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E3 2017 was a big event for Pokemon fans, as it was the place where it was confirmed by Nintendo that we will see a mainline Pokemon game come to the Nintendo Switch. Eventually.
With that announcement, the time seems ripe to speculate on what form this game would take (as if we weren’t doing it regardless of an official confirmation). At a May 2018 press conference it was confirmed that this core Pokemon RPG will be coming to the Nintendo Switch in late 2019. Unfortunately, beyond that we’re still short on solid information.
Here we’ve laid out exactly what the latest rumors are, and we’ve also thrown in a few things we’d like to see from the first core Pokémon Nintendo Switch title. The first of these things is, naturally an appearance at Nintendo’s E3 2018 presentation.
[Update: E3 2018 is here and Nintendo’s Direct presentation has come and gone. Unfortunately we didn’t get a better look at the 2019 RPG of Pokemon, though we did get another look at this year’s Pokemon Let’s Go releases.]
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The first core Pokemon game to launch on the Nintendo Switch
- When can I play it? It’ll be late 2019
- What can I play it on? Nintendo Switch of course!
Pokemon Switch release date
We don’t have any kind of solid release date for Pokemon on Nintendo Switch but during a May 2018 Pokemon press conference where Pokemon Let’s Go were confirmed for 2018, it was also confirmed that the core Pokemon RPG will be released in late 2019. We imagine a November 2019 release is the most likely outcome.
Pokemon Switch news and rumors
Tzunekazu Ishihara talks
After the announcement of the more stripped back and simplified Pokemon Let’s Go titles, there has been some concern amongst fans that the 2019 RPG won’t offer the full gameplay experience that’s been built up over the past 20 years. Head of the Pokemon Company Tzunekazu Ishihara assuaged these concerns in a recent interview with Famitsu magazine (via Siliconera).
According to Ishihara, the 2018 Pokemon release will be a “completely different game” to Pokemon Let’s Go. “It’s is not an entry game,” he says, “but a game that we want long term fans of the Pokemon series to look forward to.”
Ishihara has promised a game with “new Pokemon” that will “succeed the traditions of Game Freak.”
The Pokemon press conference
It’s widely expected by fans that Nintendo will bring some kind of Pokemon Switch news to E3 2018 but that didn’t stop all kinds of rumors emerging in the run up to it.
Industry insider Emily Rogers created a blog post which suggested that Pokemon on Switch will be revealed before the end of May, cutting in just before E3.
As with all core Pokemon games, Rogers reported that the Switch release will have two versions. Though she added that the versions may surprise some fans.
Not long after this a 4Chan user uploaded an image of what they said was a logo for the game: Pokemon Let’s Go! And reported that the two versions Rogers had hinted at would be Pikachu and Eevee versions.
These games, the user said, would be remakes of the Pokemon Yellow games, featuring Piakchu and Eevee as starter Pokemon who would follow the player around the world. The Switch version will, according to this leak, take players back to Kanto and, while Red and Blue, wouldn’t be the protagonists, they would feature.
Now we know, however, that while Pokemon Let’s Go will be released with both Pikachu and Eevee versions, they won’t be the core RPG release that was first promised at E3 2017.
This news came at a Pokemon press conference which was held, as Rogers rightly predicted, at the end of May. The Let’s Go titles will instead be spin-offs designed to draw the Pokemon Go audience into both Switch and the Pokemon console experience.
As it stands, then, we still don’t know much at all about the core Pokemon RPG for Switch other than that it’s going to be a “brand-new” adventure.
Holding a Pokemon press conference this close to E3 suggests that Nintendo wanted to give the Let’s Go releases their own platform, while we may find out a little more about the 2019 core release at the gaming show in LA. This is, after all, where the hardcore Pokemon audience is likely to be paying the most attention.
CEO of the Pokemon Company publicly puts faith in the Switch
In an interview with Bloomberg, The Pokemon Company’s CEO, Tsunekazu Ishihara has said that while he originally thought the Nintendo Switch wouldn’t be a success, he now realizes his error.
Ishihara said that he told Nintendo that in the age of the smartphone, no one would want to carry around a games console before adding “it’s obvious I was wrong.”
“I came to realize the key to a successful game is quite simple – software with absolute quality leads sales of hardware,” he said, “Playing style can be flexible if the software is attractive enough.”
What about his own company’s software offering for the console? Ishihara offered what could be seen as a few small hints.
“With the Switch,“ he said, ”we see it as a chance to create Pokémon that goes deeper and with a higher level of expression. As a result, that makes it an extremely important platform […] Right now we’re using 7 to 8 inch screens, but on a high-definition TV you can express a whole different world with graphics and sound.”
He also suggested larger scale multiplayer gameplay is being considered: “Until now, games were made as one for one person, but now you can go home and play with everyone – so how do we tackle these themes, and how do we make sure it’s not complicated?” Whether or not that’ll be split Joy-Con local multiplayer or something more online based, we can’t tell.
As far as extra Pokemon-themed peripherals for the console, Ishihara wasn’t able to offer any confirmation but did say he’d “like to think of that possibility.”
Game’s developers admit they’re feeling the pressure
Considering the yet-to-be named Pokemon Switch title will be the first mainline game in the franchise to come to a home console it’s understandable that fans are excited but this means expectations are high.
As a result, the game’s developers have admitted they’re feeling the pressure. In an interview with Game Informer series director/producer/composer Junichi Masuda and director Shigeru Ohmori said that though it’s “really fun” to see “all the excitement for the announcement” it does mean there’s “a lot of pressure” on the team.
Ohmori said that Game Freak is going to to do its utmost to meet a game that’s capable of living up to these expectations but asks that fans don’t raise them “too high.”
Pokemon confirmed for Nintendo Switch at E3 2017
After a long build up of speculation, Nintendo confirmed during its 2017 E3 live stream that a core Pokemon game would be coming to Nintendo Switch.
Other than the fact that the game is coming, we know nothing else. Nintendo didn’t offer a name nor did it offer a release date other than it being more than a year away.
The fact that the release date is so far in the future means it could very well be different from Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon which have been confirmed to be coming to the 3DS later this year.
This announcement means that the Nintendo Switch is breaking the Nintendo home console curse, whereby only side titles, such as the already confirmed Pokken Tournament, were released while mainline titles stayed on handhelds.
The Pokemon Company and Game Freak had previously said that they were waiting to see how the Nintendo Switch performed and whether or not it would work with the Pokemon series before committing a core game to the console.
Rumors have been circulating for a number of months about the game, suggesting it might be released under the name Pokemon Stars, but Nintendo offered no comment on this.
Main series producer, Junichi Masuda, doesn’t discount it and Pokémon Company CEO confirms.
In September 2016, back when the Switch was still known as the NX, Pokémon Company CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara confirmed in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the company would develop games for the console.
Later in the year, Pokémon series producer, Junichi Masuda, was less enthusiastic with his commitment to Switch support. However, he did not discount that mainline Pokémon titles were a possibility for the Switch, stating that he was waiting for the console to be released to market to determine whether or not it would benefit from Pokémon .
Then came the Eurogamer report
Adding fuel to the rumor fire, Eurogamer published a report in late 2016 that said multiple sources had confirmed a new version of Pokémon Sun and Moon was being developed for the Switch under the code named Pokémon Stars.
According to the report, this third title was developed alongside Sun and Moon for 3DS and already had feature working versions of Sun and Moon content.
Development was said to be slowed down in the run up to the launch of the 3DS titles but after their release would resume and work would begin on new features.
The report finished up by stating that though the game had initially been slotted for a Summer 2017 release, it was then pushed to later in the year. Now that we’re well into 2018 we know this report wasn’t entirely accurate in terms of release windows but Pokemon Stars still hasn’t been ruled out.
Then came the hiring call
Just after the Switch’s release in March of 2017, Game Freak re-started the rumor mill by posting job ads on Indeed Japan stating that they were looking to temporarily hire people capable of creating character models on machines like the Wii U and PlayStation Vita for a new entry in an RPG series which is “popular on a global scale.”
Now, there was no direct mention of Pokémon in this listing but it does seem like the most likely scenario considering Game Freak doesn’t have many RPG franchises under its belt that would fall into this globally popular category.
What kind of Pokemon game can we expect on Switch?
After the E3 2017 confirmation, we now know we’re going to be getting a mainline Pokemon game, but where this game will be set and which generation it’ll explore is unclear. It’s unlikely that it’s going to take players back to Kanto since Pokemon Let’s Go will do that in November 2018.
The official Pokemon Twitter account said that this release would be an “all-new” core series title. This suggests that the game won’t be a continuation of Pokemon Sun and Moon as has been previously rumored and could even take players to a new map and into a whole new generation.
A Spanish edition of Nintendo Life certainly seems to think this is the plan. According to this publication (via NintendoLife) Pokemon on Switch will introduce players to an entirely new generation: generation 8. Not only that it suggests that the game will have entirely new mechanics, which isn’t really that far out of the realm of possibility given what we’ve seen Pokemon Let’s Go is attempting with Switch hardware and Game Freak will want to take advantage of the tech as other developers have done. Things will need to change slightly, realistically.
It’s worth noting, however, that though this is an official Nintendo publication, it has gotten things wrong before with Pokemon rumors so we’d say take it with a pinch of salt until we know more.
At the very least we know we’ll have Pokemon Bank to bring our creatures from past consoles and generations to our newest adventure with little fuss.
What we’d like to see in Pokemon on Switch
That’s everything we know. Now let’s get into the things we’d love to see from the rumored game.
Better graphics and animations
Game Freak pushed the Nintendo 3DS to its absolute limits with Pokémon Sun and Moon (to the point where 3D support had to be removed). That means Game Freak is ready to move beyond the limitations of the 3DS and we’d fully expect to see graphical advancements in the Nintendo Switch version.
The graphics and animations in Sun and Moon were already excellent, definitely the best we’ve seen so far from a Pokémon game, but moving to Nintendo Switch could very well allow for sharper character and environment models and much more expressive character faces.
A well-translated UI
For a long time now, the Pokémon games have been developed for Nintendo’s DS handhelds which has given developers two screens over which to spread the game’s UI. This has resulted in arguably one of the most well-designed UIs in video games with Game Freak making the most of the space to put interactive menus on the bottom touchscreen of the DS consoles.
The Nintendo Switch, however, only uses one screen which would mean Game Freak would have to drastically rethink its UI approach and there’s a risk it wouldn’t work quite as seamlessly. Of course, the company had to develop single screen UIs for Pokémon before the release of the DS but we’re not sure we’d like to return to this more crammed in design.
The fact that the Switch has a touchscreen could possibly help to balance matters, though, as it would allow for more immediate interaction rather than a return to using the directional pad to scroll through options. There’s also room for interesting innovations using the console’s modular controllers.
Make good use of the Festival Plaza
The Festival Plaza was an odd addition to Sun and Moon. It felt strangely separate from the main game and wasn’t a particularly good use of online features. This could completely change with the Switch. The plaza could become the perfect place for players to meet up and the LAN party capabilities of the Switch could see Festival Plaza become the place where an eSports community takes off.
While most people say they’re not sure they can handle any more Pokémon and that they stopped paying attention after the original 150, we just want to see more. The new setting in Pokémon Sun and Moon brought in interesting and fun Alolan variations on Pokémon we already know and love so if we can’t get any more completely new creatures, we’d love to see a few more instances of this. Alolan Vulpix changed our lives and we’d like some more of that.
The Nintendo Switch benefits from its motion-control capable Joy-Cons. We’ve seen them used in some interesting ways thus far which gives us some hope that they’ll be implemented in Pokemon Stars. The hat-throwing mechanic used in Super Mario Odyssey, for example, could be translated to a PokeBall throwing mechanic and that’d be an interesting new dimension to the series that only the Switch could offer.
Now that Pokemon-specific Z moves have been introduced, it could even be that players have to move their Joy-Cons in the right pattern to start up their Pokemon’s special powers. While we’re not particularly keen on doing some of those dad-dance moves in public, we’re more than willing to do them in the privacy of our own home.
We want Pokemon Amiibo support. There, we said it. Though Pokken tournament and Detective Pikachu have Amiibo figurines, we want to see even more introduced for the brand new mainline Pokemon game. Whether they unlock new accessories for mini games, new items of clothing, or new moves we just know these will be highly collectible and probably adorable.
- E3 is the world’s largest exhibition for the games industry, stuffed full of the latest and greatest games and gaming hardware. TechRadar will be reporting live from Los Angeles all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated E3 2018 hub to see all the latest news from the show.