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Does Pokémon Sword And Shield’s DLC Give Us Insight Into The Series’ Evolution?

GameFreak have revealed that the next Pokémon Sword and Shield DLC; the Crown Tundra will release on the 22nd October 2020. But bring your coat, it’s about to get chilly!

Aside from Crown Tundra being a Galar region winter wonderland, we imagine it will have a lot in common with the game's previous DLC pack the Isle of Amour.

This doubled down on the exploration gameplay offered by Pokémon Sword and Shield. It was also much more ‘open’ than previous entries in the series.

This may give us a window into Nintendo’s plans for the future of the series.

Where Does Pokémon Go From Here?

Like any JRPG exploration has always been an important aspect of Pokémon. Even from the earliest of entries.

Be it scurrying around in the long grass or randomly entering the homes of town dwellers, to swimming into caves! Pokémon has rewarded those who go off the beaten track.

The social aspect of Pokémon has also been important, trading and battling other players particularly. While older entries needed cables and actual friends to do these things, the internet has changed this.

Even since the Nintendo DSi, Pokémon has embraced the gameplay advantages the web has brought. But said gameplay has always remained relatively traditional.

Despite the advancements in technology, trading and battling other players was always a side pursuit for those willing. Also, despite the illusion of freedom, the games have always been rather linear.

Pokémon Is Due It’s ‘Breath Of The Wild’ Moment

Online elements in Pokémon have been strictly controlled in the past and entirely optional. Players have had the freedom to dip in and out if they want, or totally ignore them.

But Pokémon Sword and Shield seemed keen to push players to explore a more open world than before. It also really wanted us to engage in online play, making this a focal point of the ‘Wild Areas’.

It seemed like this gameplay was deliberately experimental. Nintendo were keen to dip their toe into the water of an open world, or at least they wanted us to dip.

This is very exciting if true. Imagine if Pokémon really did create world like Hyrule in Zelda Breath of The Wild. Better yet, what if we could explore it with our friends?

The Nintendo Switch Pro is on the horizon, could a fully online Pokémon MMO be on the cards? Or would the game offer a large open world experience (like Zelda) but allow MMO elements. Like Monster Hunter World perhaps?

This is a tantalizing prospect. It’s also something lots of Pokémon fans have wanted for a long time.

But there could be one thing holding the idea of a Pokémon MMO back – The way we currently enjoy the series.

Empowering The Player

In our view there’s one barrier to the series going down this route – Pokémon is a narcistic paradise. And we mean that in the nicest possible way.

We’re not suggesting every Pokémon player is indeed a narcissist, or even possess any of the negative character traits associated with this state. That would be utterly ridiculous.

In fact, several members of the Gaming Intel team are proud Pokémon fans – despite some of us being in our mid-thirties. We’ve been with the series since Red and Blue.

No, what we mean is Pokémon appeals to the narcissistic elements that live within us all. The idea that what we do matters above all else.

To explain further, there’s no way to lose at Pokémon. The moment we pick our starting critter we know we’re destined to be champion.

We know the gym leaders will fall to our might, one by one, that our rival will inevitably stumble as we surpass them. That we’ll defeat some inept team of goons and tame a legendary beast before their rampage destroys the world.

In fact, we’ll bend that Pokémon to our will and use it to conquer everyone else in our path. But with a smile on our cherubic face – and as the whole world showers us in praise.

Essentially, we can do no wrong. We shape the world around us, it’s our path (and only ours) that matters. And like each of the Pokémon we catch, that world utterly submits to our greatness.

Now imagine sharing that with others.

Sharing The Sandbox

Could this be what’s holding Nintendo back from creating a truly open world Pokémon game in which other player's decisions matter as much as ours? Would that kill what makes Pokémon so addictive?

Could changing the formula so drastically to accommodate others damage what we get from Pokémon? A formula that’s worked well for over 20 years. Technology now allows this evolution, yet it’s yet to occur.

The Elder Scrolls games also offer a similar feeling of empowerment, many players were put off by the idea of The Elder Scrolls Online. Sure, they were excited by the idea at first, but really; that level 50 Nord battlemage will never be the one true Dragonborn.

Pokémon going MMO could have the same effect. When you can see other players beating the Pokémon League every ten minutes it ceases to make your achievement special.

The Formula Needs To Evolve

While the above is just a theory on our part, we could be wrong. It at least gets us thinking about what Pokémon could do to slide into the world of 4K and seamless online gameplay.

We actually believe that a compromise could be reached. Something that allows Pokémon to exist in its pure player empowering form, but also enables us to share the sandbox - when we choose.

Splitting the game between single player ‘story quests’ and team missions could be a way that Pokémon could incorporate MMO elements. But also retain what makes the series fun for solo players.

While we feel like a fully-fledged Pokémon MMO could risk diluting the formula too much, it still needs a shake-up. Otherwise the formula could go stale.

Some argue it already has. We imagine GameFreak and Nintendo have already explored these ideas, but are already working on a concept that works – and appeals to everyone.

The possibilities are endless, as is the enduring appeal of Pokémon.