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When do digital versions of Pokémon Sword and Shield unlock?

Pokemon Sword and Shield
Pokemon Sword and Shield (Image credit: Nintendo)

When do digital versions of Pokémon Sword and Shield unlock?

Best answer: Outside of the US, digital versions of Pokémon Sword and Shield will unlock at midnight local time. Within the US, they will unlock at midnight EST or 9 PM PST.Ready your sword: Pokémon Sword (opens in new tab) ($60 at Amazon)Hold up your shield: Pokémon Shield (opens in new tab) ($60 at Amazon)

Just how soon can you play Pokémon Sword and Shield?

With all the hype surrounding Pokémon Sword and Shield, it seems like we've been waiting ages to finally be able to play these games. The idea of waiting in line to buy a copy, only to have to drive all the way home may just be too much to bear. The anxiety of waiting on your postman to show up with the copy you preordered months ago is absolutely agonizing! Well, fear not! Thanks to the Nintendo e-shop, you can purchase your copies of Pokémon Sword and Shield now, get them installed before launch and all you'll have to do is turn on the console when the game launches. But when exactly is that launch?

While we've known for quite some time that Pokémon Sword and Shield would be available on November 15, 2019, actual release times for digital purchases have never been a consistent thing. Ideally, a prepurchased digital game would be available at midnight on release day but that has not historically been the case. I've lost count of the number of times I've prepurchased a game digitally, stayed up eagerly til midnight, only for it to simply not be available yet. In some cases, it took a couple extra hours; in others, it wasn't until the next morning (and trust me, that lack of sleep definitely killed some of the excitement!)

According to Polygon a spokesperson from Nintendo has confirmed that Pokémon Sword and Shield will go online at midnight worldwide in local timezones where the Nintendo eShop is available, except in the US. Unlike other countries where local timezones will determine release time, in the US, Pokémon Sword and Shield will have a countrywide launch. This means that come midnight EST, the games will be available for the entire country. If you're living on the Pacific Coast, Pokémon Sword and Shield should unlock at 9 PM (and I'm only regreting my East Coast home a little bit, I swear!)

Pre-install to play immediately

We have confirmed this information with our own contact at Nintendo. In the meantime, be sure you've pre-ordered your copy of Pokémon Sword or Pokémon Shield (or both!) and have it pre-installed so you can be among the first to dive into the Galar Region! Also, be sure to check out our many upcoming guides for Pokémon Sword and Shield as our devoted team will have them up in the coming hours!

Casian Holly has been writing about gaming at iMore since 2019, but their real passion is Pokémon. From the games to the anime, cards and toys, they eat, sleep, and breathe all things Pokémon. You can check out their many Pokémon Go and Pokémon Sword and Shield guides and coverage here on iMore.