Why Nintendo Still Won't Make Pokémon For Home Consoles

By Keza MacDonald on at

Pokémon Game Freak has spoken before about why Pokémon has always been a portable game rather than a home-console game: to enable the trading, battling and sharing that has been at the heart of the series since people were playing it on black-and-white Game Boys tied together with link cables. Pokémon's creator Satoshi Tajiri used to imagine little creatures making their way across those cables, from one system to another.

But now that even Nintendo has grudgingly implemented online functionality into most of its games (though not always perfectly), isn't that reasoning a little outdated? Hasn't the Internet enabled most of what was only possible on handheld consoles before? Perhaps, but series director Junichi Masuda is still adamant that Pokémon is still at home on handhelds - and it's not just because of tradition.

"There are different types of people out there - people who want to play at home at their own pace and really just enjoy the world, and people who want to play with other players, meet them in real life, Masuda tells me. "What I’ve always said about the reason we put Pokémon on the handheld systems is that a handheld system allows you to do both. You can play at your own pace at home, but you can also go out and meet with other people, and I like to think that the power of Pokémon is the power of communication. Pokémon brings people together, and I really like that element, which is why we continue to put them out on handhelds.

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2014's Pokémon Worlds final, in Washington DC.

"But there are a lot of people who want a home console version, we know. Especially now with internet features that let people battle and trade. But the way that handhelds allow people to come together... if we could figure out a way to make that happen on consoles it would be an option on the future, but right now that’s just not possible. If you've ever been in the audience at the Pokémon World Championships, that's my ideal for Pokémon, all these people gathering together and playing with each other. If there were a way that a console could enable that, it might be an option, but right now, handheld it is."

The competitive Pokemon scene is clearly of huge importance to Junichi Masuda. He's very active on Twitter with the Pokemon community, and he almost always puts in an appearance at the Pokemon Worlds - not to give interviews or drum up interest, but because he seems to genuinely love to be there. Indeed, the Pokemon competitive scene is a prime consideration whenever they're making a new Pokemon game, he says.

"I definitely pay a lot of attention in particular to live events when we’re developing a new game - I love occasions where people gather, and we always try to think of way to make those gatherings more exciting. For instance, X and Y really focused on the camera work a lot, so the angles are changing dynamically - that makes it more exciting to watch at a tournament."