Pokémon Let’s Go: A response to OJ of PlayerEssence

As is well-known in the Nintendo community on YouTube, Pokémon Let’s Go has received a mixed reception from fans. Super simplification of the more challenging elements, removal of several core game mechanics,  building the game around Pokémon Go in an attempt to draw in those fans, re-treading the Kanto region for the 5th time, there are a myriad of reasons for fans to have a lukewarm-to-negative response to these games.

OJ, of the PlayerEssence Nintendo and Video Game YouTube channel. Has been vehemently defending these titles from all criticism from the time they were merely rumors. He has faced some push-back, and in response he has dismissed most concerns as baseless. and has engaged in attacking and mocking the Pokémon fans “for the entertainment” of his community at large.

OJ’s main claim is that none of the concerned Pokémon fans counter his arguments (though whenever he hears an argument that he can’t really address he has dismissed it as “fake outrage”), and that he doesn’t understand what these fans are concerned over. So, giving OJ the benefit of believing his claim to be in good faith, here are a sampling of the major concerns that many fans are having regarding Let’s Go. Keeping in mind that a true main Pokémon game is scheduled to release in 2019.

1. Removal of core game play mechanics.

This one is probably the biggest concern for most fans OJ’s arguments for this point are that the game is meant as an expanded version of  Pokémon Go, so the mechanics need to mirror the bare-bones system of that game to appeal to the Go players, and for the main fans everything they want will be in the 2019 game.

The are some major flaws in this line of reasoning, the first is that the Leg’s Go games are intended as a testing ground. OJ himself even admits this fact, but what he fails to acknowledge is that as a testing ground the sales of this game will be closely observed compared to the main Pokémon games, and the outcomes of Let’s Go will have an impact on the series going forward without question. For an example look no further than the DS, which was initally revealed as a “Third Pillar” to exist alongside the Game Boy Advance and the Game Cube, then the DS’ sales took off, and it replaced the Game Boy as Nintendo’s handheld system. If Let’s Go were to explode and hit 60 million units, this would tell the developers that the Go style of game is more profitable, and it would be best to shift development focus to this wildly profitable game style. It’s good business. The result would be that either they slowly transition, keeping Let’s Go as a separate thing as they slowly drop features from the main games and move them closer to Go style, and then ultimately merge drop the main series with Let’s Go taking up the banner. The other option is that they rip off the band-aid quickly and the next game after 2019 is Go style, the nuclear option is to interrupt or cancel 2019’s development in order to overhaul it into a Go style game. Some of these scenarios are more likely than others, but ALL of them are possible if Let’s Go were to get significant enough sales. And speaking of sales, that brings up the next point.

2. The Pokémon Go audience is very different from the main series audience.

In OJ’s defense of the game he brings up for huge the Pokémon Go audience is, and posits that since Let’s Go is made to cater to this audience, combined with the fact that it is the first Pokémon game for Nintendo Switch, it is destined to have big sales. OJ may be right on this point to an extent, as he is over-estimating the Go audience’s willingness to commit to a game, and his underlying assumption appears to be that all changes made to the game to appeal to this audience will be good for the series. Starting with the Go players. A large factor in Pokémon Go’s success was the low barrier of entry. The game is a free app for mobile phones. The game had hundreds of millions of players that downloaded the game because it was popular and free, and never even played it. This phenomenon is not possible to replicate on the Switch.  Let’s Go is a $60 game on a $300 console that requires $20 a year for online so you can use what internet features the games have, and this is before we get into any possible micro-transactions. And even if that barrier didn’t stop them, the fact that it is a “full-fledged” game would. Why buy Let’s Go for the switch when it’s not socially acceptable to carry a Switch around, and you can’t do the AR and Social game play things you can with Go? At the crux of Let’s Go is an attempt to jam to entirely different game design philosophies together.

3. Value for the price.

At a minimum price of $60 a piece Let’s Go costs 20% more than the previous Pokémon games in the series. Of course, this is to be expected with the jump from handheld to home console, however, what wasn’t expected was the severe drop in quality and amount of content compared to the last Pokémon games. Let’s Go has only 151 Pokémon playable; it’s a remake of not only an older game, but the most remade and retreaded game in the series, so there will be very little in the way of new story content; The game has been made easier, and core game mechanics have been removed to integrate mechanics from a free-to-play mobile game; the staple mechanics that do remain are stripped down of everything that has evolved over the series’ 20 years trading and battling are basic 1-to-1, gone are the semi-hubs and the multiple options for trading and battling, including the online matchmaking for trading and battles. Imagine that this was the next Call of Duty, Uncharted, or Halo. The fans would be rioting and burning down everything over a new game that is 20% more expensive bug has significantly less content than the previous entry in the series. All things considered, the Pokémon fans that OJ finds so ravenously unreasonable are having a mild response to a pretty severe case of being shortchanged, especially for the series’ big debut on a home console.

4. Other Spin-offs.

OJ brings up the other spin-offs and questions why fans weren’t concerned about them influencing the main series. This question comes from OJ  appearing to not fully understand who makes what games in the Pokémon franchise, which is very common among more causal fans. The breakdown is this, Game Freak inc. is the developer of the Main Series of Pokémon games, they made all of the traditional games, the handheld RPGs from Red/Blue up to Ultra Sun/Moon. The spin-offs had not ever been developed by Game Freak. Up until now, they work exclusively on the main series games. Hal Laboratories made Stadium, Genius Sonority made the Colosseum games, Battle Revolution, etc. and so on. Pokémon Quest, and Let’s Go are the FIRST spin-off games to be made by the developers of the main series games. This is why Let’s Go is in a category of it’s own compared to the other spin offs. These games are made by the people that literally make Pokémon. Hey You Pikachu was never going to impact the development of the main series, Let’s Go can and will. So there is cause for concern. Especially considering that Game Freak is still a relatively small dev, and they tend to develop games on a semi-concurrent schedule so Let’s Go was being worked on as they were working on Gen 8, so even if there is no direct influence on gen 8, which we won’t know one way or the other until we get some solid info on the games, Let’s Go indirectly influenced development through splitting resources and time at the very minimum. OJ talks about how it wouldn’t have been possible to have Gen 8 ready for 2018, well we know this is most certainly true since a nice chunk of resources went into making Let’s Go that couldn’t be allocated to making gen 8.

So here we have it, some of the major concerns that fans have about Let’s Go. OJ will never read this or respond, since his style is to have live debates on stream to entertain his fan base. What matters more is that the concerns are out there. The  Let’s Go games are an experiment, which means they are made for feedback. The market will decide if Let’s Go is a profitable idea, at least in the short term, and the response of long-time fans is a part of that market feedback process, it is up to Game Freak to decide if and how they they will address fan concerns, but they need to hear the it first, which is why the fans will continue to express themselves. “Fake outrage” is a fake response to legitimate concerns about a future that is uncertain.

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