How much do you think GameFreak is willing to change (HMs, Megas, Dexit/whatever you like to call it) and how much will they expand to other types of games and medias ( Pokemon Unite… ugh)? How much do you think should happen to continue their success, financially and from a fan’s perspective?
…look, I don’t want to be mean about this but… this question basically amounts to “solve game design” and I’m not going to do that; I don’t know how to do that; I’m simply not that knowledgeable about design or business. Here are some thoughts that I have, which may or may not be of use to anyone:
I should point out, first of all, that Pokémon Unite actually isn’t Game Freak at all. Game Freak isn’t directly responsible for… I think any of the Pokémon spinoff games, and I suspect that will probably continue. Pokémon games outside the core series are all developed under the umbrella of the Pokémon Company, and most of them in association with Nintendo, but by many different studios. I know that sounds nit-picky on my part, but it does matter when we’re talking about big long-term future-of-Pokémon questions, particularly if we care at all about the business side. A lot of it is… not entirely in Game Freak’s hands, and I suspect there is a pretty strong impulse from up above towards being quite conservative with the design of the core games.
Video games are not the most profitable province of the Pokémon media empire. The real money is in all the licensed merch – clothes and toys and so on – which is relatively decentralised. The TCG doesn’t make quite as much money as the mainline Pokémon games, but it’s still a significant slice of the pie. That doesn’t mean the video games don’t matter. The popularity of everything else obviously hinges to some extent on their success, so the games do have to be good, but there has to be a certain amount of tail-that-wags-the-dog here. I don’t think there’s much incentive for the games to ever make fundamental changes to their vision. To my mind… if you have a business model where the basic formula of the Pokémon games never changes and another 80 or so Pokémon get added every couple of years, then that’s plenty to keep the merch engine running; it’s grist for the mill for everything else that depends on those core games. That sounds like a good plan to me, financially. You might never make a really great, paradigm-shifting game – but you don’t actually need to. You know that what you’re already doing works. Anything else is an unnecessary risk.
I think from a strictly artistic perspective it’s probably better to let that soil lie fallow for a little while – maybe don’t make another core Pokémon game for three or four years, or maybe give it to another studio and fund Game Freak to do something different, and start with fewer expectations for what the game needs to do. Gold and Silver were explicitly meant to be, like, the definitive version of the Pokémon games, and I don’t think the series ever really got away from that, so every game is supposed to be building incrementally on the one that came before, while keeping everything the previous versions did. In Pokémon we’re so used to that that we don’t question it, but it’s… honestly a bizarre model for game design? And it’s ultimately self-destructive – there is no “good” way for that to end. You keep doing the same thing until it no longer works well enough to be profitable, then end on a low note. I’m not saying that’s the point we’re at now, or predicting it for the next game, or the one after that – I’m saying that, whether sooner or later, it seems to me like a logical inevitability. And I kind of hope we get there, honestly, because I am excited to watch the Great Pokémon Crash when it finally comes and see what happens when we all pick up the pieces.
So I suppose what I’m really trying to say is, you can have a better Pokémon game when we dismantle capitalism.