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What A Generational Transition Means For Pokemon


For one thing, it means a once-in-a-decade event.http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/editorial/66334/what-a-generational-transition-means-for-pokemonAfter Nintendo's last financial results release, the latest updates to Pokemon game sales indicated that the mega-franchise has shipped somewhere over 100 million copies on Switch, with “main” games - defined as anything that can move Pokemon into the Home subscription service - being more than 95 million copies. Although the record sales of a set of Pokemon games will never fall due to being set by a trio of Red/Green/Blue, both of the Switch generation starters (Sword and Shield, Scarlet and Violet) have taken second and third in franchise history ahead of Gold and Silver sales. Pokemon has handled the transition to hybrid consoles well, at least in terms of sales.Technical performance… not so much.But as we move into the endgame of the OG Switch, what can we expect from the fast growing franchise as we move to… whatever the Switch’s successor is?Well, your EVOLVED form, but the point still stands.To start with, there is no main Pokemon game on the schedule now - but Pokemon Day is a short time away. About four days, to be exact.2024: One (Or Two) More For The RoadRegardless of whether or not the successor comes out this year, it will not launch with a Pokemon main series game. There might be a spinoff in the launch window - we saw that with the rescue of Pokken Tournament from the Wii U in 2017 - but past precedent suggests that The Pokemon Company and their development partners will go for the higher user base over trying to deal with a system in the midst of console shortages. Or apathy.
* Pokemon Crystal launched a month ahead of the Game Boy Advance in 2001 in Japan, and about a month and a half after the North American launch of the GBA.
* Pokemon Emerald launched in September of 2004 in Japan, with the DS launching in December there. For North America, the DS preceded Emerald’s launch by about six months.
* Pokemon Black and White 2 for the DS launched in Japan in June of 2012, more than a year after the 3DS’s launch. The West got it even later, in October. (And the online services lasted a year and a half.)
* Lastly, Pokemon Ultra Sun and Moon were the pre-Black Friday Nintendo games in 2017, while the Switch launched in March.So there is almost no chance that whatever Pokemon release this year is targeting the successor platform. I'm sure Game Freak got early access to dev kits as one of Nintendo's key partners, but based on Scarlet and Violet they need much, MUCH more prep time.So what should we expect this year on the 27th of February? There's three possibilities:
* Pokemon Legends: (name here) - I don't want to say that Game Freak would try to crank out an Arceus follow-up while also trying to contain the Scarlet and Violet tire fire, but would it surprise anyone? A game in Unova - the Black and White region - is what I'm hoping for, and it's strictly for Pokedex reasons: there are nine non-legendary or mythical Pokemon that have never appeared in a Switch Pokemon game. Eight of them debuted in Black and White*, and it's very easy to see why a game set in a historical version of Pokemon Northeastern United States would get the 9th**.
* A straight remake of Black and White. This seems like the least likely proposition, given that remakes have routinely skipped generations after 2009 or so. The question becomes then how do we deal with the existence of Black and White 2? Is it DLC in a later remake, or its own game set? If it's the latter, and they want to maintain the features from BW2 that carried over story elements from the first game, it's probably an easier sell if there's a few years between Wicked Black/Blinding White 1 and 2 than coming out a year apart.
* A new Let's Go game, probably set in the Johto region. Pokemon Go is still an ongoing concern, and Pikachu/Eevee are probably the best-running Pokemon Switch games, but I don't think Togepi and Wooper have the same cachet as Pikachu and Eevee. (With apologies to several current and former Nintendo World Report contributors.)Of course, if the successor is backwards compatible with the original Switch… hopefully the new system has enough power to brute force making the existing games run at something approaching modern standards.2025: The Year OffYes, the Pokemon franchise is likely to take a year off from a boxed game release next year. The transition period will be well underway, and it gives GameFreak time to make sure that the debut game runs up to the standards of the hardware.A lot is made of the fact that the games have to be rushed out in order to meet deadlines, but the pandemic has afforded opportunities for Pokemon to focus on existing games and Pokemon for a year. The Pokemon anime rebooted Ash into retirement and is focusing on a bespoke storyline that isn't necessarily married to a particular region. The other spinoff games still have a lot of room to add new Pokemon and trainers - or in the case of Pokemon Masters EX, new alts for existing trainers.Perhaps the biggest opportunity for marketing existing Pokemon is in Pokemon Go. A rollout of Sword and Shield-debuting Pokemon which might have been expected in 2020 got stopped when developers Niantic had to reboot the fundamental operation of the game to accommodate the fact that people needed to “stay the blazes home”. By the time the currently announced events wrap at the end of the month, there will be 22 Pokemon introduced in the 8th generation in the game - and a third of them debuted in Legends: Arceus. You know that the Galar STARTERS aren't available in Pokemon Go as of now? Meanwhile, they did a full rollout of Scarlet and Violet Pokemon in September 2023, beginning with the starters and early route Normal-type Lechonk.All of Gen VIII according to Pokemon Go. Missing: Sword dog, movie tie-in mythical, Basculegion, the thing Niantic thought releasing in only in person raids on Valentine's Day - a Wednesday - was a good idea.I have to think that sometime in one of the next two Pokemon Day announcements or the pre-Worlds Pokemon Presents we will see an announcement of a season of Galar, in a similar fashion to how the “Season of Alola” was announced in February of 2022. And maybe by the end of 2025 I'll have a good Gholdengo in that game.2026: If It's Bad Do We Call It “Degeneration X”?The last time Pokemon took a year off was 2015. And despite Nintendo's best effort to have a Pokemon-killer for the holidays in the form of Yo-Kai Watch, the absence was definitely noticeable. During that time, GameFreak was focused on their own projects, but also was working to prepare a major throwback for the 20th anniversary of Pokemon.If you disregard the Yo-Kai Watch portion, this feels awfully familiar. They're working on… something… with the Private Division label of Take Two, that we have one piece of concept art for alongside a nebulous “fiscal 2025” release window that could land it in the first part of 2026. Which is where Tembo the Badass Elephant dropped in 2016. And after that, the march of time suggests that there will be a new generation of Pokemon for the 30th anniversary released on November 20, 2026.The questions about the setting, the new Pokemon that will take the list of known Pokemon species into the 1100s, the new raid-based gimmick… all will be answered in due time. (Hey Game Freak, if you want to go back to North America, I know several places in Canada that could serve as a point of inspiration.) But it'll be in time for the second or third holiday of a new platform, as has been the case for every first main pair on a new system since Satoru Iwata became president of Nintendo.And with four years between shipping Scarlet and Violet and whatever pair will be used, we hopefully don't need to hold a programming seance for Iwata to come in and fix things to the point that they can gratuitously cram Kanto in there. We are NOT going down that road again.The other reason why they'd want to hold off on bringing out the new generation on the next generation is system cost. Switch but more powerful has a price floor of current Switch OLED pricing, and given that price drops have become a sign of weakness since the debut of the 3DS Ambassador Program it'll still probably be pushing $500 Canadian BEFORE taxes in 2026. The last two system debuts have coincided with new lower points of entry: the 2DS cut 35% off the price of entry of the 3DS in September 2013 and the Switch Lite in September 2019 was ⅔ the price of the regular Switch. If the successor is anywhere nearly as successful as the Switch, there will be a lower cost redesign to let the actual target market - the Juniors division at the annual World Championships or younger - have a shot at getting in.If you want the Switch’s successor to launch with the franchise that has sold more than any other, fear not: you will be sick of Mario games six months after launch. Pokemon is going to march to its own beat, and yet we'll look at the sales charts in 2031 and think “wow, that is a lot of Pokemon”. And that's just the way The Pokemon Company likes it.

I agree that a year off from a main series Pokemon game in 2025 makes sense. In the meantime, I'm excited to see what new content comes to Pokemon Go and other spin-off games.


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