When you have something grow into a worldwide phenomenon, it’s only a matter of time until the support-base is fractured. As new writers take over, more movies get made, or games evolve, people will start clinging to their favorite versions of these characters or series. With Pokémon Sword and Shield, the community has found itself at a dead end. A point so fractured that a large chunk of individuals will be angry with every decision The Pokémon Company makes after this point.
There have been complaints about 3D Pokémon for years. Even thinking back into X and Y, I remember a lot of complaints about how the game just didn’t look good. People were slowly becoming angry that the series wasn’t evolving and moving on like Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, or even the Mario series. Ambitions were steadily rising, as people began to dream of what a Pokémon game on Wii U or a future console could look like.
When Nintendo revealed the first major Pokémon title on Switch, Let’s Go! Pikachu and Eevee, this all came to a boiling point. Let’s Go! was a simple attempt to retell the story of Kanto, but it introduced a lot of features from Pokémon Go! into the console titles. Red, Blue, and Yellow are still the most popular games in the series. While Let’s Go! didn’t look bad, it reuses almost all of its assets from previous titles on the 3DS. It’s a game industry standard, a practice we should all come to expect, but for many fans, it was a tipping point. The poor marketing left many questioning if it was a spin-off or the future of generational remakes, but were promised that the next big Pokémon experience would be coming soon.
Fans were still violently upset. Abhorrent comments were left everywhere under official posts or anyone who dared to show excitement for these titles. There were many petitions and forums dedicated to boycotting the game and its fans. All of this would be in vain as, in Japan, Let’s Go! debuted 661,240 physical copies sold in the opening weekend alone. In the United States, the game would sell well over 1.5 million units in the first ten days. Are the red flags waving in your face yet?
When Nintendo revealed Sword and Shield, the flames were stoked that much more. Once again, to make development a smoother experience, assets were plentifully reused. Naysayers of Let’s Go! were, once again, furious. Sword and Shield would be the first title to not include every Pokémon from the series’ history. This would begin a campaign among the most vocal of minorities to “bring back the national dex.”
When inquired about the missing monsters, Game Freak developers had stated cuts had to be made to ensure top quality 3D models and animation. After such an astounding comment, when fans got their hands on the games, nothing could live up to those expectations. Truthfully, a lot of textures and animations had been updated from the jump to Switch, but even I think some of these comments were a bit misleading to fans.
As Sword and Shield inched past launch, tensions were as high as they could be. There were millions disappointed about their favorites getting cut, but the number of people actively campaigning seemed to only be growing. Content creators were harassed for simply being excited or disappointed, even if they didn’t believe in the hate campaign going after the developers. You’d think this would translate into lost sales, but you probably know what’s coming. In Japan, Sword and Shield sold 2 million copies within the first three days of sale. It surpassed Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as the fastest-selling title in the region. In the United States, the game would sell 2 million copies in its first weekend. By the start of 2020, Sword and Shield had sold 17 million copies worldwide.
Before two thousand lasers line up to my head like a Tetris 99 match, I feel you’ll want my thoughts. I have personally fallen off of the franchise. I hated Sun and Moon, ignored the Ultra upgrades, was disappointed with Let’s Go!, and felt completely uninspired to beat Sword and Shield. I’m not a fan of the direction the series is taking, and I feel like an outsider looking in on this problem. You probably clicked for the catchy title, but who is failing to read the room? Certainly not Game Freak.
All images used sourced from official press kits provided by The Pokémon Company and Creatures, Inc.