There's a saying that people don't know what they have until it's gone. For me as a Pokémon fan, that something is peace and quiet. I feel as though there's news about new games in the Pokémon franchise around every corner, and it's difficult to keep my focus on any one game. When the newest games, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, were announced at the end of the recent Pokémon Presents, the first thought that came to my mind was, "wait, didn't we just do this?"
My fear is that Pokémon fans, unaccustomed to their new bountiful selection of big games, may end up experiencing some burnout — "Pokémon fatigue," if you will. Too much of a good thing does indeed exist, and in this case, it may lead to some fans either feeling unable to enjoy these games because they weren't given enough time to. Even worse, they may pick and choose which games to dedicate their attention to, causing them to miss out on some genuinely good experiences in the process.
A Psyduck-sized headache
Analysis paralysis is a psychological phenomenon in which the stress from making a decision is so great that the affected tends not to make a decision at all. As it relates to making decisions, this is sometimes referred to as "choice paralysis," when too many options present themselves to someone, making it difficult to single any one option out.
Think of those times where you wanted to play a game from your huge backlog, but ended up replaying an old game you enjoyed because you simply couldn't decide. Starting a new game is a huge commitment, especially when it comes to learning new mechanics and adjusting to new difficulty curves. In the case of Pokémon, you're usually committing to at least 30-40 hours of game, team building, and getting used to whatever new gimmick Game Freak throws your way, all while grumbling about them leaving out your old favorite gimmicks.
Having Pokémon Legends: Arceus release a mere two months after the Gen 4 remakes, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl was overwhelming as it is. I never finished the Gen 4 remake because of its lack of quality-of-life features and wanted to take my time to experience it, only to be smacked by a cake lure in Legends: Arceus and move on to that game.
Now, with Pokémon Scarlet and Violet being announced at the end of the February 2022 Pokémon Presents as Nintendo's signature "one more thing," I feel even more pressured to finish both Sinnoh games before moving on to the new ones.
Spread thinner than a Centiskorch
Pokémon games, with the exception of games like Legends: Arceus, typically release in mid- to late November. Should Pokémon Scarlet and Violet follow this trend, it would mean that we'd have received three full-scale Pokémon games in the span of 12 months. Not only did we get three mainline games, we also got the New Pokémon Snap spinoff. That's... a lot of games.
Fatigue isn't unique to Pokémon games. Franchises like Kirby saw a whopping four games on the Nintendo DS, and two games on the Nintendo 3DS that each had two sub-games, which ended up becoming stand-alone titles on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. In 2014, the Assassin's Creed franchise saw Assassin's Creed Rogue and Assassin's Creed Unity released on the same day, and Assassin's Creed Freedom Cry re-released, after making its debut the year prior as DLC for Black Flag. Less than a year later, fans got Assassin's Creed Syndicate, followed by three spinoff games releasing over the course of another year. It's no surprise that some got tired of the series, and the developers went back to the drawing board as a result.
Pokémon fans who keep up with the video game industry are well aware of how many things are tied to the release of the video games, including the trading card game, animated shows, themed merchandise, movies, tournaments, and other events. All of these components of the Big Pokémon Machine need to coincide perfectly, like the intricate cogs found in a Klinklang (or, y'know, just a regular clock).
Despite all the money and resources available to all who work at Game Freak, Creatures Inc., and The Pokémon Company as a whole, each subsidiary is beholden to the other. It is one of those gigantic media franchises that, barring serious disaster, literally cannot afford to undergo any kind of delays, no matter how necessary. We've barely been able to breathe after two games back-to-back, and while I'm not into the card game myself, I can imagine that this is a lot for those fans as well.
I would be lying if I didn't notice a need for polish in Pokémon Legends: Arceus.
I previously spoke about how Game Freak's decisions hurt Pokémon, noting that the pressure to keep up with both remakes and new games has seemed to be detrimental to the quality of these games. Many fans agree that the story, mechanics, and presentation of the Gen 4 remakes and Pokémon Sword and Shield could have been improved with more time for development. I expressed concern over what those games meant for the quality of Legends: Arceus and while I was pleased with the end result, I would be lying if I didn't notice a need for polish in that game as well.
Game Freak ended up needing 1,000 people to get through Sword and Shield's development and marketing just to get it out in time, and having to outsource the development of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl to ILCA. Pokémon games, unlike those in other franchises on the Nintendo Switch, are not given the luxury of being delayed. Scarlet and Violet are being developed by Game Freak, and if they follow the November trend of past mainline games, will release less than 10 months after the release of Legends: Arceus. It doesn't seem sustainable, and risks disappointment for both the developers who work hard to finish a product in a limited timeframe, as well as the consumer who just wants a good game, no matter how long it takes.
Pressure doesn't always make a Diancie
Of course, players could just choose to not buy every single game that releases. I'd argue there are several things working against this, though. Pokémon games are some of the few games that only rise in price after their release, with little to no instances of these games going on sale outside of retailers, alongside the demand for Pokémon games growing every year. Some people's only means of acquiring these games is on exploitative second-hand markets.
There's also the issue of Mystery Gift promotions. Players who wait before purchasing Pokémon games these days can potentially lose out on helpful items, exclusive clothing pieces, and even rare mythical and legendary Pokémon, such as the Manaphy Egg distribution for early adopters of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl.
Pokémon, at its core, is a social game. The very production and release of two titles in each mainline generations exists because Game Freak wants to encourage fans to come together, discuss their different experiences, and trade Pokémon in an attempt to catch 'em all. When fans are faced with the decision to potentially skip a game or two because it's not economically feasible for them to spend so much money on games, they risk suffering from FOMO, or the Fear of Missing Out. When this happens, not only are consumers unhappy, but Game Freak loses out on sales as well. Some may force themselves to spend money that they don't have in order to keep up with the conversation.
I've also heard the argument that games aren't that expensive anyway so buying multiple games a year at launch isn't a big deal. This isn't the reality for the majority of people, and as someone who grew up in the Global South who had limited access to video games, I find this argument a bit short-sighted.
At the end of the day, developers suffer as well. The best new ideas are often born in a healthy environment. As a franchise that prides itself in introducing new gimmicks in each game, it's important that developers get breaks to keep these new ideas fresh and interesting, as opposed to existing for their own sakes. Pokémon isn't exactly known for its award-winning stories either, and I worry that these may suffer even more as creators get less time to flesh out plot lines.
Just take a look at what happened to Assassin's Creed. After the disastrous launch of Unity and the middling sales of Syndicate, Ubisoft took a step back in 2016 to rethink its development cycle. This resulted in a soft reboot of the series with Assassin's Creed Origins. While the series was able to right itself, I don't want to see Pokémon go down the same path.
Feeling like a dizzy Spinda
While I can't speak for everyone, the general consensus among the Pokémon fans around me is that a solid game every few years is better than rapid-fire games that leave much to be desired. I'm always excited for games set in warm and tropical climates — despite its many issues, the games set in the Alolan region felt like home to me.
In the same vein, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet being set in what seems to be Spain makes me very excited, so these games are definitely on my radar. These games being open-world is also exciting, and I'm interested in how Game Freak builds on the mechanics of Legends: Arceus. However, the burnout is definitely creeping in and I feel pressured to finish the other Pokémon games on Switch for the sake of finishing them. I'm sure I'm not the only one who would be happier if Generation 10 comes out after a little Pokébreak.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus
Create the first Pokédex
Choose from a medley of starters: Cyndaquil, Rowlet, or Oshawatt, and embark on a journey through feudal Sinnoh ad you strive to create the very first Pokédex. This open-world adventure is a whole new take on the Pokémon formula, with new mechanics and mysteries to uncover.
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