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

The Pokemon Company really does like keeping us on our toes, doesn't it? In one fell swoop we got the Pokemon Switch release date pushed to 2019, and two new games   Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu and Pokemon Let's Go Eevee, both of which are arriving November 16, 2018.

The two games are inspired by the success of Pokemon Go!  and are technically the spiritual successors to Pokemon Yellow, from back in the Game Boy days. According to the press release about the games, "they feature brand new gameplay to make the most of the unique capabilities of Nintendo Switch, such as throwing Poke Balls to catch Pokemon by swinging Joy-Con controllers, as well as the opportunity for family and friends to battle and explore together in a new two-player mode." 

Unfortunately what with those two games stealing the limelight, The Pokemon Company didn't actually show anything of the core RPG at all. 

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?”

Pokemon Switch release date isn't until 2019

For all of the hopeful ones among us that read that Pokemon Switch release date of "2018 or later" as very much this year, we're all about to be disappointed. The next core Pokemon RPG isn't coming until 2019, so for now we'll have to suffice with Pokemon Let's Go! Pikachu and Eevee for 2018.

 "The next introduction to its popular core RPG series, which was teased last year at E3, will arrive in late 2019 on Nintendo Switch for the first time," The Pokemon Company said in a statement.

This Pokemon Switch release date was then backed up by the official Pokemon Twitter channel, which posted a tweet that reads:

"With #PokemonQuest and #PokemonLetsGo, there are so many new ways to explore the world of Pokémon! Trainers can look forward to even more with an all-new core series Pokémon RPG title in development for the second half of 2019!"

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.

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. 

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.