Pokken Tournament for Switch, new mainline titles for 3DS, and classics Gold and Silver on 3DS Virtual Console were not the megaton announcements Pokemon fans were hoping for in today’s Pokemon Direct. While everyone wanted a new mainline title on Nintendo’s newest console, looking at Game Freak’s history shows just how truly unlikely that was in the first place.
The Pokemon Company unveiled the direction their monumentally successful franchise is heading during Nintendo’s Direct; sadly though it wasn’t the direction most fans were hoping for.
In the 8 minute Direct, the Pokemon Company made 3 announcements: Pokken Tournament DX coming to Nintendo Switch this September, Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon coming to 3DS in November, and Gameboy Color games Pokemon Gold and Silver coming to 3DS Virtual Console on September 22, the same day as Pokken Tournament DX. What fans had been hoping for was the fabled Pokemon Stars, a sequel to 2016’s Sun and Moon, on the Switch, akin to Pokemon Crystal and Pokemon Emerald. Looking at how Pokemon games have been released through franchise history though, shows how unrealistic an expectation Pokemon Stars was.
First off, the concept of a third iteration of a game is an antiquated system that Game Freak hasn’t used since Pokemon Platinum, released in 2009. It’s been 8 years and 3 generations since Pokemon has used the formula of a third game, yet fans continually predict a third game. With the announcement of Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, there is now more of a precedent to expect the two version continuation of a generation’s narrative, similar to generation 5’s Pokemon Black 2 and White 2, released in 2012.
What is more indicative of Star’s unlikelihood, though, is the fact that the Switch is too new for Pokemon. Game Freak has a history of putting their titles on systems with a large install base, not a system struggling to satisfy consumer demand because of production limitations. Looking back, 3DS didn’t get a mainline game until X and Y came out in late 2013, roughly 2 and a half years after the system came out.
Meanwhile, Black 2 and White 2 came out on the DS in 2012, a year after the 3DS launched. Pokemon Diamond and Pearl didn’t release on the DS until 2007, 3 years into that console’s life cycle. Even from the series’ inception, Pokemon Red and Blue came out a whopping 7 years after the release of the original Gameboy. Game Freak has never put mainline Pokemon games on the cutting edge of Nintendo’s portables, instead electing to go where they know there is a large crowd, which may help account for Pokemon’s massive success.
Now you may be thinking right about now, ‘Why didn’t Nintendo pressure them into making a game for the Switch? A mainline Pokemon this early on would make the Switch incredibly successful! Don’t they understand that this isn’t any old console, it’s the Switch?’ You have a valid point, and I’m sure Nintendo tried to get them on the bandwagon early with the Switch, and every other portable for that matter. The Switch does have legitimate potential to carve a very large niche in the gaming industry, but Nintendo fans have always thought the newest portable was more than ‘any old portable’.
In that vein, the Switch is just as new and unproven as any other portable was at this point in its respective life cycle, at least in Game Freak’s eyes. In fact, because of Nintendo’s adamant stance on the Switch being a home console you can take on the go, Game Freak may possibly be even more hesitant to put a mainline game on Switch because they are adamant that Pokemon is a portable game. There is a possibility, albeit a small one, that we may never see a mainline Pokemon game on Switch.
Okay, so maybe that had a little too much doom and gloom, but at the same time, expectations regarding the Pokemon franchise have gone unchecked for a while now. We all have empirical evidence that our pipe dreams of a mainline Pokemon game on Switch was incredibly unlikely at this juncture. Tempering expectations has its benefits though, because it leaves more room for excitement for the games we did learn about. I skipped Pokken Tournament because playing the Wii U wasn’t actually fun, so I’m jazzed to get a second chance; and who isn’t excited to go back to Johto?
This wasn’t a bad Nintendo Direct by any means.