Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Let's GO to the Future - How will Pokémon GO Influence Other Pokémon Games

With the official announcement of Meltan yesterday, conversation continues on how Pokémon GO is going to influence the main series of pokémon games. It's a touchy subject, almost bordering on the polarizing conversations on politics that happen often online. Although there are people in between, the most vocal are people who love Pokémon GO and those who seem to hate it. Of those that seem to hate it, they often cite worries over Pokémon GO watering down the main series of pokémon games. I've touched on this previously when the games were officially revealed, but we have more info now.

So far Pokémon Let's GO does appear to be "Pokémon for Beginners."
I'm not going to sugar coat the fact that Pokémon Let's GO Pikachu/Eevee are basically a beginners version of a main game. Despite The Pokémon Company referring to it as a main game, it isn't in the context of how fans use the term. This is probably where the confusion partially lies. By TPCi's definition, it is a main series game because it uses the tried and true turn based battle system and type relationships of the series. In that context, yes, it is a main series game. The fan definition has more stipulations, and the fact that this game doesn't use the standard "weaken and then catch" capture method and emulates GO's catching methods, as well as removes some more of the complexities of competitive battling, it is more of spin-off. To me, this makes Pokémon Let's GO seem more "main series adjacent" in the sense it blends main series and spin-off aspects together. Of course, in a polarized community, most are unwilling to accept that a game can exist in this middle ground. Some even have their own personal definition of what a main series or spin-off game is, which further complicates conversation.

Discussions with people who are fervently against Pokémon GO integration seem to cite similar points. 1) Pokémon exclusive to Pokémon GO are unfair; 2) Pokémon GO is a watered down pokémon experience; 3) The main series games should not interact at all with Pokémon GO due to them not liking it; and 4) Any interaction between a main game and Pokémon GO means all future games will automatically become Pokémon GO ports. I find all of these points to be naive and alarmist. I'll address each.
  1. Pokémon GO exclusive pokémon are unfair: Mythical pokémon exclusive to spin-off games have been a thing for quite some time now. In fact, for a while the only way to get Manaphy in a Gen 4 game was to play Pokémon Ranger. Of course, later on Manaphy was distributed in different ways so missing out on the Ranger had minimal impact. Also, trading is a thing too. If someone really wants a Meltan, I'm sure there is someone out there who doesn't like it that much who would trade. There will probably be GO players who, once they have it in their Dex, who wouldn't mind transferring it to someone else's Switch game just so that someone who actually wants it can have it. If anything, this means these two communities have to talk to each other, even if they aren't playing the same game.
    Mythicals in spin-offs that can be tranferred to main games have been a thing since Gen 4. Darkrai, for example, could be sent from Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia to Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. However, it has since been given away multiple times directly to main series games.
  2. Pokémon GO is a watered down experience: I disagree, as despite being a watered down in terms of mechanics, it is potentially more of an "experience." You have to travel the real world and interact more face to face with people to play this game. It is possible to avoid both of those things, but then again, there are loop holes and exploits in the main games as well that allow people to play in unintended ways.
  3. No main series/Pokémon GO interaction: This point seems like a waste. If you ask me, I think there should be MORE cross communication between pokémon communities. I'd love it if I could open a pack of pokémon cards and the card could somehow communicate with my game to give me a pokémon or item (like the old e-cards from the early 2000's did). This could be accomplished by simply printing codes on the cards somewhere or having a code card in the pack... which they already do by the way. The current QR codes unlock packs in the Pokémon Trading Card Game Online. Why not have 2 codes on that card? One for PTCGO and one for GO or a main game?  As for what GO brings to the table, at the very least transfer should be utilized. If the PokéWalker is an acceptable method for catching pokémon and transferring them to my main game I do not understand why an app which accomplishes that same thing is deemed unacceptable. Both have simplified capture mechanics.
    In Gen 3 one of two ways to get to the Southern Island and get the exclusive Soul Dew item was to scan this card that came packaged with an issue of Nintendo Power. I don't see why the same principle couldn't be applied to cards in TCG packs to get items like Pokéballs or Berries with maybe every once and a while pulling a rare one for something like a Master Ball or battle item (ex: Choice Band).
  4. All future games are doomed to be GO ports: This is 100% an alarmist statement. To me this would be like suggesting since "Super Mario Jump" exists that every future Mario game is going to be a port of that app or because Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp exists that all future Animal Crossing games will work the same way. It's bogus. There may be some interaction between them sure, and like I said before, I think that should be encouraged. However, saying that all future releases will become straight ports of a mobile game is ridiculous. If that were the case I feel the various developers would be wasting the potential that the Nintendo Switch offers, which is something I'm sure Nintendo DOES NOT want to see happen. If there is little to no difference between playing the free app on your smartphone vs playing a $60 game on a $300 console why would anyone buy either? Short answer: they wouldn't. 
In the end, the biggest take away here is the alarmist attitude toward additional ways to play isn't helping anyone. In fact, all it does is alienate members of the community simply because they enjoy a different aspect of it. It would be like players who prefer playing on their 3DS trashed the Trading Card Game for not incorporating all aspects of the video game or vice versa. It is possible to enjoy different aspects of a particular pokémon exclusively or even enjoy multiple pokémon game types. I have fun playing the main series of video games, the trading card game, Pokkén Tournament, and Pokémon GO. None of these have negatively impacted the other, so there is no reason to think that would happen now. For me, it just gives me different ways I can enjoy the franchise.

Sun and Moon changed a lot, but not by much.

The biggest evidence against the main series games (as defined by the fan community) becoming GO clones is the fact that the main series games have diverged very little from the tried and true formula since the late 90's. Pokémon Sun and Moon are probably the main series games that have diverged the most from previous generations, but in the end not by much. Trials replace Gyms, but overall the mechanic is pretty much the same. Go to a place, beat strong pokémon earn a trinket that shows you did that, go to the next one. The only difference was the strong pokémon were wild instead of being owned by a trainer. HMs are removed, but Ride Pokémon serve the same purpose (better even). Z-Moves were added, but I see their impact as similar to the addition of Megas and Formes. They all caused shifts in how the game was played, but the core of the battle system in intact.

Another thing to remember is, despite Pokémon GO making a ton of money, there's no reason to abandon the way the main series games work just because of that. Doing that would seem to suggest Pokémon wasn't making truck loads of money before and Pokémon GO revolutionized the game, which is false. Pokémon as a franchise makes so much money that they can afford to have 3, maybe even 4, Mew under every cash filled armored truck they can find and that was before Pokémon GO. 

In closing I'll just say this, until we see the 2019 games just "Keep calm, and catch 'em all."