In a somewhat surprising twist, reports emerged today that a third version of Pokémon Sun and Moon will be available for the Nintendo Switch next year.
"Multiple sources" have told our sister site Eurogamer that a game called Pokémon Stars is under development for the Nintendo Switch, and that it will be available around the later portion of 2017.
This tracks with the rather abrupt disappearance of the unannounced Pokemon Z, which was rumored to be on the way ahead of Sun and Moon. Fans have speculated that the Pokémon Z team was ultimately shifted to an unannounced Switch project.
Eurogamer reports that Stars was developed in parallel with Sun and Moon, and that hints of its existence could be found in HD assets shown in the February teaser trailer, "This parallel development structure has allowed the work-in-progress Pokémon Stars to already feature working versions of Sun and Moon content. I'm told that GameFreak largely paused work on the Switch version a couple of months ago to polish Sun and Moon in time for their launch this month, but that work on Stars will now resume with the development of features not found in the 3DS versions."
Pokémon Stars appears to be a "third version" in line with Pokemon Emerald, Crystal, and other releases—an expansion of sorts that changes up the story, introduces new monster forms, and fills out the postgame. If that's the case, then it'll be nice because Sun and Moon's current postgame is a bit lacking.
What's new, though, is how fast it's coming out. Game Freak has taken their time launching on new platforms: The GBA, DS, and 3DS were all a couple years old by the time their respective Pokemon games came out, and Black 2/White 2 came out on the DS more than a year after the launch of the 3DS. This would also be the first time that Game Freak has developed a third version in conjunction with the mainline games.
All of this speaks to Nintendo's desperation to get their big guns on the Nintendo Switch as soon as possible. While The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild reportedly won't be a launch game, it will nevertheless be within the system's window. If Pokémon comes out a few months later, that's quite the one-two punch for the system.
I've already said that Pokémon stands to be one of the platform's killer apps: a massively popular franchise that has helped carry Nintendo's handhelds for years. Getting Pokemon on the console is one of the reasons that making a portable hybrid made so much sense in the first place, and Nintendo isn't wasting any time making sure that dream becomes a reality.
But while it looks like Pokémon Stars is real, don't expect to hear anything until the new year. After all, Nintendo isn't going to want to step on Pokemon Sun and Moon, which launched today on the 3DS. Still, hardcore fans should be ready for the franchise's customary double dip sooner than usual.
For more coverage on the Nintendo Switch, here's everything we know so far.