What Does the Success of Pokemon: Let’s Go Mean for the Future?

The Spin-Off's Sales Take Off

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Pokemon: Let’s Go has proven to be a very successful. Despite a lukewarm reception from some fans the game has boasted impressive initial sales. The game has shifted a lot of copies, and a lot of Switch consoles to go with it. Unsurprisingly, this news has not sat well with some fans who have taken to ‘review bombing’ the game in an effort to show their dissatisfaction with the direction of the series. But does the success, or failure, or Let’s Go really have any bearing on the ‘main’ Pokemon games? (It is being positioned as a spin-off, after all). Here’s a quick overview of some of the main criticisms of Let’s Go and whether they’re anything to worry about.

Kanto Again?

Pokemon: Let’s Go leans heavily on nostalgia. The game is at least partly aimed at lapsed Pokemon fans. This includes older players who remember the first series of the anime and are only familiar with the first Pokemon generation. This is most apparent in one of the game’s trailers which set footage to the original theme tune.

The Kanto region is pretty familiar to longtime Pokemaniacs. It was the setting for the original releases of Red and Blue, the original Yellow, the remakes Fire Red and Leaf Green – not to mention being present in Gold and Silver and their DS remakes. Its never looked this good before, though. For many younger players Let’s Go is likely to be their first trip into the Kanto region – and its the natural starting point. With 7 generations there are an overwhelming amount of Pokemon these days  – for newer trainers the halcyon days when there were only 151(ish) to memorize only makes sense.

The lack of new Pokemon, give or take Meltan, is an unfortunate downside of this. The Pokemon series has a habit of releasing ports, updates and remakes as far back as the Gameboy Colour though – this is not something to hold against Let’s Go.  The accessibility of older titles, as well as diving back into older regions, is a part of the series that many love. If every Pokemon game added a wave of new creatures we’d either have a lot less Pokemon games or a heck of a lot more forgettable Pokemon.

Too Easy?

The other major, highly visible, influence is clearly Pokemon Go. The mobile game’s mechanics have been inserted into the standard Pokemon formula – the most obvious being a simplified catching mechanic. Instead of whittling down a beasts health (hoping you don’t kill it outright) you now … just throw balls at them. Its perhaps not so much a difficulty issue as it is oversimplifying things. Catching Pokemon in the old manner was a major part of the game and the game’s lore. Pokemon Go continues to be a success in its own right, with this tie in title positioned to reinvigorate it further. A newly announced community day seems similarly aimed at lapsed players, and the game regularly receives updates. The aligning of a full handheld title to Go is certainly disappointing – but its not necessarily a bad thing. Pokemon Sun & Moon already attracted criticism for being too easy with its concessions towards newer, younger players. It seems like if that demographic can be satiated with a spin-off that can only be a good thing for veteran trainers.

An assortment of items Pokemon can hold
A Pokemon’s ability in action in Pokemon X

 

The game retains some of its complexities – chiefly IVs and EVs. Almost hidden statistics that determine your Pokemon’s potential to be a contender at the higher levels of play. The series has been slowly making this numbers easier to deal with, making them more visible, and easier to train and breed. So does this mean Let’s Go balances the complexity just right? Absolutely not. Two of the main game-play additions in the second and third generations have been entirely stripped out: held items and abilities. Both of these not only added variety to game play and strategy, but also Pokemon in general. They were also a lot easier to understand than EVs and IVs. Its hard to imagine a core Pokemon game without these so presumably they will make a return.

Ruining the Main Series?

Pokemon is a series that is far from a stranger to spin-offs, even ones that are still RPGs. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon and Pokemon Ranger even went on to have series in their own right without infringing upon the territory of the core games. And there have been spin-offs way worse than those. The Pokemon company was quick to announce another Pokemon game would be appearing next year, 2019. Presumably in an effort to curtail the backlash against Let’s Go from “hardcore” players – if that’s even a term we can use to describe the Pokemon fan base. Its not hard to imagine that if Pokemon Let’s Go proves to be a huge earner that it will impact the core series – the video game industry is fuelled by imitating the popular, and giving gamers more of what they’re already buying. Why divide sales, though? If you can sell Switch owners and Pokemon fans two games that seems a better move than putting all your Pokeballs in one basket.

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Matt Crofts
Matt is the SFFN's Retro Editor, focusing on all things old but interesting, including (but not limited to!) books, movies and video games. As a researcher in Gothic literature Matt also has an affinity for black cats, Hammer horror, and all things Dracula.