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Pokemon Franchise: Who's that Pokemon Owner?

vinnygambini

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Aug 7, 2013
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As the header implies, I would like to discuss the ownership of the Pokemon brand/franchise due to various misinformation spread in the media and various users. I hope the below will help explain the complicated relationship between Pokemon, Nintendo, Creatures Inc., Game Freak and The Pokemon Company. What a mouthful, ready? Let's catch all the answers together!



Firstly, what is Pokemon?

According to Wikipedia:
Pokémon (ポケモン)] is a media franchise owned by The Pokémon Company, and created by Satoshi Tajiri in 1995. It is centered on fictional creatures called "Pokémon", which humans capture and train to fight each other for sport.

Wow that's alot of information to take, woosh, and yet right in the first sentence, I have already found a mistake! I have underlined the mistake already, above ↑.

Contrarily to what is mentioned, Pokemon is a media franchise jointly-owned by Creatures Inc, Nintendo, and Game Freak. I will develop that said ownership and its relationship shortly down the line in much more detail.

What? Nintendo don't solely own Pokemon? Pokemon third-party franchise confirmed

No, that's not how it works. The below image will better illustrate what I mean ↓.



On the 1st line, the following is mentioned - © 2015 Pokémon. © 1995–2015 Nintendo/Creatures Inc./GAME FREAK inc.

What we see are the copyright owners of the Pokemon media franchise. Among its stakeholders are Nintendo, Creatures Inc., and Game Freak Inc.

On the 2nd line, the following is mentioned - Pokémon, Pokémon character names, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DS, Wii, and Wiiware are trademarks of Nintendo.

What we see is the sole owner, Nintendo, of the Pokemon logo and the characters that inhabit the Pokemon world, such as the likes of Pikachu, Togepi, among many others.

In essence, the Pokemon franchise is owned by three separate entities: Nintendo, Game Freak, and Creatures Inc; however, Nintendo, in addition to having partial ownership, are trademark owners of the Pokemon logo, and Pokémon character names.

Ok. I'm still confused though as many people told me that The Pokemon Company controlled/owned the Pokemon franchise? (also mentioned on Wikipedia)

A common mistake sadly, but not a misplaced one, as they are somewhat correct.

Originally named "The Pokémon Center Company" and founded in 1998, The Pokémon Company was established through joint investment by the three businesses holding the copyright on Pokémon: Nintendo Co., Ltd., Creatures Inc., and GAME FREAK inc.

According to Pokemon.co.jp, The Pokemon Company's role is the following:
We're the Producers of Pokémon. We manage* the development of new products that keep Pokémon fresh, fun, and exciting as we move forward. We're dedicated to value and the creation of environments where our work can be enjoyed by all.

* Video Game Production & Development, Trading Card Game Business Planning & Promotion, Licensing & Quality Control, Pokemon Center Business Management, Event Planning & Management, International Business, and Marketing & Web Promotion

In summary, TPC is more like an agency/brand management which serves as a cost center to help get the entities involved money, and handle the Pokemon license. It acts in the best interest of all three shareholders: Nintendo, Game Freak, Creatures Inc.

Wow, that's really cool. So what is Nintendo's role in all of this?

Besides Nintendo developing several different Pokémon games in-house (Pokemon Stadium, Pokemon Stadium 2), Nintendo are in constant communication with The Pokémon Company on production and distribution of each Pokémon game. Game Freak develops each title (mainline) while Nintendo handles the publishing aspect & marketing duties. Nintendo always has a production, coordination, localization, and support team separate from TPC and the other agencies on every title. Additionally, Nintendo has contributed much of the network programming, support programming and hardware peripheral programming (pokewalker, etc) throughout the series

The money generated through software sales pass through Nintendo's financials firstly, and are then re-distributed to The Pokemon Company as they are also co-publishers. Thus, the bulk of the money goes to Nintendo, and then a small percentage is also given to TPC.

What is Creatures Inc role then?

Creatures Inc. aided in the development of the original Pokemon games, and continue to do so to this day in some fashion (PokePark, Pokedex 3D). They could be seen as co-developers, they compliment Game Freak and assist in "producing" Pokemon. They also do 3D Character models but now, most of their attention is on the Pokemon Trading Game.

So in the end, what does it mean for the Pokemon franchise and Nintendo?

Pokemon forever remains an evergreen franchise that have captured the imagination of many, wallets included. In the end, although Nintendo holds several trademarks and publishing duties related to the franchise, its copyright is nonetheless jointly held by two others, Creatures Inc., and Game Freak. While it's clear that Nintendo has the upper-hand in this joint-partnership it nonetheless needs the other parties to be on board as they are the creative force behind Pokemon's cumulative ¥4 trillion enterprise.

But what does it really mean?

Nintendo is doomed

Well, there it is! I hope this helps :)

Important Information not mentioned:

- Nintendo holds a 32% interest in the Pokemon Company
- Nintendo has a stake in Creatures Inc.; however, Nintendo decided to not disclose the ownership ratio (Please understand)



Sources:
http://www.pokemon.com/us/legal/
http://www.pokemon.co.jp/corporate/en/business/
http://www.famitsu.com/news/201306/11034770.html
Nintendo IR
 

Gries

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Nov 21, 2013
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Interesting. But what is creature Inc's role in all of this? How did they get in on this deal? Your explanation made it sound like game freak are the devs of the actual games, Nintendo are the publishers and the pokemon company is some kind of
middleman. Imo the whole thing is still a bit confusing.
 

openrob

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Feb 25, 2014
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ok...still confused lol. But seriously, thankss, I feel I am a lot closer to understamding the situation. But 1 question, who the hell is Creatures inc. I get who GF are (satoshi tajiri is based there, right?) but what do creatures inc do?
 

jholmes

Member
Jan 15, 2014
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- Nintendo holds a 32% interest in the Pokemon Company

Curious about this as I've always heard it represented as a straight 33 per cent for all three entities (supposedly we're rounding down and nobody owns an errant 1%)

ok...still confused lol. But seriously, thankss, I feel I am a lot closer to understamding the situation. But 1 question, who the hell is Creatures inc. I get who GF are (satoshi tajiri is based there, right?) but what do creatures inc do?

Creatures does a lot of the non-core RPG stuff but this might be the most complicated thing of the whole shebang, what the difference between Creatures and Game Freak is. Pre-Pokemon they were very clearly different entities but that's not so much the case now.
 

wmlk

Member
Aug 7, 2013
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Interesting. But what is creature Inc's role in all of this? How did they get in on this deal? Your explanation made it sound like game freak are the devs of the actual games, Nintendo are the publishers and the pokemon company is some kind of
middleman. Imo the whole thing is still a bit confusing.

ok...still confused lol. But seriously, thankss, I feel I am a lot closer to understamding the situation. But 1 question, who the hell is Creatures inc. I get who GF are (satoshi tajiri is based there, right?) but what do creatures inc do?

So... the odds that nintendo owns more than 50% of Creatures inc?

Creatures, Inc. is involved in the creative process for Pokémon like merchandising, parts of the anime, TCG, and non-mainline game development.

For example, they were the developers behind PokéPark and Pokédex 3D.
 

Nightbird

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Oct 7, 2014
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Thanks, now i know that i was not spreading nonsense when i explained this to my Friends.

However, i still don't know wich role Creatures Inc. has in all this. I know know they helped out with the Original Games, but that's it, or is there more?
 

vinnygambini

Why are strippers at the U.N. bad when they're great at strip clubs???
Aug 7, 2013
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Interesting. But what is creature Inc's role in all of this? How did they get in on this deal? Your explanation made it sound like game freak are the devs of the actual games, Nintendo are the publishers and the pokemon company is some kind of
middleman. Imo the whole thing is still a bit confusing
.

What is Creatures Inc role?

Creatures Inc. aided in the development of the original Pokemon games, and continue to do so to this day in some fashion (PokePark, Pokedex 3D). They could be seen as co-developers, they compliment Game Freak and assist in "producing" Pokemon. They also do 3D Character models but now, most of their attention is on the Pokemon Trading Game.

On the bolded, this is mostly it. Game Freak develop the games, Nintendo ships & publish, and the license is carried out by The Pokemon Company.
 
Jun 29, 2004
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Creatures does a lot of the non-core RPG stuff but this might be the most complicated thing of the whole shebang, what the difference between Creatures and Game Freak is. Pre-Pokemon they were very clearly different entities but that's not so much the case now.

That's an understatement. Creatures was apparently formed from staff of Ape Inc., known better for Mother/Earthbound.

The current Pokémon Company president, Tsunekazu Ishihara was originally from Ape Inc.
 

ec0ec0

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Dec 9, 2012
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I've read other similar threads in other places in the past, although this was better written :) It's cool to have one on GAF!!

edit: you're fast at editing the OP haha (about the Creatures thing, i mean)
 

vinnygambini

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Aug 7, 2013
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Curious about this as I've always heard it represented as a straight 33 per cent for all three entities (supposedly we're rounding down and nobody owns an errant 1%)

That's a great observation.

I'll divert your attention to the following:

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=516868

4Kids previously held a stake of 3% in The Pokemon Company, with Nintendo, Creatures and Game Freak holding 32, 32, and 33% respectively.

I've questioned Nintendo about this and in return, they only advised me that Nintendo has a 32% ownership stake in TPC.

So... the odds that nintendo owns more than 50% of Creatures inc?

None as we would see it as one of their subsidiary in their IR report if they owed a majority stake.
 
Nov 26, 2006
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Do you think we could see a future where GF leaves the franchise and Nintendo takes full charge? Nintendo would close before ever letting Pokemon go, but Rare happened where Nintendo owned all their IPs and let those go right? I remember Nintendo owning the trademarks of Killer Instinct and Banjo-Kazooie for instance.
 

Burning Justice

the superior princess
Aug 20, 2011
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Interesting. But what is creature Inc's role in all of this? How did they get in on this deal? Your explanation made it sound like game freak are the devs of the actual games, Nintendo are the publishers and the pokemon company is some kind of
middleman. Imo the whole thing is still a bit confusing.

Game Freak almost went bankrupt during the original development of Red and Green. Creatures provided funding, and was given partial ownership of the IP in exchange.
 

ec0ec0

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Dec 9, 2012
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I remember hearing that Iwata wanted to keep the IPs, but the board of directors refused or something. :( Not sure if that was true, but this was before he became President no?

that's what i guesed. But now that i try to remember, i think that iwata became president around the beginning of 2002 and that rare was bought around the end of 2002. Not sure. I'm not even sure if the story was true or not :p
 

jholmes

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Jan 15, 2014
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That's a great observation.

I'll divert your attention to the following:

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=516868

4Kids previously held a stake of 3% in The Pokemon Company, with Nintendo, Creatures and Game Freak holding 32, 32, and 33% respectively.

I've questioned Nintendo about this and in return, they only advised me that Nintendo has a 32% ownership stake in TPC.

Wait, so for all we know someone else could own this 4Kids stake? Or, for that matter, Creatures could own the biggest share of The Pokemon Company?

Why does this have to be so damn opaque?
 

Shikamaru Ninja

任天堂 の 忍者
Wow, that's really cool. So what is Nintendo's role in all of this?

Nintendo are in constant communication with The Pokémon Company on production and distribution of each Pokémon game. Game Freak develops each title while Nintendo handles the publishing aspect & marketing duties

Besides Nintendo developing several different Pokémon games in-house , they are also closely involved in the development of the mainline hand held titles. Nintendo always has a production, coordination, localization, and support team separate from TPC and the other agencies on every title. Additionally, Nintendo has contributed much of the network programming, support programming and hardware peripheral programming (pokewalker, etc) throughout the series.
 

Skel1ingt0n

I can't *believe* these lazy developers keep making file sizes so damn large. Btw, how does technology work?
Apr 25, 2011
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What happens if anyone wants "out?"

Can POKEMON be held hostage by one entity?
 

Snakeyes

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Sep 20, 2009
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I guess this thread came about because of that Game Freak and Sega collaboration that's skipping the Wii U?
 

vinnygambini

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Aug 7, 2013
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Wait, so for all we know someone else could own this 4Kids stake? Or, for that matter, Creatures could own the biggest share of The Pokemon Company?

Why does this have to be so damn opaque?

In October 2005, the [4Kids Entertainment] sold its interest in equal shares to the members of the Investment Group [Nintendo, Game Freak, Creatures Inc.] for aggregate proceeds of $960k, resulting in a gain of $234k as reflected on the accompanying consolidated statements of income.

All three stakeholders purchased 4Kids original investment for the sum of 960k, equally divided among the three of them (1% each). What I am thinking, as this did not result in a net percentage gain for Nintendo's ownership, all parties involved most likely retired the newly purchased shares or diluted themselves to keep the ownership ratio as is.

Besides Nintendo developing several different Pokémon games in-house , they are also closely involved in the development of the mainline hand held titles. Nintendo always has a production, coordination, localization, and support team separate from TPC and the other agencies on every title. Additionally, Nintendo has contributed much of the network programming, support programming and hardware peripheral programming (pokewalker, etc) throughout the series.

Yup, you've gone in much detail than I have mentioned :p

I'll add it to the OP.
 

StalkerUKCG

Banned
Jun 4, 2011
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So as it stands

Nintendo own 33%
Creatures Inc own 33%
GAME FREAK own 34%

The Pokemon Company is a joint venture that likely has a board built of members of each company that decide each and every fate of Pokemon.

Pretty simple.
 

wmlk

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Aug 7, 2013
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Besides Nintendo developing several different Pokémon games in-house , they are also closely involved in the development of the mainline hand held titles. Nintendo always has a production, coordination, localization, and support team separate from TPC and the other agencies on every title. Additionally, Nintendo has contributed much of the network programming, support programming and hardware peripheral programming (pokewalker, etc) throughout the series.

Iwata's work on Pokémon is pretty absurd.
 

El Pescado

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The idea that Nintendo owns the characters of Pokemon, but not the "Pokemon" franchise itself makes no sense to me. What?
 
D

Deleted member 17706

Unconfirmed Member
I think it's very important to look at The Pokémon Company and its CEO and founder, Tsunekazu Ishihara (also the founder and previous CEO of Creatures and current chairman), together.

There was a book written in Japan back in 2002 or so called "Pokémon Story" that detailed the origins of Pokémon, and in it, the author talked about how Ishihara was really the guy who made the whole thing happen by convincing Nintendo to invest in Game Freak's project.

There was also a recent episode in the NHK documentary series called "Professional" that was all about Ishihara's career. It really painted him as kind of the end-all-be-all producer of all things Pokémon and it looked very much like all decisions regarding the brand went through him. Even ignoring the ownership percentages, it appears that he has the most sway of anyone involved with Pokémon.
 
D

Deleted member 17706

Unconfirmed Member
Might as well ask it here but who did the localization for Pokémon games for gen 1-5 because it felt like they changed company with gen 6.

Nintendo handled localization up through Diamond & Pearl, I think. After that, The Pokémon Company International took over.
 
D

Deleted member 17706

Unconfirmed Member
Hmm then I wonder if gen 6 was a rushed localization as I found it to be flat compare to the past gen.

Could just be different individuals involved. They should be listed in the credits of the games.
 

fredrancour

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The idea that Nintendo owns the characters of Pokemon, but not the "Pokemon" franchise itself makes no sense to me. What?

They have shared ownership of the property, so other people get cuts of the money, but Nintendo has ultimate veto power over what stuff can actually be made using the trademarks, I think? To the best of my understanding of how trademarks work, nobody will be able to use those trademarks in a product without licensing them from the trademark owner.
 
Mar 10, 2005
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This is also why I tend to laugh through my nose whenever people just go "WHY DOESN'T NINTENDO JUST PUT POKEMON ON WII U"

Because it's not their call, entirely.

It would be a massive undertaking that would have to get two other companies on board who don't especially want to put their games on a system with a low install base at ten times the cost.
 

vinnygambini

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The idea that Nintendo owns the characters of Pokemon, but not the "Pokemon" franchise itself makes no sense to me. What?

Nintendo own the Pokemon character (names), logo, publishing rights but share the Pokemon franchise ownership with two other entities, Game Freak and Creatures Inc.

It's a complex relationship but it's not unheard of, especially at Nintendo.

Hal Laboratory (Kirby) and Intelligent Systems (Fire Emblem) carry a similar relationship.
 

Lindsay

Dot Hacked
Jul 21, 2004
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The money generated through software sales pass through Nintendo's financials firstly, and are then re-distributed to The Pokemon Company as they are also co-publishers. Thus, the bulk of the money goes to Nintendo, and then a small percentage is also given to TPC.
Are you telling me Game Freak isn't swimming in money?! Don't they at least make a ton of money off the games they themselves develop?
 

wmlk

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Are you telling me Game Freak isn't swimming in money?! Don't they at least make a ton of money off the games they themselves develop?

Not very much. Why else do you think their internal team is so small and the games aren't exactly technical showpieces?
 
Dec 30, 2013
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That's a great observation.

I'll divert your attention to the following:

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=516868

4Kids previously held a stake of 3% in The Pokemon Company, with Nintendo, Creatures and Game Freak holding 32, 32, and 33% respectively.

I've questioned Nintendo about this and in return, they only advised me that Nintendo has a 32% ownership stake in TPC.



None as we would see it as one of their subsidiary in their IR report if they owed a majority stake.

This is fascinating. Say what you will about them but overall I liked what 4Kids did with Pokemon (at least for the first five seasons). Never knew that they had a 3% stake in TPC.

I remember hearing that Iwata wanted to keep the IPs, but the board of directors refused or something. :( Not sure if that was true, but this was before he became President no?

Now that's just tragic if there's truth to that.
 

vinnygambini

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Aug 7, 2013
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Are you telling me Game Freak isn't swimming in money?! Don't they at least make a ton of money off the games they themselves develop?

Nintendo pays Game Freak to develop & produce the game in conjunction with The Pokemon Company overseeing the production on their behalf.

The terms & conditions are not disclosed, but nonetheless as Nintendo are the publishers, the money generated through software sales goes through their finances firstly. A percentage is distributed to the likes of The Pokemon Company as they are also co-publishers.

Game Freak most likely have a profit-sharing contract in place with Nintendo if certain conditions are met such as profitability (production + marketing costs recouped), reception, shipment figures, etc; however, no company will divulge such information.

Nonetheless, the bulk of the money Game Freak receives from the game is peanuts comparatively to what it get from licensing ventures (a third owner of the Pokemon franchise).
 

jholmes

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Jan 15, 2014
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All three stakeholders purchased 4Kids original investment for the sum of 960k, equally divided among the three of them (1% each). What I am thinking, as this did not result in a net percentage gain for Nintendo's ownership, all parties involved most likely retired the newly purchased shares or diluted themselves to keep the ownership ratio as is.

Ahh thanks, the thread cited and your earlier post made it seem like that was just the going theory, not something confirmed.

I still think this is situation is needlessly opaque, but I thank you for making it somewhat less so.

Can Pokemon ever appear on a non-Nintendo platform?

There isn't a law against it but I don't know why Nintendo would want that.
 
Nov 26, 2006
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As was said, Nintendo has held Pokemon far closer than ANY Rare IP. Notice how Nintendo never touched any of their IPs? Rare was the only one to ever make their games. Hell DK was Rare-exclusive until the buyout.

Pokemon however has had a bajillion spin-offs, including the GOAT Pokemon Stadium series, which were mainly by EAD themselves. The director of the Stadium series, Takao Shimizu, is the head of EAD Tokyo team 2 IIRC.

The main spin-off caretaker today, Genius Sonority, was formed via Yamauchi's Q-fund and Nintendo holds I believe 32% of them?

Basically, Banjo Pokemon ain't. If Game Freak ever goes, Nintendo keeps Pokemon. What Creatures' fate would be, who knows. They just might split the copyright 50/50 between them.
 

vinnygambini

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Can Pokemon ever appear on a non-Nintendo platform?

Pokemon games have already appeared on others platforms such as PC games, the likes include Pokémon Play It!, licensed to Wizards of the Coast at the time to introduce players to the Pokemon Trading Card Game.

If it benefits all three parties involved, Pokemon will appear on non-Nintendo platforms, as you have seen above; however, a fully-fledged Pokemon game will not appear on mobile or other platforms as it directly affects Nintendo's interests.
 

Zero²

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Hal Laboratory (Kirby) and Intelligent Systems (Fire Emblem) carry a similar relationship.
As far as I could search using the internet, Nintendo owns HAL. Actually they own 50% of the company that owns HAL, that one that was responsible for the Kirby anime.
But I'll search again later when I'm not on mobile :p
 

vinnygambini

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Zero²;155596015 said:
As far as I could search using the internet, Nintendo owns HAL. Actually they own 50% of the company that owns HAL, that one that was responsible for the Kirby anime.
But I'll search again later when I'm not on mobile :p

Sadly no, Nintendo do not own HAL. They operate as a separate entity with important ties to Nintendo, much like Creatures Inc. (spiritual successor to Ape Inc.).

http://www.hallab.co.jp/company_data_en.html

Nintendo own the Kirby character, co-own the franchise with HAL (If you look behind the Kirby amiibo box, you will see the following: ©Nintendo / HAL Laboratory, Inc.), and established WARPSTAR INC. (50% you were referring) to co-produce the Kirby Right Back at Ya! anime
 

Boss Doggie

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Yeah TPCi is a three-way venture. That's why it's more apt to say "TPCi does" than "Nintendo does" with regards to what the franchise would do.
 

JacoTheDex

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It's interesting to note that Hirokazu "Hip" Tonaka quit composing for Nintendo so he could work on the Pokemon anime with Creatures. Apparently he joined as a guest to compose the first Japanese Opening theme, Nintendo forbid him from doing anymore work with a seperate company (even though it was for one of their IPs), and left them to keep composing the Openings for the anime.

Did Nintendo always have a stake in Creatures, or is it a recent thing?