Ponyta (and a Lot of Memes) Helped Save Pokemon's 24-Hour Stream

By Alistair Jones on at

Over the weekend Nintendo kicked off a 24-hour livestream for Sword and Shield. The broadcast, meant to imitate the hidden camera techniques used by nature researchers, was set up in the Galar region’s Glimwood Tangle to periodically capture the local fauna as they went about their business.

The thing is that, even if you're a Pokémon fan, that’s still not the most thrilling premise for a lengthy livestream, and it didn’t take long before viewers were complaining about the lack of action. One said that they’d been watching for 20 minutes “and haven’t seen not 1 Pokemon,” while another hoped that the entire region wasn’t as bare as Glimwood appeared to be.

As the hours ticked by, and still only a handful of creatures had been spotted, a kind of collective madness seemed to settle on the stream. One viewer joked that Nintendo had shown off “the evil legendary” right at the start of the stream, while someone else started to see faces in the mushrooms scattered across the screen. There were claims of Slenderman in the bushes. One question in particular appeared to sum up the stream: “Is this brainwashing?”

Fortunately, as the night wore on, the community rallied. Nintendo had presented them with a blank canvas, and, as if from nowhere, a new meme template was born. Over the following hours, a number of unexpected characters made their Galarian debut. In one clip, Undertale’s Sans popped up to introduce himself, while elsewhere, the Untitled Goose waddled menacingly across the forest floor.

The stream continued, and the jokes became even more self-referential. One viewer spotted Digimon’s Agumon standing awkwardly before the trail cam, but I think my personal favourite is a video of Sun and Moon’s Hau performing Shia La Beouf’s iconic (and fully choreographed) ‘Just Do It’ speech.

Fortunately, as even the good will of Pokémon fans began to ebb away, a new arrival showed its face to end the stream. For hours, it had existed only in the background, the sound of hooves or flash of a sparkly mane the only clues as to its identity. In the closing minutes of the broadcast, a pair of what looks like the Galarian form of Ponyta appeared in full view of the camera, frolicking for a few moments before cantering off-screen.

The new form is utterly adorable. It’s also presumably part of Nintendo’s attempt to appeal to the Brony markey now that Friendship is Magic is drawing to an end, but we shouldn’t let that detract from the reams of fan-art that have popped up since Ponyta’s magical arrival. The community has rallied around its new equine friend, with everything from anthropomorphised horse people to full-on My Little Pony crossovers.

While Ponyta's reveal does seem to have saved Nintendo from something of an own goal, overall reception to the stream was pretty mixed. An interesting idea, for sure, but one that was potentially just a little too drawn-out: I felt especially sorry for the fan who said they'd given up their lunch break to watch for an hour and seen almost nothing. Now, when are we getting Rapidash?