Pokemon Switch release date, news and everything else we know so far

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As we inch closer and closer to E3, the rumours surrounding the upcoming Pokemon Switch game are increasing in size and number. The Pokemon Company and developer GameFreak have already confirmed the game is coming, but the latest rumours suggest that the pair of titles will arrive in the Autumn entitled Pokemon Let's Go! Pikachu and Pokemon Let's Go! Eevee.

GameFreak confirmed a Pokémon game is in development for Switch back at E3 2017. In the latest financial results for the company, it was confirmed that the next Pokémon RPG would arrive in "2018 or later", which isn't exactly reassuring, although that fact has been repeated in the latest Nintendo financial earnings. We'd expect a Pokemon Switch release date to lie somewhere around Christmas, with that "or later" part added as a buffer just in case that date slips into early 2019.

Whenever it arrives, it'll be a big deal for The Pokémon Company. A mainline Pokémon game has never been released on a home console; they’ve always been handheld exclusives. Yes, you can argue that the Switch is still a handheld, but the fact you can play it on the TV too will mean a major graphical overhaul.  Whether it’s the rumoured Pokémon Stars or something different, here’s everything we know so far about the upcoming Pokémon Switch game. 

A core Pokémon game is in development for Switch

During the big E3 2017 Nintendo Direct, Tsunekazu Ishihara, President and CEO at The Pokémon Company, takes the time to show off Pokkén Tournament DX for the Switch. But he also drops a tantalising news nugget. He teases that there is indeed a Pokémon Switch game being worked on. 

“GameFreak has begun developing a core RPG Pokémon title on Nintendo Switch,” says Ishihara. “It may not release for more than a year, but we’ll hope you look forward to it all the same.”

And that was it. Ishihara-san’s section of the E3 Direct finishes and we’re left none the wiser about this “core Pokémon RPG”. We do at least know that the game will be a mainline title like Pokémon Sun and Moon, rather than any kind of spin-off like Pokkén Tournament or Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon.

“With the Switch, we see it as a chance to create Pokémon that goes deeper and with a higher level of expression,” says Ishihara in an interview with Bloomberg. “As a result, that makes it an extremely important platform. Right now we’re using 7 to 8 inch screens, but on a high-definition TV you can express a whole different world with graphics and sound.”

He also spoke about the Switch’s capability for instant local co-op and the fact GameFreak is already considering how that could affect the next game in the Pokémon series. “Until now, games were made as one for one person, but now you can go home and play with everyone -- so how do we tackle these themes, and how do we make sure it’s not complicated?”

Will the first Pokémon Switch game be a Kanto remake?

Leaked image from alleged Pokémon Switch game

The latest rumour surrounding the upcoming Pokémon Switch game is that it will be a return to Kanto, probably something to do with a Pokémon Fire Red and Leaf Green remaster. The above (albeit rather blurry) image was published by PokéJungle in March 2018, but it has since been taken. However, it shows a trainer riding a Lapras through what looks like a very familiar area, namely Route 21 that led to Sevii Islands. 

It could well be that we're getting a remake and then, later on, a brand new Pokémon RPG on Switch.

Pokemon Switch is called Let's Go Pikachu and Let's Go Eevee?

Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu

Although, there's additional fuel for at least a game focusing solely on the Generation 1 Kanto Pokemon. Details appeared on 4chan outlining two
Pokemon Switch games called Pokemon Let's Go! Pikachu and Pokemon Let's Go! Eevee, both of which are allegedly arriving this Autumn. It seems like the games will somehow tie in with the mobile success that is Pokemon Go. According to Nintendo insider, Emily Rogers, there will be a Pokemon Switch announcement before the end of the month - although according to all the Nintendo E3 rumors, it'll be at the Direct on June 12. 

"As we wait for an announcement on the upcoming Pokemon title, which will be revealed before the end of this month, think about what Pokemon Go might mean for the future of the Pokemon series," explained Rogers in a blogpost. "I suspect that the naming/branding for this year's Pokemon Switch title (there's two versions) might raise a few eyebrows." 

Well, taking Rogers' track history with Nintendo leaks into consideration, it certainly adds weight to the idea that the upcoming Pokemon Switch games will be titled Let's Go! Pikachu and Let's Go! Eevee. It also ties nicely into the whole portability of Switch too. 

The domain names for both titles have also been registered too, and another 4chan post from the same tipster seemed to suggest that the duo of Let's Go! titles "first release" would feature "only Kanto Pokemon". Check it out in this series of screenshots that was posted to Twitter.

There are even rumblings that this game will be set "100 years after" the original Pokemon Red and Blue titles.

Pokémon Stars or something else entirely?

According to a report from Eurogamer, the Pokémon game coming to Switch is Pokémon Stars, a spin-off from Pokémon Sun and Moon similar to what Pokémon Yellow did for Pokémon Red and Blue back in the day. 

Apparently, Pokémon will be tradeable between Pokémon Sun, Moon and Stars via Pokémon Bank, which means the app is also getting a Switch version. It sounds like Pokémon Stars will feature the same storyline, location and Pokémon as Sun and Moon, but with higher resolution textures and assets. Some of those have already been teased too, including the HD in-game model for Pikipek:

There is also a moment in the Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon reveal trailer that is very much in HD - especially compared to the rest of the footage. When the Z-Move is showed off, the graphics switch from 3DS quality to something that wouldn’t look out of place on the Switch. 

Could Pokemon Switch have a trading card element?

Pokemon Switch patent that could hint at a trading card element

Another interesting element that could play into the upcoming Pokemon Switch RPG is contained in a new patent filed by Nintendo and developer Game Freak. It seems to outline some kind of interactive trading card - potentially along the lines of the Animal Crossing amiibo cards - that can communicate with the Switch and change the appearance of the card or your in-game Pokemon depending on what you do in the game. Sounds like some kind of Harry Potter magic to me. 

According to the patent the cards would include a display screen with a character on it, but the screen would be able to change colours, backgrounds and patterns. But the most intriguing section outlines that all of those can change "according to an attitude of the game apparatus". What that seems to mean is that the your actions in the game or with your Switch could change the card display. It also goes onto suggest these cards may also be used with a smartphone... 

Of course, this is just a patent and many never go on to see the light of day, but when it comes to Pokemon and trading cards, the two very much go hand in hand, which could mean this isn't just a pie in the sky idea. 

Pokemon Switch will contain Gen 8 Pokemon

Ash and Pikachu from the Pokemon anime

According to the Spanish edition of the Official Nintendo Magazine, the upcoming Pokemon Switch game is going to feature the Generation 8 Pokemon, meaning a whole load of new critters to catch and train in the near future. 

The short segment reads something along the lines of:

"After a lifetime associated with portable consoles, the canonical Pokemon will take the leap to a home console with its eighth generation. Game Freak and The Pokemon Company are rethinking the saga to surprise with new mechanics, either in 2018 or later."

Thankfully, it's looking more and more likely that Pokemon Switch won't just be a port of Pokemon Sun and Moon. 

No more Pokémon for 3DS

What’s bound to speed up the development of Nintendo Switch is the fact GameFreak is all done with 3DS development. In a recent interview with IGN, the director of Game Freak, Shigeru Ohmori, says that the company has done all it can with Nintendo’s aging console.

“When we were making Pokemon X and Y, we really were trying to push the 3DS system to its absolute limits - which is what we thought we’d done,” says Ohmori. “But when Sun and Moon came around, we completely redesigned the system, and actually ended up pushing the 3DS even further to what we thought was the most we could draw out of it.”

“With Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon we’ve tried to eke that out more and really, really push the system to its absolute limits and we’re now feeling that perhaps this is the maximum of what we can get out. So we’re really treating Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon as the culmination of our work with the 3DS system.”

It has however, been a massive help for development work on the Switch Pokémon game. "This time with Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, we can treat it mainly as a project for our younger staff to work on and grow and develop their skills, while perhaps the more veteran, established members of the company can work on the upcoming [Switch] project,” says Ohmori.

"That's an approach we often take: having a growth-based project for younger staff members and then a new project for the existing veterans. Using this project management style ensures all of our projects have a positive effect on one another as they go."

What we want to see from Pokémon on Switch

All of that is well and good, but what do the fans actually want from a new Pokémon game, especially one that’s launching on a fresh platform? Well, thankfully, I am just one of those fans and using my own Poké-lust and a bit of help from the internet, here are the top five requested features for Pokémon on Switch. 

A new design aesthetic

If the rumours are true this isn’t happening, but with the first Pokémon game on Switch it would be great to see GameFreak really innovate when it comes to the graphics. Pokémon Sun and Moon, and Ultra Sun and Moon, marked a huge shift in graphical quality for the series, especially in comparison to Pokémon Red and Blue back in the day, and offered the cleanest and clearest UI to date. But, when you look at games like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, it’s clear that a major graphical leap could be possible with Pokémon on Switch. 

It’s looking like Pokémon Stars, or whatever it’s eventually called, will simply be an HD remaster of sorts rather than a complete overhaul. But hopefully there are more Switch exclusive graphical differences than we’re expecting. The Switch deserves it. 

Make the story continue on from the end of Pokémon Sun and Moon

Obviously don’t read this if you’ve not finished Pokémon Sun and Moon, but if you have you’ll know that it had a rather good ending. However, it’s one that feels unfinished as each of the main characters has forged their own path after the credits rolled. 

Can Hau really take over from his grandfather as Kahuna of Melemele Island? What are Gladion’s plans as head of the Aether Foundation? What does Lillie get up to on her own adventures in Kanto? I certainly want to know, and Pokémon Stars seems in the best position to answer those questions. 

Pokémon actually making proper noises

Okay, we don’t want Pikachu to talk like he does in the new movie, Pokemon: I Choose You. That’s weird and we’re still trying to scrub it from our memory. But it does jar that Pokémon still make the same, weird, mechanical-sounding noises that they did circa 1990. They can sound their own names in the anime, so why not use those same sounds in the games too? 

Continue to evolve the Pokémon formula

The removal of the typical formula for Pokémon Sun and Moon might have seemed drastic at first, but it worked. The games went from telling you to beat eight Gym Leaders before facing the Elite Four on repeat for 20 years, to giving you Island Trials to conquer and Totem Pokémon to face. Despite deviating so strongly from the norm, this generation still manages to feel like authentic entries to the series and GameFreak should continue to evolve - just like its Pokémon.

Make the world feel more real

The beauty of open world games like Breath of the Wild or Assassin’s Creed, is that they feel like living, breathing worlds that you could actually live in. Although Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon definitely gets closer to that feeling, any Pokémon you find on your travels (outside of the long grass) feel static and fake. Add in roaming wild critters, pet Pokés to fill homes, and let them have AI personalities that make the world feel more real.