Pokemon Day needs to take a leaf out of Mass Effect's book

(Image credit: The Pokemon Company)

Last year, Pokemon Day was excellent. Pokemon Scarlet and Violet were revealed; new content came to both Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl and Legends: Arceus; the latter got a new anime announcement; and the ream of mobile and spin-off games - Masters Ex, Unite, Go, and Cafe Remix - all got their own minor updates. So after the success of Pokemon Day 2022, 2023's outing was deeply underwhelming.

Today's highlight was Pokemon Scarlet and Violet DLC. The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero follows the format established by Sword and Shield, with a two-part expansion bringing more past-gen Pokemon and some new legendaries to the game. There are some interesting designs, and I'm interested in the ways the DLC is looking to expand beyond Scarlet and Violet's academy walls, but I'll confess that I've yet to delve deep into Gen 9 - performance issues plagued the game at launch, and they don't seem to have been fixed yet. With the game in its current state, DLC feels pretty cheeky, even if it's not launching until the Fall.

Pokemon Sleep - an app that tracks your nocturnal activity to attract like-minded pals - was the second most-impressive reveal Nintendo had. Finally arriving more than four years after it was first announced, it's likely to be an interesting idea, but it's hardly the kind of thing that most fans are holding out for. Pokemon Concierge looks lovely, but the briefest glimpse at a single psyduck isn't enough to get me excited yet.

Beyond that, Pokemon Trading Card Game Classic looks cool, and I'm sure the Championships in Japan will be exciting, but both projects are too nebulous in their current form to get excited over right now. And with all that out of the way, the only things left were the same collection of mobile games; 3.5 years of Masters Ex, Zacian in Pokemon Unite, Paldea starters in Cafe Remix. Pokemon Go, at one time a bizarrely shining jewel in the Pokemon crown, didn't get a look-in beyond a tie-in to Pokemon Sleep.

(Not) the very best

The lacklustre show has been met with public disappointment by the community. On Reddit, a hype thread (opens in new tab) set up the day before the livestream was inundated with comments decrying the show as "lame," "underwhelming," and "extremely disappointing." In another post summarising everything we didn't get to see, one comment (opens in new tab) reads that "the entire direct could've been summed up in a single tweet," and that "we got nothing we didn't already know was gonna happen."

After last year, the appetite for a surprise reveal was palpable, and fans were quick to arm themselves with lists of everything that could have been announced; Nintendo Switch Online versions of Red and Blue are right at the top of that list, following on from the confirmation that Game Boy and GBA games would be making their way to the service; three years after the last game, Mystery Dungeon fans were particularly vocal in their desire for something new; it's been five years since Let's Go Eevee, and the desire for a new Gen 2 remake is palpable; even the anime - rebooting after 27 years as it nears Ash and Pikachu's swansong - didn't get a trailer for its new season.

Nintendo is in an odd spot at the moment. Reports suggest it won't be at E3 because of a lack of upcoming games big enough to warrant its presence at the show. The company has spoken multiple times about the difficulty of managing the Switch through its twilight years. But I don't think the solution to that quagmire is to take major franchises and drag them into the limelight for a relatively minor collection of announcements offering more in terms of ageing mobile games than new projects for major games.

Few franchises are beloved and enduring enough to have their own day on the calendar, and I can understand why Nintendo feels the need to lean into Pokemon Day, but that doesn't mean that it has to make a big show every year. Mass Effect's most recent effort is a great example of how to balance a fandom's desire for acknowledgement with its thirst for information - we're a long way out from whatever BioWare has to show off, so N7 Day 2022 leant on its community's enduring enthusiasm, letting them decipher something without turning it into grand spectacle. With Mario Day around the corner, I'm worried that Nintendo's attempt at a Direct Triple-Dip is spreading the Switch's limited remaining offerings too thin, and turning events like these from community celebration into little more than a corporate news-blast.

Gen 9's new update does mean that Scarlet and Violet DLC new Pokemon have been revealed.

Ali Jones
News Editor

I'm GamesRadar's news editor, working with the team to deliver breaking news from across the industry. I started my journalistic career while getting my degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick, where I also worked as Games Editor on the student newspaper, The Boar. Since then, I've run the news sections at PCGamesN and Kotaku UK, and also regularly contributed to PC Gamer. As you might be able to tell, PC is my platform of choice, so you can regularly find me playing League of Legends or Steam's latest indie hit.