On September 10th, 2015 – a new Pokémon project was announced by Pokémon CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara and was in development for two years prior with the help of the late Satoru Iwata. This project was Pokémon GO and the trailer showed off trainers across the world catching, trading, and battling together within the real world. However, it wasn’t just with the help of Satoru Iwata and Nintendo that this project was able to come alive, but with the support of Niantic Inc. – a previous startup company under Google titled Niantic Labs that developed Ingress: a competitive location-based Augmented Reality Game. With Pokémon games such as Red, Blue, Black, and White already being based on our real world – bringing the world of Pokémon and our world closer together with the help of Niantic was the perfect fit. As stated “It was our collective goal for this to be a wholesome, fun game that families could enjoy together. An excuse to go outside, get some fresh air, and maybe discover new places together.”
Thus, on July 6th, 2016, our world was changed when Pokémon GO was released for Android and iOS devices. The game topped the charts instantly, with having about 35 Million downloads only within its first month, as stated by USAToday in their July 22nd, 2016 article: “Pokémon Go sets download record on Apple’s App Store”. Although not every aspect shown in the announcement trailer has been incorporated into the game, such as battling friends, the game is still immensely popular worldwide. As stated by Ishihara-san in the Pokémon 2018 Game Conference, the mobile title has reached 800 Million downloads.
With a mobile title this big, of course, it was also pulling in a lot of revenue for the companies involved. However, there was one thing stated by Masuda that would pave the way for the next mainline titles: “At the same time, I’m thinking of ways this new game will connect to future titles in the main series of Pokemon games.”
On May 28th, 2018, a Pokémon Press Conference was held in Japan where the future of Pokémon was discussed. Within that conference, the next mainline titles within the Pokémon franchised were revealed: Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu! and Let’s Go Eevee! , both for Nintendo Switch. Within the trailer, we not only saw the mainline series’ first step into HD but also the fact that it was inspired by Pokémon GO. Although the battle system against trainers is the same, catching Pokémon is now mechanically how it is in Pokémon GO. With the flick of your Joy-Con, you can catch the nostalgic Pokémon of the Kanto region as you explore a re-imagining of the GameBoy title: Pokémon Yellow.
Just as Masuda had hoped for, Pokémon GO is now touching the mainline series and can build upon what Pokémon has meant to do for two decades now. Connecting with friends and family by allowing two-player co-op within the game, so you can share your adventure with someone else. Creating the PokéBall Plus, so that you can bond with your Pokémon similarly to how you could with the PokéWalker for HeartGold and SoulSilver. And finally, continuing to have players search far and wide in the real world by allowing Pokémon from Let’s Go and GO to be sent between each other.
In the same vein that Pokémon Yellow was partially inspired by the Anime and was intended to introduce the younger audience to the franchise, Pokémon Let’s Go will not only do the same but also incorporate aspects of Pokémon GO – in order to introduce those fans into the main series. In other words, these games are being developed with the idea of bringing together everyone.
But, that doesn’t come without needing to balance things out. As stated by Gamespot’s “Everything We Know About Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee” article, The Pokémon Company didn’t make a comment on whether Let’s Go will be the games being used for their Video Game Championships next year. The answer MIGHT be No, as since there isn’t any breeding, competitive Pokémon who normally relied on it for IVs and EVs may suffer. When question by Eurogamer in a June Interview about the expected reaction of the hardcore fans, Masuda stated this in regards to changed catching mechanic: “That was one of the things that we just never wanted to change but, with these games specifically, I wanted to create a new experience for kids and with this time I decided to shift that towards more of a kind of casual, lighter experience.” In the same interview, when also questioned if Masuda could see Let’s Go as a series separate from the core, he stated: “ there’s a possibility of that, should the games sell really well and obviously a lot of people play them, but right now we’re really focusing on the development, and just getting a lot of people to play the games in the first place!”
Of course, there are also aspects that many hardcore fans have wanted to return, such as having your Pokémon follow you around. With Let’s Go, there is something for every Pokemon fan. However, it would be fair to say that Masuda’s intended goal is to reach to the younger generation and have them take their first leap into the Pokemon franchise.