Some were hoping The Pokémon Company and developer Game Freak would surprise them with either the reveal of a Pokémon Sun and Moon port or a new game for Nintendo Switch. Instead, TPC adhered to tradition by announcing another title for 3DS, Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, and threw Switch owners a little bone with an enhanced port of versus game Pokkén Tournament DX (which arrives next Friday). It was disappointing for those who took the rumors of Pokémon Stars too literally (though it’s tough to blame them when it was reported by a usually-reputable source), and observed several videos showing how good the game looked when upscaled to HD resolutions.
Again, though, TPC was adhering to tradition. They previously announced Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 for DS a short while after the 3DS launched, which showed how the company likes to stick with Nintendo’s older platforms longer than many other developers. They can afford to do that, since Pokémon is such a juggernaut franchise that it will sell on an old system, to the chagrin of some ardent fans who want them to move to the newest platform in a quick fashion — and perhaps Nintendo themselves. While they confirmed that a new Pokémon game is indeed coming to Switch during Nintendo’s E3 2017 stream, they didn’t show it in action or provide a semblance of a release timeframe. Don’t expect it to arrive anytime soon.
There might be another reason why Pokémon will take a while to hit Switch. TPC CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara explained in an interview with Bloomberg that he didn’t think the system would be successful. He told Nintendo that no one would want a game console they could take outside the house in this smartphone age. He admitted he was wrong, and realized software with “absolute quality” will lead to good sales for most hardware.
Even though the Switch is still in its first year, the system’s sales have been far better than many expected, particularly those who thought its performance and software support would be a repeat of the Wii U’s. Its sales show how effective Nintendo’s introduction video and subsequent advertising efforts have been, as they successfully communicated to potential consumers that it’s the hybrid system fans have wanted for years. Nintendo can’t keep them on shelves despite its software lineup being in the early stages, and sales would be higher if they weren’t competing with Apple for parts.
Note that Ishihara’s comments don’t imply that a Pokémon game would have come earlier if he believed the system would be a success. Remember: They’re keeping the tradition of sticking with an earlier Nintendo platform with an already-established base before moving to new hardware. Sure, they couldn’t have provided ports in the meantime, but again, it’s their tradition; they have no intention of breaking it unless they’re under duress.
Ishihara also provided preliminary details about the next Pokémon game for Switch during his interview. The teams at TPC and Game Freak are taking this chance to make a title that will “go deeper” and contain a “higher level of expression.” By this, he means that while a pretty and intricate world can be realized on the system’s 6.2-inch screen, they’ll also make sure it’s a joy to explore for those playing on a TV. This won’t be the first Pokémon game that can be played on a television, given the existence of the Super Game Boy on Super NES and Game Boy Player on Gamecube, but it will be the first one partially made for TV play. Everyone who’s wanted a console Pokémon game for decades will finally get their wish here, and the team is putting in a significant amount of effort to realize its potential.
Ishihara also hinted at multiplayer features that will be new for a mainline game, given the option for people to gather in one room and play on the TV. Perhaps this could be a Pokémon Stadium-like mode.
The Switch installment will take a while to come, and may not arrive by the end of 2018 considering they haven’t shown any of it. It will take time for the team to adjust to the increased development time and work associated with making a game for an HD system, especially when they’re working on a long RPG. But unless they cut corners, the results should be splendid. Pokémon Sun and Moon showed how the team is getting more ambitious with the story presentation and production values, so this newest title should be quite a leap.
In the meantime, anyone awaiting the next Pokémon experience can bide their time with Ultra Sun and Moon, which will arrive worldwide for 3DS in November. That is, anyone who isn’t too tired of playing games on 3DS. We’ll be able to determine how many people really are sick of 3DS though its sales. While you shouldn’t expect a release, hopefully TPC will give us a nice preview of Pokémon for Switch sometime in 2018.