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Who Owns Pokémon?

Below is an excerpt from our History Of Pokémon feature

Pokémon is owned by a number of companies, leading to a complicated relationship for the valuable brand and its parents. When asked if he could explain the relationship between Game Freak, Nintendo, and The Pokémon Company, while visiting Game Freak in 2017, co-founder Junichi Masuda turned to a white board behind him to draw out his explanation.

After drawing circles for Game Freak, Nintendo, and former producer Creatures, Masuda explained. “Game Freak? We develop all the main Pokémon games. Originally, Creatures, they were the producers of the game. Nintendo was the seller of the games – the distributor. So that was the original structure of Pokémon games. In terms of who owns the rights to the games, it’s these three companies.”

These days, Creatures mostly handles the Pokémon card game, and The Pokémon Company was formed in 1998 – shortly before the release of Pokémon Gold and Silver – to manage the brand and all of its assorted merchandising. In terms of genuine ownership, Masuda says it’s one-third each for Game Freak, Creatures, and Nintendo. “It’s a little more complicated than that in certain scenarios, like for example, the producing role that Creatures originally held went to The Pokémon Company, and a percentage of the rights went with that so there are certain complications, and it depends on the project, but there is no situation where Nintendo and The Pokémon Company will put pressure on Game Freak or something like that,” Masuda says.

Masuda points specifically to Game Freak’s relationship with Nintendo as a friendship, which is why Game Freak only makes Pokémon games for Nintendo platforms, even when its other projects release with other publishers for other platforms. “Everyone really knows Nintendo; there is a familiarity with the brand, and they have that really strong brand and Pokémon being associated with that and being affiliated with that brand is very important,” Masuda says.

When asked if Pokémon would ever appear on another platform, Masuda says it is highly unlikely. “With Pokémon, at least, we really feel it is really important to be with Nintendo, specifically with the Pokémon titles, so I don’t think that would ever happen.”

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