Nintendo’s Failure To Give The Switch A Proper Pokémon Game Is Inexcusable – Forbes

The Dream

Nintendo/Paul Tassi

The Dream

Yesterday was a strange day for Nintendo fans who tuned into a new Pokémon Direct hoping for some relatively simple news: Pokémon is coming to the Nintendo Switch.

Of course, technically, that did happen, but only in the form of Pokken Tournament getting ported over from the Wii U to the Switch in a new “Deluxe” package. But the fully-fledged Pokémon games featured in the show, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon and Gold and Silver for Virtual Console, were relegated to the 3DS. After the show, there was a brief flare-up of hope that due to a rogue listing, it appeared that Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon may get a Switch release after all, but The Pokémon Company quickly shut that rumor down, saying the listing was a mistake. Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are 3DS only, and there are no plans to bring them to the Switch.

The two magic words everyone was looking for yesterday were “Pokémon Stars,” the long rumored, even officially hinted-at “third game” in the Sun and Moon saga that many assumed would be announced and released for the Switch as a sort of bridge between the 3DS and Nintendo’s new modern day hardware. Instead, Stars is nowhere to be seen and now even its very existence is up in the air as Nintendo simply refuses to acknowledge the simple fact that the Switch needs a fully-fledged Pokémon game. And the fact that they keep dancing around this issue is absolutely inexcusable, and shows a failure to understand their own IP or hardware.

I know there are some hoping that a Pokémon-on-Switch announcement is still forthcoming, particularly with E3 just around the corner, but I don’t buy it. Not after what Nintendo and The Pokémon Company pulled yesterday. You don’t have a Pokémon-focused show a week before E3 while saving the most important announcement for later, particularly when your E3 Direct is only 30 minutes long as is. No, like in years past, Nintendo has used this Direct to get Pokémon news out of the way so none is expected at the big show. Only this year it’s having the opposite effect, as fans simply cannot believe that a full Pokémon game is not coming to the Switch in some form. But that’s clearly the message Nintendo is sending after yesterday.

Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon

The Pokemon Company

Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon

And while you would imagine that Pokémon would have to arrive on the Switch someday, the existence of Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon for 3DS only tells me that if Stars even exists at all, it’s extremely far off, given that bonus story content, areas and Pokémon are exactly what you’d expect from a game like that, yet here are these two new versions arriving this fall without Switch copies in sight.

Nintendo is a stubborn company and The Pokémon Company is notoriously protective with its beloved IP, but we’re reaching new levels of insanity here when it comes to playing keep away from Nintendo’s hugely successful console/handheld hybrid. We have already seen other traditionally handheld series like Monster Hunter and Fire Emblem announce that they’re coming to the Switch in some form, so it was assumed Pokémon would be the final series to fall in line. Yet Nintendo and The Pokémon Company remain inexplicably obsessed with keeping full Pokémon games limited to the 3DS, an aging piece of hardware that was released in 2011.

I have been fighting this war a long time. I remember back in the Nintendo 64 days thinking that any day now we would be getting a new full Pokémon RPG on the console. I mean, look at that technology! How could they not make the next Pokémon game on N64? Instead we got Snap and Stadium, which may be classics today, but I was extremely mad about these half-hearted stabs at console Pokémon games when I was twelve, let me tell you that.

Over the years, while it still hasn’t made much sense to me why Nintendo is determined to keep Pokémon off consoles, they were at least being consistent. Pokémon is a handheld series, was the repeated mantra, and there was always a huge-selling handheld to put it on, from the Game Boy to the DS to the 3DS.

Reggie Fils-Aime and the Nintendo Switch

Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Nintendo of America

Reggie Fils-Aime and the Nintendo Switch

But we have now reached a point in Nintendo’s history where those arguments no longer make any sense. The Switch is a handheld. There’s really no equivocating on that point given that it’s the damn core concept of the entire system. Now, Nintendo’s handheld future in explicably tied to its console future because they’re exactly the same device. Yet, Pokémon remains elusive, clutching to the past in the form of a six year old console in ways that no longer make any bit of sense.

The Switch is an incredibly important piece of hardware for Nintendo, its rebound after the failed Wii U. But while it’s selling well, bringing Pokémon to the Switch would make the system outright immortal, a must-buy beyond a must-buy for many fence-sitting consumers, which will be necessary when the unit stops being supply-constrained at retail. Instead, what do we hear about yesterday? The re-release of Sun and Moon literally a year after they were launched, released on an aging handheld that is now more or less in direct competition with the Switch itself, even if Nintendo is deluding itself thinking otherwise.

None of this makes sense to me, and it’s yet another frustrating case of “Nintendo being Nintendo,” but to me this is a new level of incompetence, failing to make such an obvious decision when the writing is carved deeply into the wall when it comes to the 3DS and the future of Pokémon as a whole. The only thing I can think of is some sort of technical issue, where Sun and Moon are so poorly optimized on the 3DS as is that reworking them to be worthwhile on the Switch has turned into a lengthy process.

But I’m tired of this. It’s been nearly two decades now of pleading with Nintendo to wise up and release a full Pokémon game on console, yet here we are with a new console/handheld hybrid that you would think would force their hand, and not even a port of these games is in the cards.

If there’s one thing that gives me some comfort here, it’s that Pokémon on the Switch almost has to be inevitable, surely. The 3DS simply cannot live forever, as much as Nintendo apparently wants it to, and as such, it stands to reason that the next generation of Pokémon may be developed specifically for the Switch, skipping over all these requests for ports entirely. And yet, with Nintendo and The Pokémon Company, nothing is ever a sure thing, as yesterday’s Direct demonstrated.

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