It's a bit of an odd time for Pokémon. You could argue that the series has never been bigger, what with titles such as Pokémon GO and Pokémon Masters pulling in new fans on smartphones while movies like Detective Pikachu spread the brand across the world via the media of cinema.
However, the core of the Pokémon brand – the mainline video games – has come under fire lately due to proposed changes to the Pokédex; in short, developer Game Freak is taking out a load of older monsters in Pokémon Sword & Shield so it can focus on making the game as good as possible. This had led to some fans expressing their dissatisfaction, even going as far as to accuse Game Freak of cutting corners. Of course, it doesn't help that many of the hardcore fans consider the recent Let's Go titles to be too casual and child-focused.
Pokémon producer Junichi Masuda, who has been speaking to our friends at Eurogamer along with series game director Shigeru Ohmori, says that all feedback has to be taken on board, irrespective of if it's good or bad:
Eurogamer: Has some of that negative feedback on the Pokédex - which I'm sorry to dwell on - had much of an impact on morale at Game Freak? I know you've mentioned that you're personally disappointed to not be able to include all of the Pokémon. Did the team feel saddened by the reaction at all?
Junichi Masuda: Of course, you know, you see these sort of negative comments and it does, as a developer, make you feel a bit down about certain things. But at the same time, you have to take criticism. For example with Pokémon Let's Go, early on there were a lot of comments that it was too easy, or it was kind of a bit too "kid-focused" and that sort of thing. That sort of comment is something you see, and you take on board, and really try and base improvements in the next game on the feedback you received from the last one.
So, with regards to the Pokédex issue in particular that you've mentioned, that was something that was a really hard decision internally, there were a lot of discussions about which direction we should take that in, and ultimately we felt that, for the overall game, focusing on creating the richest experience we could within that game, leaving the Pokédex as we did was the best solution overall.
Ohmori also touches upon the issue of pleasing all elements of Pokémon fandom:
Do you feel like it's quite difficult to please everyone? With things like the Pokédex issue recently, or some people wanting either a more difficult or more welcoming experience, is there a difficulty or a pressure there?
Shigeru Ohmori: Yeah there is definitely a level of pressure when you're making the game, but it doesn't make developing a game feel stressful or anything like that. At the end of the day it's something that we love doing, and is really fun to do. But we definitely really want to answer all the wishes of our fans and live up to their expectations, which is something that's quite challenging, so, in that sense yeah there's definitely a pressure. But we also, within ourselves, always strive to make the best game, and really deliver something that we're proud of and that we feel fans are going to enjoy. So yeah there's a fun and a pressure in there.
We'll be running our own video interview with the core team later today. Pokémon Sword & Shield launches on 15th November 2019.