Why Nintendo Should Stop Making (Traditional) Pokemon Games

Here's one way Nintendo could go with its monster-battling franchise.

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet are coming out later this year, and I feel nothing. I haven’t been keeping up with information on the games, and odds are I’m not going to play them. My disinterest in the series is a pretty new development — I was the prime age to be into Pokemon as a kid, and I continued to play the games throughout college and my 20s. It’s not that the games have gotten worse. The problem, really, is that they’ve mostly stayed the same.

Does it matter what I think? Not really — Pokemon games sell regardless of how similar they are or how often they come out. But hey, I have CMS access on a gaming website, so here’s how I wish Nintendo would approach their monster battling series.

First, Nintendo and The Pokemon Company should set up an online battling service on the Switch akin to the Pokemon battle simulators online. These sites let players battle against one another without the hours of grinding required in the actual games. Why would anyone do that?

Well, the thing is that the core battling mechanics of the Pokemon games are actually really fun. Trying to outpredict a human opponent is much more engaging than fighting an AI gym leader, and online Pokemon battling communities have sophisticated systems in place for determining tierlists and bans on overly-powerful creatures. This kind of app wouldn’t even need 3D graphics — simple sprites and move animations would do — and users could choose between using their own registered Pokemon from the games or “rental” Pokemon like in the old Stadium games.

With the competitive aspect sorted, Nintendo could give the core Pokemon games more room to breathe. We could see more games like Legends: Arceus, which explore the Pokemon world from different perspectives and with different mechanics. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see new Pokemon games that don’t follow the turn-based catch-em-all formula introduced over 25 years ago? Especially if these releases were given enough time and resources to be technically and artistically accomplished games?

New Pokemon introduced in these titles could then added to the subscription simulator service on a regular basis. And since the simulator wouldn’t necessarily be a high-definition 3D product but instead more focused on the strategic experience, adding new Pokemon wouldn’t be too difficult.

None of this seems likely to happen, partly because it would be a pretty big risk for Nintendo to move away from biannual Pokemon games that make minor iterative changes to each release. At the very least, though, it would be nice to see the company give more time and money to the Pokemon series, a franchise that people tend to give passes to for a variety of reasons but that has not kept up with the technical standards or artistic exploration of games over the past decade. Splitting Pokemon into its competitive multiplayer form exploratory single player components might seem to go against the very foundations of the series, but a big shakeup is just what it needs.

That said, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet are likely going to sell tens of millions of copies, so there is unfortunately little reason for anyone involved with Pokemon to try anything new. Ah well. At least Pikachu has a new hat.