When it comes to beloved entertainment franchises, the new decade finds the public in a climate where attention is at it’s most vital. Decisions made by pop culture figures openly shape the zeitgeist for the future of entertainment, and as history has shown, the future happens quite quickly.
This definitely did not happen overnight.
An innocuous concept, Pokémon, or Pocket Monsters, invaded the pop culture zeitgeist alongside the increase of video gaming as a regular household activity. Regularly described as “must-have” by rabid fan-base members, the clamor for Pokémon is strong.
In the last 20 years, several million copies of the role-playing series games have flown off shelves, in some cases leaving decade-plus old cartridges more valuable than their original price. This is a trend that has been ongoing, with sealed game boxes from 2001 listed on eBay at 1,300.00 USD.
In 2016, the hit augmented reality mobile app Pokémon Go was released, moving the future of the franchise the closest it’s ever been to the real world. In the first month of it’s bare bones release, Pokémon Go set the world record for revenue generated from a mobile app at $207 million.
As of March 2020, several added features find players now able to battle each other and even view their captured partner Pokémon in real life, albeit through the screen of their cell phone. As the future unfolds and newer generations are exposed to the phenomenon that is Pokémon, Nintendo and The Pokémon Company have had to make a number of controversial decisions regarding the future of the series.
With 890 recorded species of Pokémon currently recorded, concerns of balance in game play and graphical limitations were detailed before the release of Pokémon Sword and Shield for the Nintendo Switch on November 15th, 2019.
As word spread, rumors were quickly confirmed by numerous sources that a large number of previously catch-able Pokémon would not be making an appearance in the newest games. This news arrived as quite a shock to longtime Pokémon fans, as a significant portion of the games involve collecting different Pokémon species and completing an index of each entry. A challenge of completing a “Pokédex” is an essential part of a player’s experience when picking up any flagship Pokémon title, as cemented in the franchise’s early slogan “Gotta catch em’ all!”
Dubbed “Dexit” by longtime fans, the exclusion of hundreds of characters in the newest Pokémon titles may have been enough to sink a franchise, with some fans vocal enough to pledge against purchasing the game.
Regarding the missing monsters, avid Pokémon player Eric Anaya said, “I promised that I was not going to buy the newest games when they came out. We have been able to use our Pokémon from previous games since the 90’s. There’s no reason take away what we’re already used to having.”
For a company with enough foresight as Nintendo has, the risk has come with reward. Faithful Pokémon fans have snatched up over 16 million copies of Pokémon Sword and Shield for the Nintendo Switch.
How was this possible, even after the controversy? Streamlined online play experiences and new features such as mass depository service Pokémon Home, which debuted in February 2020, have injected new life into the series ensuring that even the oldest Pokémon can continue their adventures with their trainers.
Between it’s release and the first three months of 2020, there have been numerous online events making specific Pokémon available for capture, providing exciting, new experiences for beginners and veterans alike.
A willingness to listen to the consumer has placed Pokémon in a more positive light as of late. From customers swearing that they will not buy a game to uncontainable excitement over newly announced downloadable content in just four months, Pokémon has proven that they have enough ideas to last them for decades.
Expansion passes for Pokémon Sword and Shield entitled The Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra are scheduled for release in June and Autumn 2020 respectively. These add-ons will see 200 more Pokémon added to each of these games, renewing interest in the series for months to come.