Pokemon: Where Does it Go from Here?
April Fools Day always provides a number of fun Internet gags. One of the most high profile jokes this year was from Google, and it involved Pokemon. Using Google Maps, players could search for all original 150 Pokemon and become a Pokemon Master. They even went as far as to ‘promise’ a position in the company for anybody that could Catch ‘em all. Although the job was a farce, the game was real and playable. This prank from Google made me think about where Pokemon is at and where it is going.
Pokemon may be one of the best selling Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance, DS, and 3DS franchises of all time. I’ve had the distinct pleasure to play them all, and beat them all. Whether I should feel pride or shame because of this is still beyond me. Truth be told, I love my Pokemon games. Yes, the same game, over and over and over again. Little variations in game play and different stories make each game a fraction different then the last; aside from a few console variations, Pokemon for most people – including myself – is at its best on handheld devices.
Multiple iterations of essentially the same game has not slowed the franchise down. As of right now, there seems to be no worry from Nintendo that Pokemon is going stale. Pokemon X and Y have sold 11.6 million units world wide as of the end of January 2014, which points to Pokemon still being one of Nintendo’s leading franchises.
The latest Nintendo eShop update for Wii U brings Gameboy Advance titles to the console. It would be a shame if a Pokemon GBA title does not make it to the eShop sooner rather then later. I have never been a fan of the console Pokemon games such as Pokemon Snap or Pokemon Colosseum. What I want to see is a variation of the handheld game on console, completely 3D, but holding true to the formula that has worked since the days of Pokemon Blue, Red, and Yellow.
Personally, I play Pokemon in spurts: 30 minutes here, 25 minutes there, and so on. I pick it up on my way into work, between classes at school, or at various points on long road trips. Although my style of play may not mirror that of everyone else, Pokemon does lend itself to this type of game play. And here is where a problem may persist. Can that same experience be replicated on a home console? I cannot take my gamepad on the train to work, or use it between classes, or have it on a road trip. So if I’m going to play a an up-scaled version of Pokemon, it will be from my couch. For me, it is not a problem. Pokemon may be my favorite game franchise of all time. For others, however, it is a huge problem, especially those who value the few precious hours they can play games each week.
Nintendo has dominated the handheld market. The Vita, while showing flashes of brilliance, does not have the same swagger that Nintendo boasts in the current market. Pokemon sold 11.6 million in a few months because Nintendo has sold to date 11.5 million 3DS’s in the United States (January 10 – IGN), and another 15 million in Japan (January 28 – IGN). This does not include the numbers in other countries. Is the average gamer going to pick up a Pokemon game -whether it be a replica of the handheld titles or, perhaps, the long wished for massively multiplayer online game – if they have a high profile copy of the latest Xbox One, Playstation 4, or Wii U game on their shelf?
Although I have dreams of seeing Nintendo recreate the handheld Pokemon magic on the home console, I’m not sure the market is ready for it, and I’m not sure gamers are ready for it. Pokemon is, and has been for the bulk of its existence, a handheld title. Many may see a console game and question why it is not on 3DS instead, while others will brush it aside in lieu of ‘better’ next generation games. It’s also important to take into account Wii U sales to date. Nintendo’s home console is just is not ready for this; if Nintendo decided on an MMO for example, the install base is just not large enough. As of today, the negatives outweigh the positives when it comes to a Pokemon port. For now, fans will sit and wait for the often rumored Pokemon Z, hopefully sometime this year.