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You've been making these games for a long time, and new players come in all the time. Do you find that new players have expectations about even what a game is than they did in the past?
JM: I think, on a fundamental level, the gameplay -- what they find fun -- is not any different than in the past. But conveying that gameplay has changed a lot over the years.
Kids these days, around the time they hit middle school, they're constantly in contact with their friends via text message, they're on Twitter, they're on Facebook, they're on blogs, for example. The amount of methods you can use to convey gameplay is quite different than before. One major difference is that kids spend less time playing games than they did before, because they have all of these other things around them.
How does that affect Pokémon? To complete a Pokémon game takes some time. I think it took me around 40 hours to finish Pokémon Black 2. That was just the main story, not the optional content. Is the audience demanding shorter experiences? Is that something you can cater to?
JM: I think the key is not to make it shorter, but to make them feel like they're getting more done in a smaller amount of time. I think the real fun of Pokémon -- one of the most fun parts of it -- is coming up with your own pokémon party and raising those pokémon. In a variety of ways, we've made it easier to raise your pokémon at a brisker pace. We've also made the movement speed faster in Pokémon X and Y than in previous games. We've focused on making it feel like you can get more done in a certain amount of time. So rather than reducing a certain number of hours, we've made it feel like it's a brisker pace.
We've talked about smartphones and tablets. There are also big franchises like Skylanders taking off. Do you feel more pressure than you had in the past?
JM: I always feel a lot of pressure. [laughs] Definitely a lot of pressure, and it's scary in today's market. The thing we're most afraid of is that, as creators, we make these games so people can pick them up and have fun playing them. If people weren't able to be able to play them, or if they didn't have fun playing our games, that's what we're most afraid of. This time, we're able to get an [ESRB] E rating, thankfully, and also to do a global simultaneous release. I'm really looking forward to people getting enjoying it on a global scale -- trading and battling with each other.
Can you talk about your emphasis on a global simultaneous release, and why you made an effort to do it for the first time with Pokémon X and Y?
JM: Of course, when the games first came out, the internet didn't exist back then. But as the games became more widespread, when a game came out in Japan first, all of the information about the new pokémon and all of the story details would quickly go up on the internet. It's gotten to the point where even people who maybe don't want to see that information see it before they get a chance to play the game. It's just the amount of information that's out there these days.
It's really been a goal -- a dream -- for the last seven years, to accomplish a worldwide release. This is really because we want to give players around the world the same starting point, a chance to discover pokémon themselves, and to be able to go in fresh without having any sort of information in advance. We really think that discovering pokémon for yourself is one of the most fun parts of the games. That's really why we wanted to do the global simultaneous release.
You've been working on the franchise for a very long time. How do you stay focused on and interested in putting out a new Pokémon game?
JM: Near the end of every project, each time I feel like I'm out of energy, and I've used all the ideas I had, and I really don't have anything left. But then around the time the game comes out, I start talking with people, and I start getting more ideas again for something I want to create. I've always been a creator. I like creating things. I start to get more ideas, and it builds up, and usually after three months I'll get energized and have an idea in my mind about what I want to create next.
This time, with Pokémon X and Y, it's going to be coming out soon. I'm really excited for the release, of course, but also very nervous. The games are like my children. Once they're released, they go out into the world and grow up. I also like to travel a lot and get ideas and inspiration from that. From having conversations with people and traveling, I hope I'll get more inspiration and have another surprise for the world in a few years.
Is that why the Kalos region in X and Y looks like France?
JM: Actually, yes, the Kalos region got its inspiration from France, as I believe I've said before. One of the core themes of Pokémon X and Y this time is "beauty." I used my own time to travel in France for about a month. I really got to know it, and I started to research it. I think it's the country with the most tourists of any country in the world. While I was traveling there, I noticed that there were a lot of places that I'd go to and I'd want to take a photo of just because they were so beautiful. So on that theme of "beauty," we felt that France would match that theme and be a good inspiration for the region.
So even though I went for a month taking my own personal time as a vacation, I ended up probably spending half my time tying that back into work and getting ideas for the game.