When Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee were announced, fans were concerned that these titles would be replacing the mainline Pokémon titles. Luckily, in the same breath of their announcement, Nintendo also announced a true mainline successor the Pokémon franchise to assuage fans concerns. But this left fans and gamers alike now left with a new concern, if Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee were to be released first, would this split the fanbase. After all, Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee are largely meant to be successors to Pokémon Go, not Pokémon Ultra Sun and Moon.
I am here to tell you that Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee won’t be splitting the fanbase, in fact, it will be doing the opposite and there is a history of Pokémon titles to prove this.
The first reason we shouldn’t expect the fan base to fracture is simply due to the many, many spin-offs. Pokémon, perhaps more than any other franchise, is the king of spin-offs. There are:
- Rouge-lights in the form of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon.
- Pinball in the form of Pokémon Pinball.
- Card games in the form of Pokémon Trading Card Game.
- A Strategy RPG in the form of Pokémon Conquest.
- A touch-focused action adventure game with Pokémon Ranger.
And that is only part of the many entries that exist in the Pokémon franchise. It is a daunting amount of titles, and yet, none of them have come close to fracturing the fan base; each has found its own niche. One of the main misconceptions many have when it comes to spin-offs is that they somehow water down or reduce the value of the overall franchise by their sheer existence. This frankly isn’t the case.
In fact, spin-offs serve a unique function when it comes to long-running franchises by providing a new point that soon-to-be fans can use to become interested in a franchise. A perfect encapsulation of this point would be Pokémon Go itself. Take a moment and think about how many people were playing that game when it first launched. Do you think all of them played the mainline Pokémon games? They didn’t.
Many had a different relation to the Pokémon franchise. Some may have been fans of the anime, others may have played Pokémon Snap once upon a time, and some may have never had any interaction with the Pokémon franchise ever, except, when Pokémon Go released and everyone else was playing it. These different types of titles never hindered or hurt the franchise, they did the exact opposite; they opened up windows and doors for others to discover the Pokémon franchise through different means.
The Strength of the Brand
Let’s remember what franchise these worries are in reference to, Pokémon. Pokémon as a franchise has been around for years and has been involved in nearly every form of media and has created a countless number of products spanning across several markets. No game, no product, no piece of media has risked splitting the player base and Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee will be no different. Just like the spin-offs in the past, Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee will serve as another opportunity for the Pokémon franchise to strengthen its brand.
Pokémon Go has reached a large portion of players that typically don’t fall into traditional Pokémon players, making this a prime demographic to go after to become more than just Pokémon Go fans, but Pokémon fans. Your friends played it, your co-workers played it, your classmates played it, your parents played it, and even you played it. It simply didn’t matter who you were, at some point, you were exposed to the game in some fashion; after all, this was a game that not only received critical acclaim as a mobile title but also was prominently featured in the news on multiple occasions. Pokémon Go served as the shot in the arm that the franchise needed that largely felt stagnant following the slight rebirth after Pokemon X and Y.
With Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee, the Pokémon franchise is hoping to capitalize on the newly found player base by creating a path for them to become invested. It’s not just Pokémon Go and that’s it, it’s now Pokémon Go > Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee > the next mainline Pokémon game as the path for Pokémon Go players to take to become more involved in the franchise.
Finally, this brings us to the timing of the release of Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee and all the other titles surrounding its launch. In the interim, Pokémon Quest was released for both Nintendo Switch owners, and now, mobile gamers. While it may not seem like much on the surface, it does serve as another title to bring interest in the Pokémon franchise immediately into the limelight. Following Pokémon Quest, Pokémon Go received a very important update, the ability to trade Pokémon. This announcement coupled with the knowledge of Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee being able to use Pokémon caught in Pokémon Go, once again, created a surge of interested to the franchise. For the first time in a long time, players who may have taken a break from Pokémon Go now had another reason to pick the game up once more. You can prep for the upcoming launch of Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee by playing once again and by trading with friends to tighten your lineup.
With now all the cards in place, this places the Pokémon franchise in perhaps one of the strongest positions in a long time. These spin-offs not only exist to bring more into the franchise, they are connected and calculated to move people through the franchise. First, there is the introduction, then the taste, finally followed by the whole meal. It is a strategy that is extremely well thought out, and at no point, alienates one part of the fan base for another. Regardless of where you are in the Pokémon franchise in terms of interest, there is something for you to easily become more interested. Longtime fans can ignore the spin-offs and wait for the main entry, those who enjoy both can do so, and finally, those who are at an introductory level for Pokémon have a path to become more invested.
All of these efforts are all funneled towards one thing, the next mainline Pokémon title. With all this effort surrounding its launch, the Pokémon fan base isn’t at risk for becoming fractured, it’s at risk for a second awakening.