Only a year ago, a new Pokémon Stadium seemed like a foregone conclusion. A teaser image showing Lucario and Blaziken squaring off in a street seemed to indicate that Game Freak was ready to revisit the spinoff series for the first time since 2007. But as it turned out, it was actually teasing Pokken Tournament—a fighting game spinoff by Namco Bandai.
Now, based on recent comments from Game Freak's Shigeru Ohmori and Junichi Masuda, it appears that Pokémon Stadium might be permanently on the backburner. When asked at a recent event why a new Pokémon Stadium-style game hadn't appeared since 2007, Masuda said, "It kind of goes back to the core philosophy of Pokémon as a brand: We really want to excite people and surprise them with new things they weren't expecting. The original games, of course, were 2D and in black and white, and seeing them in 3D was a stark contrast... it was kind of a huge surprise for players. Nowadays, the Pokémon are already in 3D, and I'm not sure that better graphics would be quite as impactful or impressive. So in order to come back to the Stadium series, I think we'd need to have some sort of new invention to justify it."
Just being a battle simulator on console isn't enough, it seems. No doubt Game Freak is also factoring development costs, the waning popularity of consoles in Japan, and the Wii U's smallish install base into their equation. With that, a new Pokémon Stadium seems unlikely to appear for a long time, if ever.
But if Pokémon Battle Revolution is indeed the last of the console battle simulators, then Game Freak will be turning their back on a series of a spinoffs with roots that stretch back to the dawn of the franchise. People got their first glimpse of Pokemon in 3D way back on the Nintendo 64's Pokemon Stadium in 2000, which includde a transfer pack that was compatible with the Game Boy games. It didn't have a story of its own, but it did feature standalone challenges that included battles against all eight gym leaders, as well as a gallery and various minigames.
Pokémon Stadium was successful enough to warrant a sequel featuring the monsters introduced in Pokémon Gold/Silver. After that, Game Freak handed the reins to Genius Sonority to produce Pokémon Colosseum for GameCube, which featured a full-scale story set in the Orre region. Though Colosseum was somewhat underwhelming—fans criticized both the simplistic campaign and the models that had been recycled from Pokémon Stadium—Genius Sonority got the go-ahead to produce Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness, and finally Pokémon Battle Revolution for the Wii, the latter of which was more of a pure battle game. Since then, Game Freak has largely preferred to focus on other spinoffs such as Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, Pokémon Ranger, and Pokémon Art Academy.
On some level, it's easy to see why Game Freak has decided to move on. Putting aside the additional development costs, the Stadium spinoffs have always struggled to find a niche beyond simply having better graphics. Even Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD, both of which had their own stories, came off as being somewhat watered-down versions of the much more polished handheld games.
But Game Freak may be missing a somewhat obvious role for the Stadium series as a fully-featured companion game. Given how much everyone complained about the lack of postgame content in Pokémon X and Y, a console spinoff featuring a variety of tournaments, high-level challenges like the Battle Frontier, and a fully-customizable suite of online and offline battles would be welcome. In addition, we're long overdue for a mode that makes it possible to hang out with our monsters as they wander about freely and interact with one another. Pokémon Ranch was a start, but the art wasn't quite there, to say the least.
If the continued popularity of battle simulators like Pokémon Showdown prove anything, it's that there's a demand for something more than what the handheld games can provide. Pokémon has featured online battling for a while now, but the lack of full six-on-six random singles battles is a sore spot for many, and a reason that many people continue to favor online alternatives; well that, and the fact that it's possible to roll up a perfect Pokémon and experiment with various team combinations. In theory, a console spinoff could address all of those needs by introducing a "simulation chamber" in which its possible to build a custom team and try it out against the CPU or other human opponents. With the popularity of competitive Pokémon on the rise, a full practice arena would certainly be a welcome resource for advanced players.
Beyond that, a new Pokémon Stadium game could potentially be a showcase for the series' rich history by highlighting the various regions, introducing an interactive Pokedex, and generally serving as a complete tribute to the series to date. If they wanted to have a little fun, they could even include the original Pokémon Red in their museum, complete with the ability to transfer captured monsters via a Pokémon Transporter that would generate copies compatible with the most recent games. Given how ingrained the original 151 monsters are in popular culture at this point, I have to believe that the majority of fans would welcome such a game with open arms.
And if Game Freak doesn't want to make a full-blown tribute to Pokémon? Well, why not just take the battle simulator proposed above and sell it for $9.99 on the Wii U eShop?
The point is that there's room for a new Pokémon Stadium, even if the handheld games have long since caught up with and surpassed the original games on the Nintendo 64. Being the creative people that they are, I'm sure Game Freak could come up with plenty of applications for a console companion.
In the meantime, Pokémon Stadium remains on hiatus, putting it in the company of Pokémon Snap—another game deserving of a sequel—and a variety of other spinoffs that have come and gone over the years. In Stadium's case, let's hope that hiatus ends sooner rather than later.