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Why Game Freak encourages dev-pitched, non-Pokemon projects

Kotaku takes a look at Game Freak's internal Gear Project and why the company encourages its devs to pitch, prototype, and develop their own games ideas on company time.
"When you make one [Pokémon] title, you spend several years working on it. So when that's finished, I think people want to work on something new and come up with ideas for things they want to do."

- Programmer Masayuki Onoue shares his experience with Game Freak's Gear Project.

Developing one game can be a tiring process, but developing many games in the same genre can be downright morale-killing. To combat that risk, Game Freak, the company largely known for masterminding the Pokémon games, dabbles in creating Pokémon-free projects from time to time.

Kotaku set out to shine a light on some of Game Freak’s recent non-Pokémon creations and, in the process, ended up diving into an internal initiative that actually encourages developers to create their own games on company time.

The Gear Project is a longstanding in-house program that tasks Game Freak developers with pitching, prototyping, and developing their own original game ideas. The program itself is an interesting way game developers can expand their horizons or even avoid burnout in a productive way. 

“I’ve gotten experience working on several Pokémon titles and learned a lot about how games are made,” programmer Masayuki Onoue told Kotaku. ”That’s when I decided to try to make my own game.”

Onoue says he knew about the Gear Project program ahead of joining Game Freak seven years ago. Since then, he was able to step into the role of director to create the game Giga Wrecker and broaden his understanding of game development in the process. 

“I’m a programmer, but for this title, I also worked as a director,” said Onoue. “If I just worked as a programmer, I’d never have these experiences. I’ve learned a lot. Like, for example, I knew nothing about how a game is promoted. I didn’t know the ins and outs of releasing a game. I didn’t have a chance to see all that with my own eyes. But now that I’ve put out this title, I have. It’s taught me a lot.”

Head over to Kotaku for the full story and a closer look at how Game Freak runs its developer-led Gear Project.

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