by Tanner Kinney

On November 2, 2017, Nintendo released a new announcement for Pokemon Ultra Sun and Moon. The game would have a villain team composed entirely of the biggest villains from previous games. Yes, the big shots, all the best characters. Giovanni, Maxie, Archie, Ghetsis, Lysandre, Faba (who?), and of course my main man Cyrus of Team Galactic all return for this big nostalgia-fest of a villain team to honor 20 years of Pokemon history. Now, while I could talk about how cool this is or parallel universes in Pokemon or how they forgot the OG Miror B from Pokemon Colosseum, I don’t think I really can.

If I’m being completely honest, this announcement was the first time since the initial announcement of Pokemon Ultra Sun and Moon that I even acknowledged the game’s existence. I try my best to stay on top of gaming news, and I’ve been playing Pokemon since before I could even read, so I should be following this stuff. But there’s just…nothing. Even on Twitter or Reddit, the buzz about this game is so faint it could be mistaken for the fly you swear has been following you, but is gone every time you turn around. So I ask, “What the hell happened?” Why does it seem like nobody cares about the next major entry in the Pokemon series?

I thought back on last year when Pokemon Sun and Moon were coming out. A completely new region, with a unique structure, interesting Pokemon, and a whole new gameplay loop that turns the stale Gym format on its head. Plus, they were easily the most graphically interesting games since Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness and had the most unique plot of any of the games. Without a doubt, Sun and Moon were going to completely change how we viewed Pokemon, and honestly it was amazing. Every announcement had people wildly speculating about what’s going on, who’s evil, who’s good, and who the best girl was (the answer is Mallow, for those still wondering). The community was the most alive it had been since, well, ever.

Playing through it the first time started off a little weird, but eventually I fell in love with the new things they added. The games truly felt unique, and people got excited. I remember distinctly breeding new Pokemon for my competitive teams while the meta was still dependant on what was available in Sun and Moon and how exciting the competitive scene was for a while there. Fishing for Mareanies, trying out the new Alolan Pokemon, facing the new Totem Pokemon, everything stands out. Looking back, it was the most fun I’ve had with a Pokemon game since I played Pokemon Sapphire as a small bab. It was a truly wonderful experience, and though some aspects seemed a little undercooked and there was still no really strong post-game experience, people loved it. I loved it. I couldn’t wait to see what Nintendo would do for Pokemon, especially on the rumored NX (now the Switch) that was allegedly both a home console and a handheld. These hopes would very quickly be dashed.

Pokemon Ultra Sun and Moon suffers mainly from horrific timing on Nintendo’s part in terms of their release schedule. Yes, the new Pokemon games are coming out only a year after the previous ones, take place in the same region, add very little in the way of innovative gameplay, and are on a handheld that should’ve been retired months ago. The 3DS, while it is a great handheld and one of my favorite gaming consoles, just doesn’t have the power to impress anymore. The fact that Nintendo is still releasing major titles on the 3DS is a waste of everyone’s time. Sure, it has the install base and will create guaranteed money, but Pokemon never suffered from being unable to make money. Pokemon Go was a half-baked, underdeveloped, buggy, poorly optimized, poorly managed, non-game, and that still made a killing for Niantic and, in a roundabout way, Nintendo because of license fees. Pokemon: Battle Revolution was a disappointing waste of time and money that still sold millions of copies. Would it be too much of a stretch to say that a quality, brand-spanking new Nintendo Switch Pokemon game (not Pokken Tournament, please no) would’ve sent sales for the console through the roof, as if Super Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild haven’t already? No, it would’ve sold like hotcakes and sent Switch demand even higher. Instead, we get another Pokemon game with bad framerates in 240p in 2017.

https://twitter.com/Vox_Is_Dead/status/926863974662012929

Speaking of the Switch, the launch year for the Switch has completely smothered almost all other Nintendo news. The Switch has had what seems to be one of the strongest console launches for any company this generation, and every day it seems new great games are getting put on the Switch. Nintendo is basically competing with just themselves, Cuphead, Horizon: Zero Dawn and maybe Atlus’s Persona 5 for game of the year. Breath of the Wild was so popular it outsold the Switch itself, and Super Mario Odyssey is the fastest selling Mario game in the US of all time. Splatoon 2 is also great, but Splatoon makes me want to fricking break my gosh darn controller into a million hecking pieces (keep it kid friendly, Nintendo is watching). Nintendo is doing a fantastic job marketing the Switch and keeping the public eyes on the Switch. This is, of course, at a cost. Newly released 3DS titles are kind of just pushed aside for the Switch, Ultra Sun and Moon included. It’s hard to get excited for games on the 3DS when you see something amazing cooking on the Switch, and the Switch game is also portable like the 3DS. People want to talk about the Switch and maybe Metroid because we don’t see Metroid a lot, not another Pokemon sequel releasing on outdated hardware.

So, is it just too soon for a new Pokemon game? Well historically, Nintendo releases Pokemon games very, very frequently. The largest gap between main series Pokemon games is 2 years, while most tend to get released within a year the previous one. Looking at the timeline, however, the only game to get their third/sequel game within a year of the previous one was Pokemon Crystal, which was used to show off new hardware in the Gameboy Color. Every other third game in a Pokemon generation had a two year break between games, even if there was a completely different game in-between them. Ultra Sun and Moon is the first to break that trend, and considering everything else that’s stacked up against it (lack of originality or new hardware and a little bit of Pokemon fatigue) seems to be causing a lack of interest in Ultra Sun and Moon. No matter what crazy story elements they add or saying that every legendary (not true) can be obtained in Ultra Sun and Moon, it’s hard to beat indifference from people who just want something new.

Pokemon Ultra Sun and Moon is still going to sell millions. It’s a main series Pokemon game; if it didn’t sell millions I would be seriously concerned. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were significantly fewer sales for the new games as compared to Sun and Moon. It’s easy to see when people aren’t talking about something, and no one is talking about Ultra Sun and Moon. People just can’t find it in them to care when there are so many good games and horrible business practices taking headline space away from relatively plain Pokemon sequels. Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places, but from where last year I saw hype for Pokemon Sun and Moon for months on end, this year there’s nothing. So good job Nintendo, you’ve potentially botched the release for the next major entry in one of your biggest franchises. At least it’s still Pokemon, imagine if they did something horrible to a franchise like, I dunno, Pikmin. Did you know a Pikmin game released on 3DS this year? Yeah, neither did anyone else.


Sources: Kotaku, Nintendo Everything, Forbes, Business Wire 

Images: Kotaku, YouTube, Twitter

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