The Nintendo Switch is nearing its fifth birthday.
In these past five years, the hybrid console has completely changed how Nintendo handles releases now that they only have one console to focus on instead of two.
No other franchise has exemplified that as well as Pokémon has. Since Pokémon had always been more focused on handheld consoles, the Nintendo Switch has allowed the franchise to expand and grow in new ways while maintaining the hallmarks of what makes the series special.
Evolution of Pokemon Games
Following the Summer of 2016 where Pokémon GO took the world by storm, Nintendo released the Nintendo Switch in early 2017. Though The Pokémon Company’s Tsunekazu Ishihara thought the Nintendo Switch would fail before release, at that year’s E3, Ishihara announced that the team at Game Freak was working on a core RPG in the franchise for the Nintendo Switch.
However, while they were working on what would become the Generation VIII games Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, the company was also looking into how to bring in the massive amounts of fans that had just been hooked on Pokémon GO. Their answer: Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon Let’s Go, Eevee!
Pokémon Let’s Go
Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon Let’s Go, Eevee! were the first games in the Nintendo Switch franchise. Released in 2018, Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon Let’s Go, Eevee! were a meshing of the core Pokémon games and Pokémon GO mechanics.
Battles were changed, mechanics were simplified to draw in new players, and the games returned players to the place that started it all in Generation I’s Kanto. This was a great first outing as the games sold over a combined 3 million copies in their first week on sale. Now, the games sit at a combined 13.57 million copies sold according to Nintendo’s metrics.
A few short months later, Nintendo and The Pokémon Company unveiled the next mainline entries with Generation VIII’s Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield.
Though some fans were upset about things like the games having a limited Pokedex and felt like Game Freak wasn’t doing enough to move the series forward, it was the perfect next step after Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon Let’s Go, Eevee! as it was a smaller step for new players to get into what mainline Pokémon games are.
Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield were released to massive success in November 2019 by becoming the fastest-selling Nintendo Switch games at the time. The games saw mechanics become more streamlined and introduced the franchise’s first open area with the WIld Area for players to explore when they aren’t exploring routes, caves, and waterways like the classic games.
The games also saw a change in Game Freak’s release schedule. Usually, Game Freak will release a third version of the generation’s titles (ex. Pokémon Yellow, Pokémon Crystal, etc.). However, with Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, Game Freak decided to forego the third version and instead release two separate DLC packs featuring brand new areas for players to explore in the main games themselves.
Overall, it has worked well for the games as they have combined to sell 21.85 million copies which rank them as the fifth best-selling Nintendo Switch games overall.
The Next Games
The next games in the franchise are the upcoming Generation IV remakes Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl. These games are a continuation of the trend of The Pokémon Company remaking the classic games in the series.
Unlike other remakes in the series, these will be more in line with the original games, whereas older remakes have been more in line with the current generation’s games. However, a unique thing about these remakes is that they are not being made by Game Freak for the first time and instead by ILCA.
This means the Nintendo Switch has allowed The Pokémon Company to trust another developer with the main Pokémon games while Game Freak works on something else. Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl are set to release this November.
As mentioned with ILCA handling the Pokémon Shining Pearl and Pokémon Brilliant Diamond remakes, Game Freak is getting to work on something fans have been clamoring for. Pokémon Legends Arceus is a new direction for the franchise as the first fully open-world Pokémon game.
However, it is not the next mainline game or the start of Generation IX. Instead, it transports players to an ancient time in the Sinnoh region that sees people and Pokémon live at odds instead of together.
Pokémon Legends Arceus takes the franchise in a more Action RPG direction than the mainline games' typical turn-based nature. Battles can now take on a variety of forms with wild Pokémon can attack the player directly, players can try catching wild Pokémon without actively battling, you can choose to actually battle, and now the turn-based combat has evolved to be more based on speed and action as well as new styles that increase the strength and abilities of the moves that Pokémon use.
There is still plenty that The Pokémon Company and Game Freak haven’t revealed about Pokémon Legends Arceus. Fans won’t have to wait too long to get their hands on the game as Pokémon Legends Arceus will be released in January 2022.
The Bottom Line
All in all, the Nintendo Switch has allowed Pokémon to grow and vary in the main games they release now. There will be four pillars that the franchise can support with Let’s Go!, mainline core RPGs, remakes of the classic Pokémon games, and the new Legends spinoff.
That’s all on top of the continual releases of spinoffs like Pokémon Unite and New Pokémon Snap and continued updates to games like Pokémon GO. Thus, the future of Pokémon looks even brighter thanks to what the Nintendo Switch has provided the franchise.