We can't really think of Pokémon without thinking about playing with our friends. Whether it's battling, trading, or exploring secret bases, playing and sharing experiences with others feels like a vital aspect of the series. Yet one of these features was almost not included in the original Pokémon Red & Blue.
Multiplayer battles have become pretty much their own thing nowadays, with competitions worldwide and the availability of WiFi and online battling, but Game Freak almost didn't program it into the game. Pokémon Red & Blue (or Red & Green in Japan) was a step away from the action games that Game Freak was used to making.
In a recent video by Did You Know Gaming?, an interview unearthed from the 1996 Pokédex Book reveals that producer Shigeki Morimoto was concerned that battling with friends would be difficult to program, and also just wasn't interested.
President Tajiri had wanted us to implement battling for a while, but I personally didn't find the idea very interesting, and just thought it would be a pain to program. (laughs) It looked like we'd run out of time and would have to scrap the battling feature, but Nintendo made it clear they wanted battles in the game, so we had to make it happen.
Nintendo, however, stepped in. As the Big N was funding the production of the game, Game Freak had little choice but to add it. Initially, the company programmed it so the battles were more like exhibitions where you watched your Pokémon fight and you had no input, but Nintendo rejected this idea, so they had to push through at the last second.
So I just thought "Well no choice then, it has to be done" and the early battles were something you just watched. You would just see there was a battle and who won and who lost. We showed that to Nintendo and the surveys we got back called it "boring". (Laughs) I guess they were right but we were cutting it close to the deadline trying to add in battles that the player commands. Ultimately, it's what everyone wanted, so we got it to work with the Link Cable and made it a reality.
Pokémon without using the Link Cable to fight your friends or your siblings feels strange, and maybe if this aspect hadn't been requested by Nintendo, it would never have been included in any future games? Though it's hard to tell — and unlikely with the growth of online gaming and multiplayer.
So what would've happened if multiplayer battles hadn't been added into the game? It would've been down to the Pokémon's monetary value! The Game Corner, and purchasable Pokémon like Magikarp, would've been much more expanded, and depending on how much the Pokémon cost, they would be stronger. You could also buy Pokémon from friends. However, this was scrapped because of hardware limitations.
Well, we're pretty glad we can battle with anyone across the globe nowadays, so we're glad Game Freak managed to squeeze this in at the last minute! You can watch the entire Did You Know Gaming? video below, where it's also discussed that Game Freak wanted to create 65,3535 versions of the original game.