The Pokemon Company is taking the opportunity to immerse a whole new generation into the world of Pokemon by creating more mobile titles than traditional handheld devices. There can be massive benefits from this decision, including bringing in thousands, or even millions of people into their ever growing fanbase. However, this idea to appeal to the casual audience will cause the quality of future mobile releases to suffer because this short-sighted monetary decision will compromise the integrity of what a Pokemon game is supposed to entail.
“Pokemon Go,” the most popular mobile game that has been created by The Pokemon Company, was a massive success when it was released in 2016. At the height of its popularity, the game amassed over 500 million downloads from users worldwide. The concept of the game was familiar to fans in the sense that the player is able to capture as many Pokemon as possible, but it diverged from traditional games by making the player move around in the real world to do so. This was a unique and innovative concept that introduced real life locations into the equation.
This was also the first time that a Pokemon game introduced the “pay-to-play” concept. Users were able to purchase coins for in-game items to maximize their chances to capture as many Pokemon as possible. The introduction of in-game purchases was a colossal success for the game as “Pokemon Go” amassed an estimated $950 million in revenue in 2016 alone.
However, the “pay-to-play” concept dilutes the overall quality of the game because users were able to buy more Pokeballs or other items to accelerate their progress. The sentiment of enduring the full Pokemon journey is lost when users can simply buy their way through the game.
From the company’s perspective, it is certainly hard to step away from billions of dollars in possible revenue. As the game stands today, “Pokemon Go” still generates millions in earnings from their app and in-store purchases. It is certainly plausible to assume that if The Pokemon Company were to release another mobile game in the future, it would make a substantial profit because players are still willing to pay to accelerate their progress.
In addition, the decision to appeal to the masses over a niche market was further evident when The Pokemon Company released the film “Detective Pikachu” in May of this year. The first live-action Pokemon movie had just enough content and action to engage casual fans, but overall it failed to go in-depth with the characters and Pokemon alike. The film grossed around $430 million worldwide in profit on a $150 million budget. The reception, however, was average at best, and earned a fresh 68% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
A few months prior to the release of “Detective Pikachu,” Nintendo and The Pokemon Company released a game for the Nintendo Switch, “Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!” and “Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee!” The games were a remake of the retro “Pokemon Yellow” game developed in 1988. The reception of “Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!” was mostly positive, as critics were enamored with the nostalgia and astonished with the amount of new gameplay that was incorporated compared to its past predecessors. Commercially, the game was a success and critics and fans alike were generally satisfied with the overall product. In North America, sales reached over 1.5 million within the first 10 days of the game’s release. Although the game was a financial success, The Pokemon Company wanted to appeal to new consumers so they simplified many aspects of the gameplay. The game suffered mechanically as certain game features, such as the removal of wild Pokemon battles and the Pokemon PC storage box, were absent. For dedicated fans, the game presented no real challenge and everything seemed too easy.
The target demographic that The Pokemon Company should aim to please are dedicated consumers who have played multiple games of the franchise, instead of the casual fan who will come and go. The Pokemon anime, movies and handheld titles have driven their success over the past two decades. The company should stay within those roots to ensure that the new generation of fans will be invested and given the full Pokemon experience, something that future mobile games simply won’t be able to provide.
Companies shouldn’t just slap a label on a product or expedite the creative process for the sake of money. Doing so will ruin the integrity of the gaming experience and the company. Mobile games and other future projects, like movies, have tremendous potential to generate millions of dollars, but it would come at the expense of the loyal consumer.
Pokemon Sword and Shield, a game recently released by The Pokemon Company and Game Freak on Nov. 15, was met was harsh criticism from fans because it was announced that not all Pokemon would be in the game from previous generations. Game Freak was also critiqued for subpar animations that resembled the graphics from the Pokemon Sun and Moon series.
Departing from traditional handheld gaming will spark the debate of quality versus quantity. The allure of an exorbitant amount of money can be very appealing and may encourage The Pokemon Company to cut corners when developing gameplay in their next mobile game release. While they would gather interest from the casual or prospective fan, the loyal Pokemon fan would likely be dissatisfied with the product if it diverges from the traditional values of what a great Pokemon game should look like. Casual fans who buy their way to the top of the Pokemon charts won’t be able to experience the satisfaction of spending countless hours and earning their way to be the next Pokemon master.