, and no data backups?
Pokemon Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee!, re-imaginings of those first games, are due out on November 16 for Nintendo Switch.