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Old 11-01-2018, 09:58 PM   #1
Talon87
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LGPE to be Masuda's last games as director?

"It's important to have the younger generation at GAME FREAK take over the development of Pokémon as a series. I do believe this will probably be, in terms of the main Pokémon RPGs, the last time that I work as the director."

Source: Pokemon.com , via Go Nintendo via Reddit

This is not to say that Junichi Masuda is leaving Game Freak or will no longer be involved with Pokémon. He might continue to help develop. He might continue to compose. He will probably help with production and consultation. All it's saying is, LGPE is in the man's own opinion probably going to be the last time that he is the one steering the ship.

According to Bulbapedia, Masuda "was appointed sub-director for Pokémon Gold and Silver and has directed or co-directed every core series Pokémon game since Pokémon Crystal." Going through this list one by one, however, the breakdown of Masuda's directorial credits appears to be as follows:
  • Gold & Silver (sub-director)
  • Crystal (director)
  • Ruby & Sapphire (director)
  • FireRed & LeafGreen (director)
  • Emerald (world director)
  • Diamond & Pearl (director)
  • Black & White (director)
  • X & Y (director)
Games not listed, he was not credited as any form of director for. As you can see, usually when he's involved in direction at all, he is the director. And usually -- Gens 3, 4, 5, and 6 -- he serves as the generation's launch director. Generation 7 was the first time he did not direct a launch.

Thoughts?
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Old 11-01-2018, 10:12 PM   #2
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Other Game Freak directors of note ...

Satoshi Tajiri: the man, the myth, the legend Red & Green, Blue, Yellow, Gold & Silver
Shigeki Morimoto: Emerald, HGSS
Takao Unno: BW2
Shigeru Ohmori: ORAS, Sun & Moon
Kazumasa Iwao: USUM
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Old 11-02-2018, 12:50 AM   #3
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It's a good thing.

Masuda hasn't been the same since the series transitioned to 3D. He was allegedly heartbroken over the "poor" reception to BW and his games since then have been warped. The production notes and interviews following XY, ORAS, and LGPE come across as an out-of-touch billionaire who feels he isn't hip with children anymore.

I feel bad about this because RSE gets a load of hate, but it's a solid game. Tajiri-led FRLG are the worst Generation III games. And BW was a major step up from Sinnoh, which was the worst of the four Japanese-themed regions.

That said, he is a dominating presence at Game Freak and I won't be surprised if heir apparent Ohmori gets the lion's share of the blame when his games retain a lot of the Masada-levied criticisms. Because Masuda created that culture, that mentality - he's the Eisner who saved Game Freak during its darkest hour, when Tajiri couldn't.

I hope he stays on as the primary composer. He still makes good music. But no more Pokemon Final Fantasy and Pokemon Dragon Quest, please.
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Old 11-02-2018, 07:06 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doppleganger View Post
I feel bad about this because RSE gets a load of hate, but it's a solid game. Tajiri-led FRLG are the worst Generation III games.
, I told you in the OP post, FRLG was directed by Masuda. Tajiri hasn't directed a main series game since Gold & Silver. He served in an "executive director" (a.k.a. production oversight) role starting with Crystal, and in more recent games is credited as the more classically defined "executive producer".

You can't blame Tajiri for FRLG and then celebrate Masuda for RuSa. Masuda was director for both. Tajiri was executive director for both.

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Masuda's the Eisner who saved Game Freak during its darkest hour, when Tajiri couldn't.
What a bizarre narrative you're trying to construct here. The year 2000, "the darkest hour" for Pokémon? Masuda takes over after Gold & Silver are finished. He helms the babby project of Crystal, and then his first big boy project is Ruby & Sapphire. That project, that particular outing, is when many fans like Kuno got upset with the franchise and quit. I don't agree with any narrative that attempts to say Pokémon's "darkest hour" was with Gen 3 , but I will say that if that is the narrative you want to push, then you'll have to reconcile that Masuda isn't the Eisner who "saved" Game Freak from it -- he's the Ron Miller who meant well but could be ultimately charged with casting Game Freak into its "darkest hour." Right now, in 2018, I would say we the hardcore fans are having our "Disney's darkest hour" moment with Pokémon. LGPE is our Black Cauldron. We're looking for Gen 8 to be our Little Mermaid, not our Oliver & Company.

As for "Tajiri couldn't", he's certainly not Programming Jesus or Directorial God or anything like that, but ... to say that he "couldn't" do the job seems a bit inaccurate. It's more like, coworkers report he was sometimes difficult to work with because of his autism. While it may be true that Masuda was easier to work under than Tajiri, I don't think anyone on the staff disliked Tajiri. If anything, we've seen the opposite: Game Freak was a very, very tight-knit family that resisted expansion well into Pokémon's lifetime. Most development teams would've started hiring like crazy after Gold & Silver wrapped up production, but Game Freak as far as we know didn't really undertake considerable expansion efforts until Gen 5. That's not to say newcomers weren't hired on in Gens 3 (Ohmori) or 4, just that 5 was the first generation where we saw the staff grow in headcount by more than 10%. The point here is, I don't think you get that tight-knit family culture if the head is rotten. The developers who were with Tajiri from his Mendel Palace (Quinty) and Smart Ball (Jerry Boy) days are still with the company to this day. Ken Sugimori, Junichi Masuda, these guys have been with Game Freak since at least 1990. Some of it may be company loyalty. Some of it may be job security and the riches that Pokémon has brought in. But I have to think some of it also has to be a testament to Tajiri's workability with. Sure, he may be tough to work with enough that they mutinied handed the direction over to Masuda going forward. But I can't think he's so hard to work with that people would want to quit under him.
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Old 11-02-2018, 11:10 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Talon87 View Post
You can't blame Tajiri for FRLG and then celebrate Masuda for RuSa. Masuda was director for both. Tajiri was executive director for both.
Huuuuh...I've had it wrong for this long? I could have sworn Tajiri came back to do FRLG. Well, all that does is lower my opinion of him. I will stand by that RSE was underrated...but then you have more misses than hits under Masuda's watch, with only BW as the stand out.

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Originally Posted by Talon87 View Post
What a bizarre narrative you're trying to construct here. The year 2000, "the darkest hour" for Pokémon? Masuda takes over after Gold & Silver are finished. He helms the babby project of Crystal, and then his first big boy project is Ruby & Sapphire. That project, that particular outing, is when many fans like Kuno got upset with the franchise and quit. I don't agree with any narrative that attempts to say Pokémon's "darkest hour" was with Gen 3 , but I will say that if that is the narrative you want to push, then you'll have to reconcile that Masuda isn't the Eisner who "saved" Game Freak from it -- he's the Ron Miller who meant well but could be ultimately charged with casting Game Freak into its "darkest hour." Right now, in 2018, I would say we the hardcore fans are having our "Disney's darkest hour" moment with Pokémon. LGPE is our Black Cauldron. We're looking for Gen 8 to be our Little Mermaid, not our Oliver & Company.
2002-2003 is the pivotal year in the franchise. The TCG sales peaked with Fossil and had been on a decline through the Johto era, GSC had great sales but didn't match RBY, and the anime was falling on hard times with some of the dullest writing it's ever seen. The GBA faced competition from the GameCube, Sony was set to enter the handheld market with the PSP, the first browser based internet games started to emerge...

RBY and GSC didn't really have to compete with anything. The Gameboy and GBC were unique, the franchise concept was unique and it inspired a mania which was slowing down. The children who were 10 years old in 1997 were starting to enter adulthood. Fans who remained not only had expectations with regard to improvements on GSC but "why should I play Pokemon instead of [insert other distraction]", because there were more options available, or on the horizon.

Many other media franchises faltered post-hype. TMNT, He-Man, Transformers, Power Rangers, Digimon, and Yu-Gi-Oh! were shadows of their peak selves despite persistence over the years.

Spoiler: show
I'm going to ignore the Michael Bay Transformers movies which are an otherwise huge outlier.


So, it's a credit to Masuda that his vision for the company, which would define his tenure as GF boss, was one of conservatism and stability. Of all those franchises I listed, Pokemon remains king, despite falling far from the peak of RBY. But it's consistently beat everything before and after it came out on the strength of its IP, despite a shrinking install base for the handhelds it's developed for.

Masuda also greenlit the successful spinoff games like Mystery Dungeon and Ranger.

It's been clear for a while but Pokemon has become one of the ultimate, marketable IPs. The games are a legacy source of sales compared to what the anime generates through merchandise (which makes the anime's subservience to the games all the more infuriating), which is why I make the Disney comparison. When Disney Animation was at its low point during the Fox and the Hound era, Disney itself was pretty successful through its subsidiaries like Touchstone Pictures and Disneyland Parks Inc. Animation was a legacy business and cartoons weren't in vogue until Sullivan Bluth came along.

But Pokemon in 2002-2003 didn't have that kind of certainty. Say what you will about Masuda, but while RSE lost a lot of fans it was not a disaster like LGPE promises to be. And it's precisely because of something like LGPE that Masuda has shown his era needs to end.

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Originally Posted by Talon87 View Post
As for "Tajiri couldn't", he's certainly not Programming Jesus or Directorial God or anything like that, but ... to say that he "couldn't" do the job seems a bit inaccurate. It's more like, coworkers report he was sometimes difficult to work with because of his autism. While it may be true that Masuda was easier to work under than Tajiri, I don't think anyone on the staff disliked Tajiri. If anything, we've seen the opposite: Game Freak was a very, very tight-knit family that resisted expansion well into Pokémon's lifetime. Most development teams would've started hiring like crazy after Gold & Silver wrapped up production, but Game Freak as far as we know didn't really undertake considerable expansion efforts until Gen 5. That's not to say newcomers weren't hired on in Gens 3 (Ohmori) or 4, just that 5 was the first generation where we saw the staff grow in headcount by more than 10%. The point here is, I don't think you get that tight-knit family culture if the head is rotten. The developers who were with Tajiri from his Mendel Palace (Quinty) and Smart Ball (Jerry Boy) days are still with the company to this day. Ken Sugimori, Junichi Masuda, these guys have been with Game Freak since at least 1990. Some of it may be company loyalty. Some of it may be job security and the riches that Pokémon has brought in. But I have to think some of it also has to be a testament to Tajiri's workability with. Sure, he may be tough to work with enough that they mutinied handed the direction over to Masuda going forward. But I can't think he's so hard to work with that people would want to quit under him.
If we look back retrospectively on the gaming industry, and where Pokemon is now, it's clear nobody at GF was a Walt Disney or a George Lucas - a creative visionary who could consistently steer his company into the future, or a media franchise manager who knew how to market the heck out of his ideas.

Arguably, this is a good thing. I feel closer to GF than I do to TYPE-MOON, LucasArts, Blizzard, or Disney now, which are buffered by runaway success and casualization. But GF itself doesn't feel like this, and to Tajiri's credit he stepped down at the right time. He came up with the original idea and the best (to date) execution of it, but Pokemon hasn't been a beacon of originality since.
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Old 11-02-2018, 04:43 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doppleganger View Post
2002-2003 is the pivotal year in the franchise.
Say that it is -- Junichi Masuda was already directing by this point in time. He directed Crystal, released in Japan in 2000, and Ruby & Sapphire, released in Japan in 2002. The latter would have been in development for several years prior to its release in 2002, one would think!

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Originally Posted by Doppleganger View Post
The GBA faced competition from the GameCube
... Whaaaaaa? What are you talking about? Both are Nintendo consoles. One is a handheld and the other a home console. Neither really cannibalized sales from the other. So I'm not at all seeing how they were in competition in your view. It's like you're saying, "Hasbro's Magic: the Gathering cannibalized sales from Hasbro's My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic."

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Originally Posted by Doppleganger View Post
So, it's a credit to Masuda that his vision for the company
Just so we're clear: Masuda is a member of the board of directors for Game Freak, but he's not its CEO. That's Satoshi Tajiri. Neither is he The Pokémon Company's president. That's Tsunekazu Ishihara. As a director of multiple main series games, including every launch game from Gens 3 thru 6, Masuda has certainly influenced "the vision of the company". If that's all you mean here, then that's fine. But the way you speak of him has me worried you think he is Game Freak's chief executive officer.

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Originally Posted by Doppleganger View Post
Masuda also greenlit the successful spinoff games like Mystery Dungeon and Ranger.
Like here, stuff like this. I don't think this was even Masuda's call to make, much less that he did make it. I'm pretty sure this was the sort of decision made by Ishihara or the board of directors.

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When Disney Animation was at its low point during the Fox and the Hound era, Disney itself was pretty successful through its subsidiaries like Touchstone Pictures
This is a little off too -- Touchstone wasn't founded until 1983 (right around the time Miller was out the door and Roy Disney brought in Eisner) and I recall reading that its first film didn't come out until 1986, well after Miller's departure. So ... I don't think it's right to say that Touchstone was keeping Miller-era Disney afloat. You are right, of course, that Touchstone brought Disney a lot of sales and acclaim in the 1980s.
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Old 11-02-2018, 06:32 PM   #7
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Quote:
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Say that it is -- Junichi Masuda was already directing by this point in time. He directed Crystal, released in Japan in 2000, and Ruby & Sapphire, released in Japan in 2002. The latter would have been in development for several years prior to its release in 2002, one would think!
We know from the GSC beta that RSE took way less time to develop than GSC did. But that doesn't alter my argument that 2002-2003 was the make-or-break year. How successful RSE would be would decide the fate of the company in a way DPP and BW probably don't.

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... Whaaaaaa? What are you talking about? Both are Nintendo consoles. One is a handheld and the other a home console. Neither really cannibalized sales from the other. So I'm not at all seeing how they were in competition in your view. It's like you're saying, "Hasbro's Magic: the Gathering cannibalized sales from Hasbro's My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic."
Of course they cannibalized one another.

It's an old-school mentality that there's no inter-competition between a company's products. But we know now this was never true. For example, Apple builds products and release schedules specifically to prevent its own iPhones from competing against one another, like the month delay between this year's XS/XL and XR models, along with the discontinuation of and/or continuation of previous year models. Apple just reported below-guidance sales results because the drop in iPhone 8 prices drove people to pursue last year's model, over the all-time expensive 2019 models.

Eastman Kodak, despite inventing the digital camera, tried to suffocate it for fear it would eat into their print & chemical business.

With consoles, each console is competing for a person's finite time. If they're certain most of their gaming is going to be done on a more powerful, more flexible, prettier platform, they're going to pick the GameCube over the GBA every single time. If not about what type of game you prefer, it becomes which franchise you prefer.

I don't doubt that the convergence toward the Switch is, in part, fueled by this idea. The switch is a handheld and a home console, but it saves Nintendo the trouble of having to force people to choose between say Generation VIII and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. They also don't suffer from the margin problem of customers picking the lower cost console.

Nintendo tried to parry this problem by introducing Pokemon side games on their bigger consoles, like the Colosseum series, but they were never able to harness the same level of success as the main series games.

Like, one of the biggest criticisms of LGPE is that the game is expensive, and the Switch is expensive. That's the whole point! Nintendo is in the business of licensing its hardware and selling equipment, alongside whatever IP it might own. But it's still heavily involved in the equipment business so anything that competes with their most expensive product is a problem, even if Nintendo itself is the manufacturer.

It's also inaccurate to make that disparate a comparison regarding MTG. A fairer analogy is if the Pokemon TCG ate into MTG's sales, which is yes*. Wizards had a lucrative contract with Nintendo, and the Pokemon boosters were higher margin than MTG's boosters, but once Wizards lost the contract to TPCI it became a huge pain for them. Then you throw Yu-Gi-Oh! into the mix, and Wizards lost almost the entire children's market for collectible card games to Japanese firms. It remains this way today: YGO and to a lesser extent Pokemon remain the dominant TCGs among school aged children, with MTG as an alternative that skews almost exclusively toward higher income adult &/nerd.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Talon87 View Post
Just so we're clear: Masuda is a member of the board of directors for Game Freak, but he's not its CEO. That's Satoshi Tajiri. Neither is he The Pokémon Company's president. That's Tsunekazu Ishihara. As a director of multiple main series games, including every launch game from Gens 3 thru 6, Masuda has certainly influenced "the vision of the company". If that's all you mean here, then that's fine. But the way you speak of him has me worried you think he is Game Freak's chief executive officer.
I understand, that's why I didn't call him the CEO. I called him the boss, because while he doesn't hold the senior positions, he has been the most important guy at GF for the past decade. The CEO's job is to set the vision for the company, but he need not be the person who comes up with it. He just has to rubber stamp the idea and execute. This is the case with Gainax and Hiroyuki Yamaga: Yamaga signed off on a lot of things, and is the public face and PR guy for Gainax, but the company lives or dies by the creative talent it has in-house at any one time.

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Like here, stuff like this. I don't think this was even Masuda's call to make, much less that he did make it. I'm pretty sure this was the sort of decision made by Ishihara or the board of directors.
I don't know for sure it's Masuda, but it's an educated guess.

The general attitude on Wall Street is that CEOs are old dogs who don't learn new tricks...which is why you get a new CEO when the old one fails. Rarely do CEOs get extended looks to redeem themselves and when given that opportunity, they almost always fail harder. Even wildly successful CEOs like Steve Jobs, Michael Eisner or...Elon Musk meet their demise eventually.

The RBY/GSC era Pokemon spinoffs were largely gimmicks, like Snap, Hey You! Pikachu or the Puzzle League series. They weren't adventure games that could potentially compete against the main series game, in the vein of Mystery Dungeon and Ranger. That's why I don't think they were Ishihara's idea. Masuda is a natural choice given he was the dominant creative force at that time.
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Old 11-03-2018, 08:30 AM   #8
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You have zero real basis for these claims though. =\ It's purely your pet speculation. Forgive me if I don't find that particularly persuasive.

And you continue to ignore the fact that if 2002-2003 really is the pivotal point in Pokémon's history that it's your guy, "the most important guy at GF for the past decade" Mr. Junichi Masuda, who was at the same position by the year 2000 that he has occupied up through 2018. You're being too stubborn insisting on having your cake ("Junichi Masuda saved Pokémon!") and eating it too ("2002-2003 is when Pokémon shat the bed").
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Old 11-03-2018, 02:55 PM   #9
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("2002-2003 is when Pokémon shat the bed").
I didn't say that. You implied it with your Kuno comment earlier, I only pointed out that it was pivotal. It is fact that the fad was losing steam by the time of Gen II, and was in full force by Gen III.

Here are some things RSE did that had never been seen in a Pokemon game:

-save the world plot
-removed the day/night cycle
-jump to a completely different console
-removal of (most) of the original 150 Pokemon
-no backward compatibility with the GBC era games

For the first time, a Pokemon game had regressions over the previous generation's game. That was a very dangerous precedent to introduce and is among the most common criticisms of RSE. In a way, RSE was a test of Pokemon's brand to withstand disappointments like that.

As for Masuda's billet, that is a superficial detail. It's fair to say Tajiri has the power of final say on most Pokemon matters in deference to both his role in creating Pokemon and his tenure with the company. Should he decide to use it! Why wouldn't Masuda, who has been the primary creative force for the past decade, have similar influence beyond his job title? And that's why there's some worry even though he "passed the torch".

Masuda didn't direct ORAS, but he did direct the original RSE and ORAS is very consistent with how he handled XY.

And perhaps my message was unclear. While I do think Masuda saved Pokemon from a future of has-been irrelevance like the other franchises I mentioned, he could have hypothetically done a better job that may/may not have been realistic.

"Junichi Masuda: Did a decent job leading Pokemon into the 21st Century, but has overstayed his welcome."
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