The future of Pokémon: Doomed to DLC?
When Pokémon Sword and Shield released in November of 2019, it was met with a somewhat middling reaction from casual and lifelong players alike. Players brought attention to both the good and the bad of Game Freak’s venture into the Galar region, with good spanning from the foundation of the franchise’s newest mechanics, such as Raid Battles and the Wild Area, and that bad being the lacklustre animation, inconsistent graphical fidelity, and perhaps one of the most controversial decisions of the franchise’s history – not including the National Pokedex, at that time spanning 809 unique Pokémon. (It has since reached a remarkable 898)
When this news broke, vocal sections of the player base were up in arms, with some calling Game Freak lazy, and sending any excuse the developer replied with under the microscope to show that the studio were losing their touch, a far cry from the franchise’s glory days of Generations 3 to 5, with GF’s premier reason being to bring the selected Pokémon into the future, with “much higher fidelity with higher quality animations”, according to lead designer Junichi Masuda. However, this reasoning did not satisfy fans, with some calling the new animations inferior to previous titles, which ran on lesser powerful systems. Because of this, backlash against Game Freak only got worse.
But then, Game Freak revealed the franchise’s newest venture – The Sword and Shield Expansion Pass.
The green indicates which Pokemon made the cut into Sword and Shield. This was the roster before the DLC was announced and released.
This pass, the first of its kind to be brought into Pokémon, would include two new adventures – The Isle of Armour and The Crown Tundra – with the former being released on June 17th and the latter being released worldwide on October 24th. Both focusing on new Legendary Pokémon, and bringing old Pokémon, including all the legendary Pokémon from past generations, into the future.
For some fans, this signified Game Freak moving in the right direction by partially restoring the National Dex and giving Sword and Shield and new breath of life.
But to others, it showed that Game Freak was starting on a darker path of becoming a DLC franchise, and long were the simpler days of one game, and then an enhanced version with new content in the years following, such as in the case of Diamond, Pearl and Platinum.
Fans have substantial cause for concern, as Game Freak’s promise of “higher fidelity” seemed to have been broken with unpolished textures and poor animations. With Game Freak seemingly beginning to pull the strings of paid additional content, fans are worried that this will not signify a change of quality for the game, rather it will reflect a change of attitude for the developer and a newfound outlook on the 24-year-old juggernaut of pop culture.
However, with Pokémon traditionally releasing a new title in November, and The Crown Tundra now out, it seems that Game Freak is not releasing the next Pokémon title this year, so fans will have to wait and see what plans the estranged developers have for the beloved Pokémon – for better or worse.