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Nintendo Pokemon expert: Nothing outshines 'Platinum'

April 13, 2009

By John Powell - G4 Canada

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PokemonSeth McMahill, the Assistant Manager of Product Marketing at Nintendo, has one of the coolest jobs in the world. Can you imagine getting paid to promote, market, eat, sleep and drink Pokemon? Well, Seth does. With 'Pokemon Platinum' version in stores now, Canada sat down with Nintendo's resident Pokemon expert and got his take on the new game and all things Pokemon including what his favourite Pokemon of all time is. Hint: It ain't Pikachu and for the record, mine is Gengar, the mischievous ghost Pokemon.

John Powell: How did you first get into Pokemon?

Seth McMahill: I was first introduced to Pokemon long before I worked at Nintendo, well, not too long before then. It was when Pokemon 'Red' and 'Blue' came out. I was in a giant Asian grocery store that imported a lot of toys from Japan. I noticed these cute little critter toys. At the time, they were known as "Pocket Monsters". I picked one of them up and it happened to be Squirtle, the cute little turtle fellow. That sparked my interest right there so I started looking into it. I realized that Nintendo was bringing out 'Red' and 'Blue' in the States. I ordered my copy of 'Blue'. I got it the second it came out and started playing. The first Pokemon I caught was a Pidgey, which was kinda cool. I have just been a fan ever since.

When I started at Nintendo, I actually began in the testing department and the manager of the Pokemon product was looking for somebody else and I was there, he asked me a few questions about Pokemon and the rest is history. I have been representing Pokemon now for nine years here at Nintendo.

PokemonJohn Powell: What is your job at Nintendo now?

Seth McMahill: When I first started, it was all about localization. Essentially, bringing the game over from Japan and making it feel like it was developed for a North American audience. All of the cultural references have to be changed over. On top of that, it includes writing the instruction manuals, the package copy, doing all the screenshots and promo videos. Things kinda evolved from there to where I look after the localization and brand management aspect of it.

John Powell: Why do you think Pokemon has grown into such a cultural phenomenon, especially with children?

Seth McMahill: The reason I think the franchise has endured for so long is because it was originally developed as a game and to be a great game. At its core, it is a really solid role-playing game. The worlds that are created in these games are so vivid and realistic that when a kid plays them, they are transported there. They get to be the hero in that region and the whole experience is very empowering for them.

PokemonThere is constantly new stuff being added too with the release of each new game. With 'Diamond' and 'Pearl', we introduced Wi-Fi trading and battling. We have just given fans what they want in each version of the game. We started out originally with 151 Pokemon, now there are over 490. Each of those Pokemon can level up to 100. There is so much for kids to do in the games. There is so much customization as well. It is very empowering for a child to be that hero and to be able to customize that world to their liking. That is what has given the franchise longevity and made it a staple just like Mario.

One of the greatest things about Pokemon too is that is can bring families together. If a parent is interested in playing a game with their child, it is something that is easily accessible to people of all ages. I have a friend down in California who I Wi-Fi battle with and he is over 40. I play against him and his young son.

John Powell: If you had to pick only one character, which is your favourite?

PokemonSeth McMahill: I love Torchic. It sounds odd coming from a 30-year-old man but it is just so adorable. It is this cute, little fire chicken. One of my favourite things I have done in Pokemon was I took this Torchic all the way up to level 100 without letting it evolve. So, I had this tiny, cute little fire chicken that would absolutely annihilate opponents. I just love the way he looks. I have about six Torchic plushes that I have picked up during my trips to Japan. I have them in random places in my studio so there is always a little Torchic watching me no matter where I am.

John Powell: How has the franchise evolved over the years?

Seth McMahill: It is all of the things the fans have wanted. Trading and battling is a huge aspect of the Pokemon games so with the evolution of the new generation of games, you are able to trade and battle online. There are a lot of Wi-Fi capabilities. So, the games have really adapted to what is new and what the fans are interested in. At the same time, the company has kept that core aspect intact which is that it is an amazing game.

John Powell: There has been so many imitators over the years, why do you think many of them have failed miserably?

PokemonSeth McMahill: That is a great question. When Pokemon was first developed, it was made to be a great game first. You look at a lot of the imitators and they were essentially developed just to sell a brand, to sell some cards, to sell something else. When the brand loses popularity what's left behind is just a game that was meant to push people to buy merchandise. The Pokemon game has always stayed true to its roots and always stayed loyal to its fans and what they want. It was never developed to be the brand that it is today. It started off as just a game and honestly; people didn't think it would sell very well. It was a kind of crazy idea and nobody knew how it would do. Ten years later, you look at it now and it is a global phenomenon. Pokemon was developed to be a good game, first and foremost. Everything else was built on top of that as opposed to a lot of the other imitators that were made to push something else.

John Powell: What are your impressions of the new game 'Pokemon Platinum'?

Seth McMahill: 'Pokemon Platinum' version is my favourite Pokemon game and the great thing is that it takes everything from the past series, all the best of 'Diamond' and 'Pearl', combines them, adds a whole bunch of new stuff on top to make it the epitome of the Pokemon experience.

There are so many new features like the Distortion World. When you enter the Distortion World, it is unlike anything you have seen in a Pokemon game before. The rules of time and space don't apply. You will walk upside down on walls and ceilings; these platforms are falling all around you. It is in that world that you find the Giratina origin form which is the picture you see on the cover of the box. That is also what is new about the game: it introduces all these new forms of Pokemon. So, even though they aren't new Pokemon, there are new forms of them and their attributes and move sets change. For example: Giratina was in 'Diamond' and 'Pearl' but he was walking on the ground and he was vulnerable to ground type moves. The new Giratina is levitating so he is no longer weak when it comes to ground attacks.

PokemonWe have added some new Wi-Fi options as well to 'Platinum'. There is a place called the Wi-Fi Plaza that is a virtual Pokemon amusement park. You can go in there with 19 other people from around the world and there are all sorts of mini-games you can play and even ride in a float parade. My personal favourite though is you can record videos of your battles and publish them for people all around the world to watch.

John Powell: Now, if you had the ability, what would you add to the Pokemon series?

Seth McMahill: What I would love to see - and they have kinda hinted towards it in some of the games with a satellite launching and the introduction of Team Galactic - I would like to see Pokemon leave Earth. That comes from my days of playing Star Flight on the PC and just loving Sci-Fi. I would love to see Pokemon take off into outer space. We have Pokemon who come from space; there is Deoxys for example, so I think that would fit into the world well. As a fan, not as an employee of Nintendo, I would love to see Pokemon go into outer space.


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