A hacked Pokemon is making trouble through Pokemon Sword and Shield's Surprise Trade feature. Unfortunate players who receive the cursed Pokemon experience game crashes and disabled online features.
Pokemon modder "Kurt" dropped a warning on Twitter regarding the hacked Pokemon. Kurt describes the offending Pokemon as "miraculously crafted." That seems to be a term for a hacked Pokemon that's created outside of the usual hacker toolsets, and is especially good at dodging Game Freak's legality checkers. What does this all mean in layman's terms? Someone hacked a Pokemon, unleashed it in Surprise Trade (a method of obtaining a randomly traded Pokemon in Pokemon Sword and Shield), and now anyone who gets the Pokemon via Surprise Trade risks having their Switch crash and go offline. It's not exactly a rampant infestation, but until Nintendo or Game Freak announces a patch, it's not a bad idea to avoid Surprise Trades.
Beware! There's a bug in Sword/Shield that can crash your game if you receive a maliciously crafted Pokémon via Surprise Trade. It'll crash your game when you try to access online features (via Y-COM), preventing online interactions until a patch is released.— Kurt (@Kaphotics) February 12, 2020
Eurogamer spoke to another Pokemon modder, "architdate," about the how's and why's of this problem.
"The Pokémon themselves need to be created with intent", architdate tells Eurogamer. "Normal hacking programs (such as PKHeX) can't make them natively. You need to know what you are doing to specifically edit them to cause that behaviour.
"I have seen people on Twitter be paranoid that their legitimately obtained Pokemon or the Pokemon they made in PKHeX caused this! That's not really the case!"
Pokemon's always had a large hacking community, and it's no surprise hacking would also be common in Pokemon Sword and Shield. The recent arrival of Pokemon Home means some starters are finally being allowed to queue up for their eventual arrival in the Galar Region once the Isle of Armor expansion drops in June, but impatient hackers have already imported Litten, Incineroar, and other verboten Pokemon. People have even tweeted images of these Pokemon participating in Sword and Shield's Max Raids.
Hacking a game is an extremely grey area, but the vast majority of Pokemon hackers don't do so with any ill intent. The competitive scene sometimes uses hacks to hatch eggs instantly and start competing ASAP instead of taking long, long walks to complete the incubation process.
Neither Game Freak nor Nintendo has mentioned a patch for the evil Pokemon ruining people's games. On the plus side, if you can refer to it as that, the hacked Pokemon doesn't appear to delete saves or brick your Switch. But the arrival of this dark Pokemon has some people wondering if we'll see more hacked Pokemon that can erase saves, or worse.
architdate tells Eurogamer it's possible. "I don't think there are very many people doing it right now, but as friends tell friends, we expect that number to grow quite a lot in the coming future", he says. He also advises Pokemon Sword and Shield players not to perform any Surprise Trades until the issue is patched out.
I hope this problem is fixed swiftly and permanently, but I still have to wonder: Wouldn't a glitched-out Pokemon filled with bad intent technically be a malicious Digimon?