Satoshi Tajiri (Japanese: 田尻 智, born August 28, 1965) is the creator of Pokémon, responsible for the initial concepts which would lead to the metaseries as it exists today. Currently, he works as the CEO of Game Freak.
Satoshi Tajiri was born in Machida, a suburb of Tokyo. His father was a Nissan salesman and his mother cared for him at home. As a young boy, he loved to explore the outdoors and was especially fascinated with insects. He loved to collect insects, hunting for them in ponds, fields and forests, constantly looking for new insects and coming up with new ways to catch insects such as beetles. He had such an interest in collecting and studying insects that he earned the nickname "Dr. Bug" among his peers.
In the late 1970s, the fields and ponds that Tajiri loved as a child were paved over by apartment buildings and shopping centers. At this time, Tajiri's passion for insects moved to video games and arcades.
Tajiri got into games when he was at technical school, spending all his time in arcades. He was such a big fan that one local arcade gave him a Space Invaders machine to take home. Tajiri did not like school. He began skipping classes to spend more time at the arcades. This confused and upset his parents, who felt he was throwing his future away. Eventually, Tajiri graduated from a two-year program at the Tokyo National College of Technology. His father wanted him to be an electrical utility repairman, but this is not what he wanted.
In 1981, when he was sixteen years of age, Tajiri won a contest sponsored by Nintendo rival Sega for a game design concept. A year later, in 1982, Tajiri and his friends formed a gaming magazine by the name of Game Freak. A friend and contributor to Game Freak was Ken Sugimori, who would later become the illustrator and designer of all of the Pokémon images, as well as the human characters and other aspects of the games. Throughout the 1980s, the Game Freak magazine had modest sales, and became quite popular among the gaming crowd. Originally, the magazine was written by hand, but as it grew more popular Tajiri began having it printed professionally. A typical issue cost 300 yen (around $3.00 USD) and was approximately 28 pages long.
As Tajiri learned more about games, he became more interested in making them. He felt that the games on the market could be better than they were. He learned how to write software by first taking apart a Nintendo Entertainment System to see how it worked and then learning how to program for it.
In 1987, Tajiri published his first game, Quinty (Mendel Palace in North America). Two years later, he officially founded the company Game Freak, named after his magazine. Tajiri and Game Freak continued to develop many titles for companies such as Nintendo and Sega, such as 1991's Jerry Boy (which won Tajiri the Character Design Award from the Multimedia Content Association of Japan), and Yoshi, 1993's Mario & Wario, and 1994's Pulseman.
In 1990, Tajiri published a book entitled Catch The Packland — Stories of Videogames from Youth. It contains sixteen stories about Tajiri's memories of playing arcade games when he was in high school and college. It was published by the Japanese Information and Culture Center.
In the early 1990s, when Tajiri first saw two children playing together with Game Boys using the link cable, he imagined insects crawling along the cable between the two systems. As he thought about the capabilities of the link cable, his idea for Pokémon grew, as he wanted to give modern children the chance to hunt for creatures as he did as a child.
He pitched the idea for Pokémon to Nintendo, and although they didn't fully understand the concept of the game, he was given some initial funding anyway and concept work from another game design studio, Creatures, Inc.. Tajiri spent the next six years working on Pokémon. Shigeru Miyamoto, the man behind Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Pikmin, and Donkey Kong, was assigned to help in the development of the initial versions of Pocket Monsters, Red and Green. During this time Tajiri came to admire Miyamoto as a mentor. As a tribute to Miyamoto and Tajiri, the main character of the games and his rival have "Satoshi" and "Shigeru" among their default names, while the main character of the anime, Ash Ketchum, and his first rival, Gary Oak, are named the same, respectively.
After six years of development, Pokémon Red and Green Versions were completed. Although the Game Boy's hardware was becoming outdated, the game still grew steadily in popularity because younger children could not afford brand-new console games so they turned to the inexpensive Game Boy games.
- Tajiri was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, with Nintendo officials describing him as very creative, yet "reclusive" and "eccentric", two common symptoms of AS. Tajiri has confirmed this diagnosis but has not talked about it publicly.
- Tajiri's favorite Pokémon is apparently Poliwhirl, and says that the swirl on his belly is meant to be its intestines, representing the fact that a tadpole's internal organs are able to be seen when it is picked up and inspected.
- In an interview with Time Magazine in 1999, Tajiri stated that he sleeps for 12 hours, and then works on his games for 24 hours straight. He says that the irregular schedule helps him think of new ideas for games.
- A biography of Tajiri entitled Satoshi Tajiri: Pokémon Creator was published in 2008 by KidHaven Press.