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Why Pokemon Switch Almost Certainly Won't be Released in 2018

A 2018 release for Pokemon Switch would break two decades of precedent.

Opinion by Kat Bailey, .

Excitement for Pokemon on the Switch is growing. Every passing day brings with it new rumors and speculation. Will it be at E3? Will it be out in 2018? Surely Nintendo needs something massive this year, right? Well if you're hoping for a big reveal this year, chances are you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

This is my own opinion, granted, but it's one grounded in past history. Here's why a 2018 release for Pokemon Switch would be unprecedented.

Pokemon Company CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara didn't believe in the Switch.

The Pokemon Company Didn't Think the Switch Would be a Success

Game Freak and The Pokemon Company tend to be very conservative as far as developers go. They are slow to migrate to new platforms, have a fairly rigid process, and rarely rock the boat in terms of the formula. While Pokemon is closely associated with Nintendo, The Pokemon Company guards its independence jealously.

With that in mind, Pokemon Company CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara's comments on the Switch last year were revealing. "I told Nintendo that Switch wouldn't be a success before it went on sale, because I thought that in the age of the smartphone, no one would carry out a game console. It's obvious I was wrong."

Ishihara's attitude was similar to other mainstream publishers, many of whom are only now seriously revving up production for the Switch. Pokemon on the Switch was probably inevitable, but if the Switch had been slow out of the gate, Game Freak might have waited longer than usual for the system to build up its install base. Or god forbid, even transitioned to Nintendo's mobile label.

Pokemon Switch was announced around E3 last year, but Game Freak had little else to say beyond that. We don't know how far along it is in development, but given Ishihara's comments, and the fact that Game Freak usually takes its time with new generations, it still feels like it's a year away.

Pokemon Black and White is the latest a new generation has been revealed.

Pokemon's New Generations are Usually Announced at the Beginning of the Year

If you've been following Pokemon long enough, you know that The Pokemon Company tends to follow a fairly rigid schedule when revealing new games. New generations are usually revealed around January or February, with new mechanics, starters, and modes being shown in the months after. The Pokemon Company finishes by sending producer Junichi Masuda and the new game's director on a single media tour right before launch.

The latest a new generation has been revealed is Pokemon Black and White, which was announced on April 9, 2010. Pokemon X and Y and Sun and Moon were first shown in January and February respectively. New generations are a big deal for Pokemon, and The Pokemon Company is quite particular about how they're promoted.

By that measure, it's a bit late in the day for what will surely be the biggest and most important Pokemon reveal to date. And until now, The Pokemon Company has never formally revealed a new generation at E3. Last year's confirmation is the closest the series has come to a true E3 reveal.

Things can change, of course, and there's still time for The Pokemon Company to take the wraps off the eighth generation. But it's more likely that the series skips a year. With Pokemon Sun and Moon being only two years old, Game Freak is apt to take its time and let the seventh generation breathe a bit.

Pokemon X and Y waited for refreshed hardware.

Pokemon Always Takes its Time Getting to New Platforms

Pokemon has never been released in the year after a new platform's release. Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, Diamond and Pearl, and X and Y all came in Year 3 of their respective platform's life cycle. By and large, Game Freak seems content to wait for a platform's install base to build up, and for any kinks to be ironed out. It's perhaps no coincidence that Pokemon Diamond and Pearl and X and Y launched not long after Nintendo refreshed the DS and 3DS with new hardware.

With The Pokemon Company being skeptical of the Switch's chances to begin with, it's hard to imagine the eighth generation breaking predecent and launching in Year 2. Game Freak has always been content to take its time with new games, and with the Switch continuing to break individual sales records, Nintendo doesn't really need to push the issue.

Moving to 3D was a big step for Pokemon. Moving to Switch will be bigger.

Pokemon Switch Will be the Most Complex Entry to Date

Pokemon's transition to the Switch will be a massive milestone for the series. For the first time ever, it will be playable on a home console. It's a release that will likely warrant a large graphical upgrade in addition to the usual array of new monsters, mechanics, and modes.

What's more, Game Freak will have to figure out what Pokemon on a home console will actually look like. How much emphasis will it put on the Switch's portability? What will the online modes look like? It's an even bigger transition for the series than when it entered 3D for the first time on the 3DS.

In addition, this is the first time Pokemon will be on Nintendo's primary platform. As I wrote way back in 2016, Pokemon has a chance to be the Switch's killer app. The pressure to get it right will be enormous.

So based on all of that: the fact that the seventh generation came out relatively recently; the enormity of the transition; the fact that the usual media cycle would be getting a late start, and The Pokemon Company's own professed reticence about the Switch, I just can't imagine it coming out in 2018. It would break every previous precedent and compress what would be an important promotional cycle for the series.

But who knows? This is a big generation for Pokemon, and things can always change. It may be that Game Freak is rushing development to take advantage of the moment that the Switch is having. I reserve the right to be surprised. I just don't think it's gonna happen this year.

Sorry everyone.

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Comments 13

  • Avatar for garion333 #1 garion333 3 months ago
    Rumors were swirling very early on that a Switch Pokemon was in development (ie. Pokemon Stars). I don't think they waited until the Ultra games were complete to begin on the Switch game, instead Ultra Sun & Moon were their bridge to the Switch game. It's hardly a coincidence that Game Freak was tight lipped about the Switch game until after Ultra released. That's just simple marketing 101: don't kill sales of your new game by talking about the next game on a new platform.

    I also believe that the Switch game will be within the same generation as Sun & Moon for simplicity's sake. They came up with a great region that resonated with fans, so seeing more Alola makes sense.

    There's also the wrinkle that Nintendo appears to be pushing titles out on a tight schedule. We're seeing Nintendo treat their games as services more than ever. ARMS and Splatoon 2 both came out a year earlier than if they had been released for, say, the Wii. Of course they're heavily mp games, but XC2 isn't. XC2 came in as hot as any Nintendo game ever and could still use some patching love (and is). Game Freak might be slow, but Nintendo is aggressively meeting their game release schedule in order to continue the hot hardware sales. That was one of the big things they wanted to make sure happened with the Switch: keep the titles coming. And its worked.

    Also consider the recent comments that year 2 of the Switch is meant to target gamers outside of the core. Labo is a good example of that, as will be Yoshi. What better to bring people back to gaming than Pokemon? Outside of Mario Kart and Mario platformers, I don't think there's a more widespread gaming property out there for Nintendo to draw people back in.

    I can see Pokemon coming early 2019 simply based on HD pipeline issues, but my guess is Nintendo still wants it for this year.
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  • Avatar for SIGGYZtar #2 SIGGYZtar 3 months ago
    I concur. I do not believe Pokemon Switch will come out this year, considering we already got Ultra Sun and Moon like a year after Sun and Moon. There's a thing called franchise fatigue, and some audiences are feeling the same with superhero movies. If they take a long time to make, it's okay to take a long time to come out, considering we can enjoy and chill out what exists already.

    I think Pokemon Switch will be an evolution on top of what Sun and Moon radically brought to the franchise, and with Detective Pikachu out, Game Freak could create an open world that is MUCH better than what we got in the Gamecube games.

    Personally I'm not holding my breath, as I really prefer Pokemon on lower powered systems, considering it's always a 200 hour game for me, and battery life is key in maintaining that. I do not want to play a game alternating between docked and handheld every two or three hours.
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  • Avatar for Number1Laing #3 Number1Laing 3 months ago
    Don't see it happening either. They have Super Smash Brothers coming out and that will probably be their big holiday title. Maybe they'll resurrect a franchise or two to surround it - we did hear that rumor about WaveRace recently.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #4 NiceGuyNeon 3 months ago
    I don't think it's coming this year either, but for a completely different reason that is just nowhere near as good as the precedent Kat writes.

    I just don't think it makes sense to bring out this year when you're making Smash Bros. your headliner. Nintendo does a good job right now of bringing out a first party title for system owners to play but they're smaller things like Kirby, or Wii U ports/remasters like Bayonetta 2. I think if a major game other than Smash Bros were to release it would make more sense for it to have released within these first 5-6 month of the year like Breath of the Wild did, and for the second to release towards the end of the year like Mario did.

    Then again, for all I know I could be dead wrong and Nintendo just announces Smash for October, Pokemon for November and Metroid for December. YOU NEVER KNOW
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  • Avatar for Jonnyboy407 #5 Jonnyboy407 3 months ago
    You are a fool, Kat! I full justified, prudent fool ;D

    However I'm going to play devil's advocate and say it will come out this year. I can't help but bet on a long shot
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #6 MetManMas 3 months ago
    I think another big factor to keep in mind is that the Nintendo Switch is also like $300. Pokémon has traditionally thrived on handhelds with a cheaper price point, and lest we forget Gen 6 released the same year as the more affordable 2DS did.

    If we see Pokémon Gen 8 on Switch, I'm betting it's either gonna be a dual 3DS/Switch release or there's gonna be a more affordable alternative Switch model available.
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  • Avatar for docexe #7 docexe 3 months ago
    I think it's possible it might come out this year. I don't think it's probable however.

    Fire Emblem seems more likely to be their big surprise at E3 for the holidays, with Smash Bros. as their primary headliner.

    If anything, Metroid Prime 4 and Pokémon Switch seem likely to be their trump cards for 2019.
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  • Avatar for Seaphron #8 Seaphron 3 months ago
    If we don't see Pokemon on the Switch this year it is because they did not finish developing it. plain and simple. Everything they have said and done point to November 2018.

    At E3 2017 they said they needed a little over a year.
    June 2017 to November 2018, in a world with Day 1 patches, is an additional 17 months of development time.

    With USUM they blatantly said that they had their rookies developing it. Aside from that they put out a statement that they would be the last titles on the 3DS.

    At the start of they year they put out an announcement that this would be a huge year for Pokemon and to stay tuned.

    As of their 2017 meeting last month they still have Pokemon listed as '2018 or Later'. Other titles like Metroid and Bayonetta 3 clearly say TBA.
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  • Avatar for TheWildCard #9 TheWildCard 3 months ago
    I would rather it didn't come out this year. The fanbase could use some breathing room (seems like a lot of fans are fairly sour on Ultra Sun and Moon) and I'd rather this big a of a jump not be rushed.
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  • Avatar for kyledominy52 #10 kyledominy52 3 months ago
    I’ll tell you right now im gunna be pretty disappointed if it doesn’t come out this year. Switch releases has been pretty disappointing for the past few months and the constant flow of subpar indies being poured into the store rather than something like a virtual console is seriously putting me off of the system.
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  • Avatar for Cherryd #11 Cherryd 3 months ago
    Much as I really wish you to be wrong, I strongly suspect that you will be correct. Part of me feels like Nintendo just don't "need" Pokemon to release this year, with sales of the Switch doing as well as it is, and with the titles already released and those forthcoming, I would think that Pokemon has some room to cook.

    Also, where ever I see 3DS being sold in stores, Pokemon is always the title that is most prominently displayed with it. I think that if Nintendo were to push the switch version out now it would destroy the bulk of any future 3DS sales that would have occurred, and I suspect that clearing through that inventory of systems and software is only good business sense than writing it all off.
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  • Avatar for vayupurana11 #12 vayupurana11 A month ago
    there's always at least a 3 year gap between new generations, most fans forget this.

    so now that is all out in open, it was yellow version remaks with PKMN GO features added heh
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