While everyone's focused on the next round of standalone consoles, I'm already looking forward to the future of handhelds. Oh, sure, we've got Nintendo's 3DS and the PlayStation Vita already fresh on the scene, but it's not so much a new, portable platform to which I'm look forward. In fact, the basic concept is one that's rooted in handheld games of past, could probably be cobbled together with the technology of the present, but would probably have to wait until the future anyway, given the relationship with staying current held by the company that would have to make it.
Sometime, within one of my next two or three birthdays, please give me a Pokedex.
Oh, sure, there've been toy versions over the years. I'm not gonna lie; I had the original, plastic, LCD-screen-bearing Pokedex back toward the end of or just after high school. But this is something new, something more, that I'm envisioning. Something that would probably be the closest we'd ever come to having actual Pokemon roaming our national parks and unkempt front lawns, at least without some severe genetic modifcations of existing wildlife.
Start with a pocket-sized chassis, about the size of a cell phone, and model it off any of the varieties of Pokedex in the franchise's history. Hell, release (or slate to release in a staggered fashion, for extra dollar printage) multiple versions with the same functionality in different
cases spanning every generation, for the collectors out there to catch 'em all, and to give more particular customers the choice to pick up one they feel reflects their personal aesthetic, or just hails from whichever generation for which they're most nostalgic.
As for the technology involved, I'm thinking of using things that already exist in a fairly widespread fashion, but, as I mentioned earlier, Nintendo doesn't have the greatest track record for early (or even timely) adoption. You're going to need a camera in there, absolutely, and some kind of wi-fi or even cell-based wireless connectivity. Touch screen optional, though it may make implementing some functionality a great deal easier, if for nothing else besides a virtual keyboard. Decent amount of memory, and perhaps some sort of expansion slot, be it for firmware and software upgrades, or perhaps hardware add-ons further down the line.
The key, however, is making it something playable. I'm not talking about some preloaded device, with entries on all your favorite Pokemon available for perusal, with animated renders you can watch and manipulate. That'd be easy. This Pokedex would take a nod from the 3DS' augmented reality cards, and turn the world around you into a world full of Pokemon, to catch, battle, and trade as you please.
Ditching the card-based AR system, this stand-alone Pokemon handheld would be tied into some sort of central server and GPS functionality, updating on the regular with Pokemon loadouts for the general area someone using it happens to be in. That way, it would only have to update via wireless occasionally, mostly due to travel (or, at the very least, hefty commutes). Find yourself somewhere with a decent amount of green, regardless of how tall the grass actually happens to be, and your Pokedex vibrates, warning you there are Pokemon in the area. Pop it open, scan the area, and eventually (determined by randomization software rather than the landscape), a wild WHATEVER appears, dashing across your surroundings as captured by the built-in camera, and it's time to battle or flee, either with your starter Pokemon you chose upon setting up the system initially, or with any of the other Pokemon you've caught and decided to raise.
Actual training might be a little difficult to work in there, but I could see a system either accruing experience via pedometer-counted steps, a la the Pocket Pikachu/Pokewalker model, keeping things simple and encouraging Pokedex owners to keep the thing on them at all times. Alternatively, the software could just randomly generate battles over the course of the day, with certain Pokemon needing a trip to the Pokemon Center if the game isn't checked up on from time to time, and perhaps even trainer battles handled by a similar system to the 3DS's Streetpass adding to the accrual of levels, money for customization items, and achievement-based Badges rather than just Gym Badges. Evolution and move learning would be delayed until the next opportunity a player had to open their 'Dex up, upon which he or she would be prompted to allow or deny evolution and keep movesets to the traditional four choices.
Tying this whole thing into a network would allow for trading, which could be made even more essential by keeping certain Pokemon region-locked, or at least tied to a specific sort of biome; for example, ice-types would be more frequently found in mountainous regions or closer to the poles, whereas your sand types are prone to be in and around deserts, and rock types near widely known caves and canyons, and so forth. Mix things up even more by rotating the Pokemon by season, with new blends available as the leaves turn or summer starts to heat up. Legendaries, shinies, and other rare and unique twists would lend themselves well to holiday tie-ins, special events, and collaborations with retailers, being made available for limited times and/or at specific stores for the true die-hards. New Pokemon games come out further down the line, on other platforms, while this thing's still in active production, with new Pokemon to catch? Simple firmware download to get things up to date.
Trading could also be split into full-on trades and a lighter, "View Friend's Collection" mode, with indicators as to whether you've actually caught or traded certain 'mons for those viewing your own collection. That way, more casual players could still kind of catch 'em all, and not feel entirely left out if they're in an area less prone toward event accessibility or can't get online to update as often. And it shouldn't be too much to ask to have your login tied to the united Wii U and 3DS login system Nintendo's promised, which could lead to further bragging rights and bonuses for some Pokemon fans by tying their progress from games such as Pokemon Black & White and whatever titles we see on the Wii U. Active battles would be an option as well, be it via local play between two Pokedex holders or matchmade across the network, with similar, if not better, rewards available to those who participate.
In summary, I want a stand-alone Pokemon handheld, and the Pokedex, as a concept, provides a pretty easy and canonically acceptable way to make that happen. Aside from producing different form factors, Nintendo could further monetize this whole thing by offering a fairly unobtrusive spread of microtransactions, allowing players to pay for boosts to the appearance rates of certain types or Shiny Pokemon, as well as supplements to raise Pokemon stats and levels (though Rare Candy use would still suffer the same sort of penalties versus legit leveling it does in other Pokemon games), or to purchase evolution stones and customization items (read: hats) for their Pokemon in a quicker fashion than would be possible with in-game currency. Such options would be solely to ease things for monetarily-gifted but time-bereft players rather than to upset any sort of balance of play, as well as to help late adopters catch up to their already well-involved friends.
With my idea, you've got an all-in-one, dedicated Pokemon device to market to an already diverse and dedicated fanbase, one that may actually be more
inclined to pick up a Pokedex rather than a 3DS or whatever other Nintendo handhelds may appear down the line, if Pokemon happens to be all they've been using handhelds for up to this point and the Pokedex were offered at the right price, perhaps a bit cheaper than a full-fledged handheld system. And it could, very possibly, silence any clamoring for a Pokemon MMO, given that this is basically the next best thing.
Your move, Nintendo. Call me, maybe?