Last week The Pokémon Company officially revealed Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee! for Nintendo Switch. The two Switch games, which combine classic Pokémon gameplay with elements from Pokémon GO, will release this November. If they're not your style, Nintendo will follow them up with a "core series RPG" next year.
So what about the future? Which one of these styles will be the future of the franchise? If the games are well received, the answer could be both. Series producer (and often director) Junichi Masuda sees Let's Go as a way to reach GO fans and show them more of the Pokémon world, but he doesn't want to abandon the more "core" fans who have been around for years.
How do you think the core RPG players will react to the Let's Go games? I know Pokémon Go was immensely popular but it had quite a mixed reaction amongst more 'hardcore' players - how do you appease those players and is it more a case that they should wait to 2019 for the game they're after?
Masuda: So the first thing I can say is that... I've been the director on the main series Pokémon RPGs - most of them, up until now - and there are a lot of kind of core tenets or rules of the series that I've never broke up until now, for example the whole idea of the flow of going into a battle against wild Pokémon, reducing their health and then catching them. 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. So that's one of the things I wanted to do...
... So for me, having worked on the Pokémon main series games, and Pokémon Go, both the players who have enjoyed our RPGs until now, all the fans are extremely important to me - but also the people who played Pokémon Go, and that was their first Pokémon game, they're also extremely important to me, and what I really want to do with these games is prevent both of these types of players from going in different directions, and I'm hoping that these games will kind of bring them together.
Related to that, looking forward, do you envisage there being two series of Pokémon games, say a Let's Go series and a main series like Sun and Moon - are there going to be two or are they going to come together again?
Masuda: So I'd say 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!
If Let's Go has a successful start and earns its spot as a spin-off series (like Mystery Dungeon), Game Freak will have effectively created a casucal-to-core Pokémon pipeline for the future. GO attracts players by the tens of millions with its zero-cost starting point and simple mechanics. Let's Go introduces these casual fans to more of the Pokémon world, including in-game regions and traditional battles. Then finally, the core games are there for the most dedicated of fans who want the deepest gameplay. It's a genius idea that will keep the franchise strong for years to come.