Have you ever sat in the car of a new driver? Whether teaching your kid, or sitting in with a friend, or even just back seat to a sibling. Now I don’t mean someone who just got their licence, or even someone six months into training. I mean the first week, first day even. There’s a strange feeling of apprehension. You sit there, looking out the window, praying the parking lot will be exceedingly empty that day, scanning for any stray animals that might want to run in front, and sweating all the while. Then all at once, any hope for a plan goes away at the first ten seconds shared with every new driver.
Still, then GOING, and then a slammed halt.
As you sit there reeling, trying to realign yourself to the gravity of the car seat. If you look into the eyes of the baby bird driver, you can see the purest form of such a rare emotion. A perfect blend of bewilderment at what happened, panic at what to do now, fear at what is coming next, and, shining in the center of their eyes, excitement for what’s to come.
It’s that feeling, that guttural confusion, that myself, along with many other Pokémon fans are experiencing right now. And if you aren’t sure why, here’s a quick recap.
All of the above games and applications were announced this year, and with the exception of Pokémon Snap, Unite, and Sleep have released this year.
On the surface, this can only be a good thing, right? More content means more things to enjoy, especially in a franchise that releases the main game installments a few years apart. Well, to some level there is a lot of truth in that statement. Pokémon as a franchise could not be bigger. It is the single highest grossing media franchise, and has been for a while. Even with this titan of a property, the only ways to enjoy it was through watching the series (which many fans above 12 have stopped doing), playing the card games, or playing the games that have been released. Games that, while numerous, aren’t very long. Many fans have turned to challenge runs to make replaying these games a bit more engaging. The app scene has been historically hit or miss with Pokémon fans. While some took off, such as the likes of Pokémon Go, still one of the biggest Pokémon creations in a long time. Many of the apps just haven’t performed well, or brought in the usual numbers of players. On the surface, the idea of this many new ways to enjoy the franchise should be a great one. But, why doesn’t it feel that way?
One of the biggest complaints seen around the internet is a want for Quality over Quantity. Many Pokémon fans out there would be fine with just the mainline series if a lot more, for lack of a better word, Oomph was put into them. This isn’t to say the games are bad, far from it. The numbers speak for themselves, but as personal testimony I have not yet played a mainline Pokémon game that I haven’t loved and wanted to play again. The issue many fans have, however, comes down to the idea that while many of their reasonable complaints about the current title are going unaddressed, The Pokémon Company is just throwing out game after game. Many of which being simply “okay”. Before now, this had just been an underlying problem. However, with their two recent press releases, it became much worse.
Long time fans of the franchise have wanted many things over the years, but currently most of them have been holding out for one thing: Remakes of the Generation four games, Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum. Ever since the very beginning, Pokémon have released remakes of older titles whenever the technology had sufficiently improved. We saw this in the release of Fire Red and Leaf Green when Pokémon moved to the GameBoy Advance, the release of Heart Gold and Soul Silver when Pokémon moved to the Nintendo DS, and we saw this in the release of Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire when Pokémon moved to the Nintendo 3DS. When Pokémon moved to the Nintendo Switch, fans were all but expecting some time down the pipeline remakes of the next games in the franchise, Diamond and Pearl. Another driving force for nostalgia is the games themselves. Many of the internet-vocal fans of Pokémon entered the series while children, and started playing the games when they were in their teens. This timeline makes it so many current fans of the franchise started playing with the entry Diamond and Pearl. For a vast majority of the fanbase, these games are where it all began. And seeing that in full three-dimensional HD would bring a tear to many an eye.
That’s all well and good. All these new entries don’t mean that the remakes won’t happen. It’s fair to assume that they still will be made, as it would greatly please the fanbase and make buckets of money for the company. The issue right now is a combination of what we’ve talked about so far. Too many apps that a majority of Pokémon fans don’t care about, and a lack of news about the Sinnoh (Diamond and Pearl) remakes.
The Pokémon Company had announced a live press release to coincide with the new DLC for the current games in the series, Pokémon Sword and Shield. Many folks assumed it would be talking about this DLC and the one coming up in the fall. However, that was only mentioned. What we received instead was a trailer for a free app that helps children to enjoy brushing their teeth. Alright, interesting. It’s a nice thing for them to do. Then we received a trailer for Pokémon Cafe Mix, a puzzle game for mobile and switch, that was going to release in about a week. Okay, weird that they didn’t release it on the announcement, but whatever. A decent looking puzzle app, sure. Finally, a curve ball no one saw coming, a new Pokémon Snap! Fans blew up at this. The fan service many have been wanting since the 90s, coming back in a big way. This was a crowd pleaser, and for many made the whole announcement worth it. There’s no release date currently, which is a bummer, but it looked great. However, then the press release ended with one more note. “Join us in about a week for another conference on another big upcoming project.” That set the flames of many. A new, secret project! Speculation ran wild, but many had the same idea. The remakes. If a game as big as Pokémon Snap didn’t warrant it’s own press release, then the next game had to be huge. Everyone sat with bated breath, waited a week, and then the time came. The big, new, secret project from The Pokémon Company. It had to be amazing.
And then it wasn’t.
It was another mobile game.
Now let me be clear. Pokémon Unite looks very fun, and I am genuinely excited for it. But even I was a good bit disappointed at the lack of something more substantial. Also, the game will be on switch as well. And for the sour cherry on the subpar sundae, there’s no release date for the game. This is coming off of a string of announcements for games without release dates. At the time of writing, Pokémon Sleep, New Pokémon Snap, Pokémon Unite, and the second DLC for Sword and Shield have all been announced without a release date; and with the exception of the DLC, we have no inkling of when they will be released. This is before you even consider the all-but-inevitable remakes coming in this generation of games.
I believe that Pokémon fans aren’t angry. They’re just lost. We’re lost. We’re confused as to what’s coming next. Pokémon is fast firing more and more announcements by the day to things no one saw coming, and only putting release dates on the things coming out that week. What’s next? When will the games we’re expecting come out? Until Pokémon decides to give even some inkling of a timeline of these things, people are going to get more and more upset. Most of us fans just want to know less about which destinations we’re going to stop at, and more about when we’re going to get there. But as of right now The Pokémon Company is at the wheel, afraid of the gas, and unsure of the brakes.