I was wondering when an announcement like this would appear. After taking a year off, it seemed inevitable that Game Freak would be back in the saddle with a new game in 2016, particularly with it being Pokémon's 20th anniversary. But what are they going to announce?
At this point, I can only speculate... so that's exactly what I'm going to do. One thing I definitely know is that it won't be another remake of the original Pokémon Red and Green - Game Freak is taking care of that by releasing the original games on the 3DS eShop. But there's still plenty of room for other possibilities.
1. Game Freak is announcing the seventh generation
Since Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, Game Freak has released a new generation every three years to four years. In the U.S., Diamond and Pearl launched in 2007, Black and White launched in 2011 [Corrected from 2010], and X and Y launched in 2013. If this trend continues, we're in line for a new generation of monsters in 2016.
At this point, I think this is the strongest possibility. True, we haven't received a third version or a "sequel" like Black 2/White 2; but there's precedent for Game Freak releasing a second generation on the same platform, and Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire has already served as a "third version" of sorts. With the Nintendo 3DS on the decline, Game Freak will want to milk the platform for all they're worth. Plus, it will keep the Pokemon VGCs - Game Freak's annual competitive series - fresh.
For my part, I'm ready for a new generation. I liked a lot of what Pokémon X/Y brought to the table, but Mega Evolutions could use retooling, and so could the engine, which couldn't even support 3D without massive slowdown in the battles. My only reservation is that we've already got more than 700 monsters, and it seems like folly to throw another hundred or more creatures on top of the pile. But that's never stopped Game Freak before...
2. Game Freak is announcing X2/Y2
This is the next most likely possibility. Everyone is expecting a Pokémon Z, which would be in line with previous "third versions" like Yellow, Crystal, and Emerald, but I'm not seeing it. Game Freak established a new precedent with Black 2/White 2 back in 2012; and with the state of the platform and worldwide competition being what it is, I'm not sure that they can get away with full-priced update of a three-year-old game. Or maybe they can! Never underestimate the marketing machine that is Game Freak.
Anyway, I think the smarter path is making another sequel with the same assets, an upgraded engine, and a new story. Black 2/White 2 was a huge success because it freshened up the 5th generation while catering to the hardcore with brilliant additions like the Join Avenue - a terrific social feature that made breeding and training a cinch - and the nostalgia-laden Pokemon World Tournament, which brought back every gym leader and champion to that point (with classic boss music!) To date, it's my favorite Pokémon game ever, narrowly edging out the equally excellent Emerald.
A hypothetical X2/Y2 would go a long way toward assuaging some of the disappointment from Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire by bringing back hardcore post-game features like the Battle Frontier, or by introducing something new and equally fun. On the other hand, it would push the 7th generation back a year, which might be too late for the 3DS. But that would also give the NX a year to build an established audience, and there are rumors that it will have a strong portable component...
3. Game Freak is announcing Pokemon Z
Of course, I could be totally wrong and Game Freak is indeed announcing Pokémon Z - the rumored third version featuring the sixth-generation monster Zygarde. Last year, Game Freak introduced new forms for Zygarde, fueling speculation that a Pokemon Z was on the way. But for the reasons listed above, I'm not sure that I see it. It would certainly be a bit of letdown in a year that Game Freak is treating as a gala event for the franchise.
4. Game Freak is announcing Pokemon Rainbow
Finally, we have Pokémon Rainbow, which popped up in a purported leak of Nintendo's upcoming release schedule. Alternately referred to as "Pokémon 20th Anniversary" and "Pokémon Rainbow," it would seem to hint at a game encompassing the entirety of Pokémon's rather massive world. If that's the case, then there's plenty of reason to be excited. Fans have been dreaming of a game uniting all six regions since the beginning of time; what better time than the franchise's 20th anniversary to make it happen?
Of course, if Pokémon Rainbow winds up being a reality, it probably won't be that ambitious. But it seems that Game Freak is working on something big to cap off their franchise's 20th anniversary, and it doesn't get much bigger than a name like "Pokémon Rainbow" - a title that deliberately brings together the colors that serve as the original games' namesake. Pokémon's world has gotten so big over the years that it would be fun to play a game that brought it all together for one blowout event.
Whichever direction Game Freak chooses to go will say a lot about their plans for the future. I don't think we'll be disappointed.
Now it's Nadia Time! It's kind of like Waluigi Time, but with less foot-stomping and, whenever possible, more kitten-petting.
My predictions / my wish list for this Pokémon announcement (Friday February 26 at 7 a.m. PST and 10 a.m. EST, be there or be … some manner of square-shaped Pokémon) aren't too different from Kat's, but she didn't mention what's likely to be a big headliner for the show:
5. We're going to learn more about Pokémon GO
Even if the upcoming Nintendo Direct doesn't focus exclusively on Pokémon GO, we're probably going to catch a glimpse of what this hype-inducing augmented reality game / app is capable of.
Of course, Pokémon games have appeared on mobile recently. But Pokémon GO isn't a port of an old title or a match-three puzzler. It seemingly melds Pokémon's monster-collecting aspect with mobile platforms in a way that truly heightens Pokémon as a legendary experience, and promotes mobile platforms as a convenient and unique method of gaming.
On paper, at least. In the end, the whole thing might come tumbling down like a drunk Snorlax. But by now, Game Freak and Nintendo could be force-feeding us screenshots and movies of Pokémon GO to get us hyped. The fact they're not regardless of the excitement surrounding the app speaks to how careful they're being about it. It's a pretty delicate operation, so I wouldn't be surprised if at least part of a Nintendo Direct was cordoned off for the big reveal.
6. Nintendo announces Pokémon X2 and Y2, Pokémon Z, a new-generation Pokémon for NX, and shoves candy shaped like Pikachu through our screens
Look, it could happen.
Overall, I think Kat has the right of with her predictions about Pokémon X2 and Y2. We never did see a "Pokémon Grey" because Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 made them unnecessary. Besides, why get kids to buy one supplemental Pokémon game when they can (and will) dish up for two Pokémon titles that are essentially new, separate experiences compared to their predecessors?
Game Freak also put a lot of work into making the Pokémon world 3D. As Kat observes above, X and Y were a bit chunky as a consequence -- but Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire seemingly gave the engine a tweak and a spit-shine, and thus runs more smoothly. I have a hard time believing Game Freak will dump all its Nintendo 3DS modelling work without getting a little more use out of it.
Especially since the next Pokémon generation, whatever number, letter, or color it staples to the end of its title, will almost certainly pop up on NX and / or the next handheld in Nintendo's line. And if Arceus really loves us, the Pokémon Nintendo Direct will give us a glimpse of what's in store for the seventh generation.
So my predictions for the Nintendo Direct are as follows, from likeliest to pipe-dream: Pokémon GO, Pokémon X2 and Y2, Pokémon Rainbow (as mentioned by Kat), and a seventh generation wildcard. Feel free to come back and laugh in my face when it's all done.