Pokémon Could Be the Nintendo NX's Killer App

Pokémon Could Be the Nintendo NX's Killer App

Pokémon is one of Nintendo's strongest franchises, but it's long been locked away on handhelds. That may be about to change.

The calls for a console version of Pokémon started not long after Red and Blue made it big back in 1998. This has always been the mentality with the general gaming public: a game series can't be taken seriously until it's on the (comparatively) big screen.

Game Freak has responded to the demand by releasing a few console spinoffs over the years; but otherwise, they've been firm in their conviction that Pokémon is a portable series first. Their vision has paid off in the long run, as Pokemon has been mostly immune from the troubles suffered by the GameCube and the Wii U. Nintendo, however, has suffered in some ways. How much would they have loved to release an honest-to-god Pokemon game on the Wii U? Or any other console?

Pokémon Stadium.

As Pokémon Go has demonstrated, Game Freak's iconic monsters are practically a license to print money. It's one of Nintendo's most important franchises, eclipsing even Mario in its sheer reach and sales power; and yet, the series has been almost entirely absent from consoles.

Enter the NX.

If recent reports are true, then the NX will indeed be a portable console that can also output to your television. Comparisons to the Nvidia Shield aside, this feels like a no-brainer for Nintendo, provided the price is right. It plays to their traditional strength - the portable market - while bringing their biggest guns to bear on the console market.

The NX is the perfect compromise for Pokémon. It grants the series the power of a dedicated console while also allowing it to remain true to its communal roots, which is especially important for Japan, where portable games are disproportionately dominant. Nintendo, meanwhile, gets both a killer app and a near annual franchise. Provided that it's executed properly, this move makes total sense for both Nintendo and Game Freak.

Less obvious, but perhaps nearly as important, is NX's impact on Monster Hunter. Unlike Pokémon, Monster Hunter has had dedicated console releases in the past, but they've mostly failed to make an impression due to the lack of interest in consoles in Japan, and the Wii U's low install base in America. This is due to the fact that Monster Hunter's fanbase mostly resides in Japan, its popularity rooted in its ubiquity, its longevity, and the popularity of its local co-op play. Monster Hunter has played kingmaker for the last two generations of portable systems, first driving the popularity of the PSP in Japan, then subsequently burying the Vita.

Monster Hunter Generations.

The influence of the 3DS and dedicated handhelds in general have waned in Japan; but Monster Hunter remains huge, its most recent release selling some 1.5 million units in its first two days - massive numbers for the Japanese market. On the NX, it would retain its portable appeal while potentially expanding its reach in the west, where co-op tends to play better on console and PC.

The upshot of all this is that the NX will potentially go to market with two massively important franchises ready to go. That alone makes the NX instantly more appealing than the Wii U out of the gate, and could theoretically put it on the road to success.

Recipe for success

So I'll say this: I'm genuinely excited by the prospect of a hybrid handheld Nintendo console. Nintendo seems to be at their best when they're working on smaller, more portable experiences; and as indies have shown us, these sorts of compact games can work well on both handhelds and television screens. And with Pokemon, one of Nintendo's most important franchises is no longer limited to handheld.

That's a recipe for success in my mind, but Pokémon and Monster Hunter alone won't put the NX over the top. If the NX is to be a success, Nintendo will have to learn from the the missteps they made with the Wii U. They'll need a lot more games out of the gate, they'll need a much faster and sleeker frontend, and they'll need to get the price right.

More importantly, the NX itself will have to be appealing. It will have to be small and sleek - along the lines of a tablet - and it will have to avoid the impression of being clunky. The rumored designs look like they'll fit in with the array of tablets that have become common, which is promising; but at the end of the day, this thing will have to fit nicely into a messenger bag.

There will be plenty of other challenges as well. Will the platform's graphical powerful end up being compromised by its small size? What will the battery strength be like? Will it be possible to upgrade the memory? How will Nintendo keep the price down? It seems impossible that the NX will be $300 or less, but that might have to be the price point it launches at to be successful. Fair or not, it's going to be compared harshly to tablets, which are much more versatile.

It's fair to say that the NX faces a lot of unanswered questions, though we ultimately don't know much about it to begin with. Regardless, Pokemon showcases many of Nintendo's biggest greatest strengths; and from the looks of it, it will finally be playable on their consoles. That's a good start.

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Kat Bailey

Editor in Chief

Kat Bailey is a former freelance writer and contributor to publications including 1UP, IGN, GameSpot, GamesRadar, and EGM. Her fondest memories as a journalist are at GamePro, where she hosted RolePlayer's Realm and had legal access to the term "Protip." She is USgamer's resident mecha enthusiast, Pokemon Master, and Minnesota Vikings nut (skol).

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