Back in February 2019, Game Freak finally announced their next generation games, Pocket Monsters Sword and Shield for the Nintendo Switch. This game will finally have a third person view in an open world compared to the previous games. However, after showing off new features at E3, a lot of people became upset. News broke that you won’t be able to transfer all your Pokémon from the Pokémon Home service to the new games. This is because of Game Freak’s change in direction.
To me, this decision is a big betrayal to the loyal Pokémon fan base. Of course, many people are angry about this decision and for good reasons. He or she won’t be able to use all of their favorite Pokémon in the new games. With that, I want to share my thoughts on why Game Freak is out of touch with the fan base.
Before sharing my thoughts on Game Freak’s decision, I think we should take a look at what happened in the third generation. In Pocket Monsters Gold and Silver, there was a feature that allowed players to bring their Generation I Pokémon into the new games. There are a few understandable limitations. You couldn’t trade over the new Pokémon or Pokémon with new moves. However, it allowed players to use their already caught Pokémon in the new games. All you needed is a link cable and two Game Boy systems.
When the third generation of games, Pocket Monsters Ruby and Sapphire came out, there are some problems. Players couldn’t transfer their Pokémon. There are technical reasons why such as the differences between the Game Boy and Game Boy Advance. Not only that, the changes to the game mechanics was so great that it’s not really possible. As we know, this is not necessarily the case with the virtual console versions. You are able to transfer them through Pokémon Bank. Still, that didn’t come until 2016.
Obviously, people became angry over this fact that he or she can’t use their Pokémon they already caught in the new games. To make matters worse, a good amount of Pokémon wasn’t obtainable in Ruby and Sapphire. I felt that this is the reason why the franchise’s popularity dropped significantly in the third generation. This is besides the franchise’s exploding popularity fading out. Game Freak eventually released remakes of the original games, an enhanced rerelease called Emerald, and two games on the GameCube. This made it possible for players to catch and collect mostly all the Pokémon in the franchise.
After facing the debacle in the third generation, Game Freak didn’t want to alienate the fans again. Each game after the third generation has a feature that allows players to transfer their Pokémon. For instance, you can transfer your level 100 Espeon from Emerald to Sun and Moon and still be able to use it on online battles. Granted, the National Pokedex is only limited to Pokémon Bank. Even so, you can still use these Pokémon in the new games. This policy continued up until now.
Recently in an interview, Junichi Masuda, the producer of the Pokémon series explained why the shift in policy. He stated the following.
“There are a couple of different parts to the thinking behind it, but really the biggest reason for it is just the sheer number of Pokémon. We already have well over 800 Pokémon species, and there’s going to be more added in these games. And now that they’re on the Nintendo Switch, we’re creating it with much higher fidelity with higher quality animations. But even more than that, it’s coming down to the battle system. We’re making sure we can keep everything balanced and give all the Pokémon that appear in the games a chance to shine.
We knew at some point we weren’t going to be able to indefinitely keep supporting all of the Pokémon, and we just found that Sword and Shield would probably be a good point to go back and reevaluate what would be the best selection of Pokémon that appeal to the widest audience while keeping into consideration balancing the gameplay of the battle system. It isn’t just going to be all-new Pokémon in the Galar region Pokedex; there’s still going to be a lot of favorites that fans will be able to bring over that they’ve adventured with previously. But yeah, it was pretty much just balancing and getting this optimal selection of Pokémon for the adventure we wanted to provide.”
He is trying to say that it’s not possible to add every Pokémon mostly because there are now over 800 species and they want to focus more on quality. To me, this is an excuse since Game Freak already created all the Pokémon 3D models in high-resolution while they developed Sun and Moon. This presumably included walking animations as well.
Also, the balancing issue is another excuse as well. In official tournaments, there are rules set that restrict what Pokémon can be used, including regional Pokedex. In some cases, the player won’t be able to transfer Pokémon until the end game. From this, I feel that this is more of an excuse to cut out features such as Z-Moves and Mega Evolutions. Now, they limited the Pokémon selection. These decisions will affect the gameplay mechanics significantly, probably for the worse.
Of course, Game Freak cutting out features is nothing new. Game Freak had cut out features such as Battle Frontier, Pokemon following you, the Game Corner, and the bicycle. However, they are not featuring that affected the fundamental gameplay mechanics.
Now, they are breaking that tradition and we saw it with Pocket Monsters Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee. In this game, they removed wild Pokémon battles, limited the move pool, removed abilities and the list go on. Also, aside from the 153 Pokémon in the game, the others are simply not programmed in the game at all. While I enjoyed Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee, the changes they made are very polarizing, causing the sales number to pale in comparison to pervious entries.
I feel that from this decision, Game Freak is taking the Let’s Go formula with removing fundamental gameplay mechanics while limiting the Pokémon selection. This is not good as players might want to use their favorite Pokémon. Now, they can’t since most are not programmed in the game.
For instance, what if your favorite Pokemon is Sylveon and you want to use it in Pocket Monsters Sword and Shield. You subscribe to the Pokemon Home service and transfer it from Pokémon Bank. When you try to transfer the Sylveon to Pocket Monsters Sword and Shield, you receive a message that you can’t because it’s not in the game. Understandably, you will become upset since you paid for a service that allowed you to store and transfer Pokémon and can’t use it in the new games.
To me, this decision is a big slap in the face of longtime fans. It’s obvious that Game Freak want to take short cuts to get the game out. I understand that video games development is hard. However, they do not have to rush out and release the game so that they can sell more copies.
I think most would rather see them take their time developing the game. That way, they won’t have to cut features while include all the Pokémon data in the game. This is regardless if they are in the Pokedex or not. On the other hand, they could alleviate this backlash by promising an update which will add the Pokémon data back in the game in the future while adding back previous battle mechanics. However, they have not indicated that they will do this. Typically, Game Freak does not add new features or content in the updates nor they do downloadable content. This means that in the current form, you might only be able to use say 250+ Pokémon in the game.
From the backlash, Game Freak risks losing a lot more if they continue down this path. They will definitely lose a lot of sales due since they betrayed their fan base by not listening to them. We have seen this with Bethesda and Fallout 76 as it suffered from poor sales. It was because Bethesda didn’t listen to their fans. Moreover, goodwill from the franchise will suffer as well. Of course, this is difficult to repair once damaged.
Remember, if Pokémon fans do not like this decision, he or she can simply vote with their wallet. Obviously, this will hurt the sales, but I think they deserve it unless they backtrack or reassure the fans by adding them back in at a later date. Still, I feel that it’s very unlikely they will change this decision despite the huge backlash.
At the end of the day, there are going to be people like Verlisify will say that the people who are complaining are entitled and spoiled, but I think all Pokémon fans need to make their dissatisfaction heard by Game Freak. After all, we are the ones that made the franchise as popular as it is today. Game Freak needs to remember that the slogan of the franchise is “Gotta Catch ‘em All,” not “Catch Some of Them.”
What are your thoughts about their decision to not make most of the Pokémon usable in the new games? Did it affect your decision to buy Pocket Monsters Sword and Shield? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.