Game Freak expands on the reasons for not including all Pokemon in Pokemon Sword & Shield, talks about the importance of Home going forward

Gone, but not forgotten...

The Famitsu gang had the chance to interview Game Freak's Junichi Masuda and Shigeru Ohmori at E3 2019, and they picked their brains on Pokemon Sword & Shield. Check out a summary of that interview below.

- with the shift to the Switch, the amount of time needed for graphics/animation increased
- apart from the graphics, balancing for new Pokemon with new abilities has become very hard
- the team found that it would be hard for all the Pokemon to appear, even in titles going forward
- the team felt the decision to not include all Pokemon in Sword/Shield is one that had to be made sooner or later for the series
- even in Pokemon Sun & Moon, bringing in every Pokemon was something barely manageable
- in Pokemon Sword & Shield, the team's need to redo models meant even more work to take on
- the Wild Areas and story will have quite a bit of content to make up for the lack of all Pokemon
- the team says once again that it's uncertain as to whether missing Pokemon will be added in future updates
- even if not in Pokemon Sword & Shield, Game Freak plans on making those Pokemon shine in future titles going forward,
- a large part of this will be with Pokemon Home, as the devs do not want the players’ past Pokemon to feel worthless
- the team is deciding if Pokemon that receive new graphics through Sword & Shield will reuse them to appear in new titles
- the inclusion of gimmicks like Mega Evolution and Dynamax that affect all Pokemon means doing so would be difficult
- it’s not about adding more Pokemon in as they receive graphical upgrades
- the team says it's a change towards bringing in Pokemon from Pokemon Home that fit the game
- the reason behind the name Pokemon Home, is that it's a place to return to
- bringing Pokemon out to games going forward is like bringing it on a trip
- in terms of the feelings of the Pokemon, it's as if the Pokemon are saying, “This region is cold, so I’ll be staying at home.”
- Game Freak once again says they're thinking of adding gameplay elements to Pokemon Home
- Musuda has the concept of bringing Pokemon out to even the spinoff titles from Pokemon Home in mind


Top Rated Comment

They can come up with all the excuses they want, it's still crap.

Well I hope this wakes up gamefreak to the higher demands that an advanced console and generation brings. They need to build up a bigger team with greater ambitions if they want to sustain their franchise.

A Pokémon games needs to feel special, it doesn’t have to be a fifa or call of duty.

For some reason this still sounds like investor talk. Making a bigger team for a single player game that's just a surface thin excuse for the deeper metagame underneath it is a bit of a waste of time, and I always make sure I catch, raise, and use every pokemon in region at least once before the end of the game, that results in a 100 hour play session already. Its already a pretty special series. You need to get over your preconceived notions and face the facts. You've been playing wrong.

Maybe you should actually look into the company before spouting how you feel and calling them facts. Game Freak has less than 150 employees and their games have been using gimmicks like Z-moves and Megas to sell for a while now instead of building on what we already love.

They need more people and better managing along with ambition, otherwise these yearly Pokemon games won't be special to even you eventually.

They can come up with all the excuses they want, it's still crap.

Yep. But inevitable. I think they actually waited too long to do this. They should've done it with X & Y to be honest. Since those games actually were more of a soft "reboot" of the series.

And I do think / hope GF will make a Stadium like spin off game for the Switch (and maybe mobile) that connects to Pokémon Home and will allow you to use any Pokémon in battles.

Then please, with all your power do not buy it.

They can come up with all the excuses they want, it's still not what I'm entitled to.

I can understand the frustration. But as someone who also makes digital products for a living, I can understand why they did this. The amount of man hours to get this done would be maddening.

I think overall we'll have a better, more balanced product this way.

Well first of all, I don't even transfer my Pokémon from generation to generation, so this doesn't really affect my potential enjoyment.

That said, to suddenly decide after 20 years that they're not going to support all Pokémon, which they've heretofore done over the course of three previous hardware changes, combined with the fact that they're now working with the most advanced hardware they've ever used, makes this reek of laziness and a desire to piss off hardcore fans. I appreciate the extra work that would go into it, but I think everyone would've preferred they delay it by a year and include all Pokémon than do, well, this. Honestly, if they just wanted to patch in the missing Pokémon down the line, even that would be preferable.

I can only assume you're a teenager (which is okay) if you think Sword and Shield is lazy. The amount of work that went into that game far exceeds the originals. There's nothing lazy about it.

I hope one day you're a successful content producer so that you'll be able to sympathize with Pokémon Company on this one.

I didn't say it was lazy, I said it looks lazy. The problem with this day in age is that perception is reality, so it doesn't really matter if they're cutting corners or not, because that's what it looks like to the layperson.

I, as a 26-year-old, plan to enjoy Sword and Shield fine as it is (honestly I think it looks great, though I am sad about Mega Evolution being tossed out), but this whole kerfuffle could've been avoided if they had decided to patch in missing Pokémon down the line a la live games getting content updates rather than to just say "we're done," and then come up with largely unbelievable reasons as to why they're done.

You're also being exceedingly charitable to a multi-billion dollar company to whom resources are not a problem.

I'm being charitable because I'm being reasonable. Having billions of dollars doesn't mean that you have infinite resources. There are a finite number of people on this planet who has the necessary skills to do what needs to be done. There's also a finite amount of time to complete a project. Even if there was an infinite talent pool, there's still the profitability limit to the project. If it costs $400 million to make a project, but you can only bring in $200 million, then that project is not worth doing.

But let's just pretend it's not a money, talent, or time issue. Would the game be better or worse if you have 1000 characters instead of 250? I would argue that it would be worse. Balancing 1000 characters means that you're going to wind up with 900 characters that aren't useful in the game. 900 characters that they spent time and money on developing that won't get used.

Here's my proposal: just treat it like the card game.

1.) They stay the course. They ignore the complaints and put out this game.
2.) Next year when they put out the inevitable remake of some other region, they use the same engine.
3.) They limit the remake game to just the Pokémon in that game.
4.) If the player buys both games, they can use any character from either game in an expanded format online. But standard format is limited to the character within each game.

I get the feeling we're not going to agree here, so I'll just say this: when you spend 20+ years building a brand around the tagline "gotta catch 'em all", and then decide "fuck it," you shouldn't be surprised that people are going to be mad.

I get the feeling we're not going to agree here, so I'll just say this: when you spend 20+ years building a brand around the tagline "gotta catch 'em all", and then decide "it's unsustainable," you shouldn't be surprised that people are going to feel entitled.

Amongst those of us who produce products, we're well aware of this. There's an allegory about a restaurant opening up with a promotion of giving out free pickles with an entrée. When the promotion was over, consumers were frustrated, despite the high quality and value of the food, because they expected pickles to always be free - even though a sizable portion of the patrons never ate the pickles. Had the restaurant not run this promotion, the patrons would have been happier with the product.

It's the same thing here. Pokémon fans have gotten use to all Pokémon being in every game despite the unsustainable nature of it. And now they're upset on the Internet. I get why it's happening. If anyone made any mistakes it's the Pokémon Company for not doing this at Gen 3. The sad part is that we have a lot of people who will not experience this great game because they're distracted by this minor issue that could potentially be a non-issue when further games are released.

I think we will agree one day if you enter a profession where you're producing content. 🙂

Your analogy is fundamentally flawed not least because the pickles would've been advertised as a promotion. A complete Pokédex has been an actual feature, which people have up until now continued to pay for with each game. This to say nothing of the fact that twenty years is a hell of a "promotional period."

The bottom line is that this is only unsustainable because they want the games out the door this year. Another twelve months could certainly have been enough time to do all the development necessary for every Pokémon, but because capitalism is horrible we're stuck with this "one mainline Pokémon game a year" schedule that is quite clearly to the detriment of the franchise. And again, if they truly had to have it out in November, why they couldn't say "we'll patch in the rest of the fuckers later" is beyond me.

Also, I realize you feel strongly about this "as a content creator," but you have to keep in mind that people can legitimately criticize things from a profession in which they're not employed. I can review a game without being a developer. I can call a drawing bad without being an artist. Your opinion on this is no more valid than anyone else's, least of all mine.

Another twelve months could certainly have been enough time to do all the development necessary for every Pokémon, but because capitalism is horrible we're stuck with this "one mainline Pokémon game a year" schedule that is quite clearly to the detriment of the franchise. And again, if they truly had to have it out in November, why they couldn't say "we'll patch in the rest of the Pokémon later" is beyond me.

Without capitalism, there is no Pokémon. But I now understand why you feel the way you do. Thank you for sharing.

Video games can exist without capitalism, but work.

That they're working with the most advanced hardware they've ever used is a HUGE issue to work through when developing a game, or any app or program, for that matter. It means they have to unlearn a lot of things that worked in the past and do things in greater detail, especially, since this is the first time the main series has moved to HD. It's a miracle this game is releasing this year at all rather than them falling back on Sinnoh remakes on the 3DS (of which they'd likely get criticism from fans for it not being on the Switch).

This was one of the biggest reasons Sonic 2006 is the laughingstock it became. It was the first Sonic game on HD systems, and the executives at SEGA thought they could create a finished product on the scale of Sonic Adventure 2 or better in a year. The truth is that much of the development time and resources wound up sunk into trying to understand how to make a presentable product on the Xbox 360 and PS3.

These are all reasonable, but logic doesn't matter in a battle of emotion.

There are a lot of armchair developers and people who will continue to make up reasons why "it's easy" to include all the Pokemon.

Sadly it seems like Gamefreak will have to fight this battle for awhile. I hope that after the games release they'll have a convincing enough product to make the haters rethink their position.

I don't think added pressure should be put on the dev team. But there's no reason why a billion dollar company can't afford to outsource a team to help them make the rest of the Pokemon. They can recycle those models for the rest of this console generation saving them money on future titles. You shouldn't excuse them for bad leadership and cheaping out on their fan base.

Mon Jun 17 19 01:27am
Rating: 1

Go look at Matpat's game theory videos on how infinite the possibilities Smash Bros and Mario Maker are, then cross reference that with all the possible move sets, forms, natures, species, ev and iv spreads, abilities, hold items, and anything else I may have missed and cross those with the amount of official metagame tourneys during gen 7, and post that number here. Then please read your message and maybe consider you're the unreasonable one.

But graphics and animations are only half of the problem. The other half is balancing the games for both the single player adventure and the competitive scene. I don't see a lot of folks referencing this half when talking about the issue.

And I honestly do get the disappointment. I think people are well within their rights to air their grievances and even request/demand changes... I just wish folks could take a moment to be more understanding of the situation while doing so.

Riftsilver is right when saying too many folks are being armchair devs over this. Calling them cheap or lazy is a rhetorical cop-out. And comparing games that have completely different design philosophies (and their own share of problems) to Pokemon is pretty ignorant.

There's not much need to justify wanting the National Dex aside from, "But I enjoyed it, and I'd appreciate if there was a way to keep it around [even if it means at the sacrifice of a timely release or game mechanic]." Because that's all it really comes down to. And that's fine enough.

I dont blame them. Could you imagine trying to animate and the world with 800+ pokemon? Just to explore everything would be like a 200 hour game.

Sun Jun 16 19 10:54pm
Rating: 1

Considering games like the Xenoblade series can involve 200+ hours of gameplay, I don't see how that's a problem... especially for a series like Pokemon that's pretty much guaranteed to sell millions of copies with each entry...

Mon Jun 17 19 12:59am
Rating: 1

Xenoblade doesnt have an esports tournament and balancing aspects to take into account. They're able to freely escalate the power of the characters to take on more powerful bosses. And theres not that many blades. Pokemons 200+ hour content comes from breeding and competitive battling, which requires a different approach, of over 800 different monsters in different metagames. The past gen has hosted several different official metagame formats alone. Its not a simple standard single player rpg.

200 hours isnt the problem, its the 800+ pokemon

What is with all the upvotes? I thought everyone was in agreement on this #bringbackthenationaldex

Sun Jun 16 19 11:24pm
Rating: 4 (Updated 1 time)

Seems fine to me, it's not like I'm going to be playing with each of the 800+ Pokémon anyways. I'd rather they focus on giving us cool features/story and an interesting postgame.

Sun Jun 16 19 11:36pm
Rating: 1

I’m sure the people at Game Freak work very hard and do their best. And few things in game development are truly easy. But I feel like this is a matter of bad management and bad priorities. Things that are central to the appeal of the series (like being able to transfer over all your old Pokémon) should take far greater precedence than increasing balance or adding any new battle gimmick. And people would much rather wait longer for a good game that meets their expectations than a rush job done to meet a holiday deadline. Also, hire more people if your head count is too low to take on this work, Game Freak! This is the most successful media franchise on planet Earth we’re talking about! You’re not some starving indie studio.

Mon Jun 17 19 01:10am
Rating: 1

They only employ 140 people and the only other games they make are small indie games. They are a small indie studio in scope, even if they get a lot of money. Minecraft is a good recent example of this.

If 3d models are so time consuming then go back to sprites. It's not like the 3d models are actually well animated or anything.

Sun Jun 16 19 11:43pm
Rating: 5

the team felt the decision to not include all Pokemon in Sword/Shield is one that had to be made sooner or later for the series

This is the part that people need to understand. It was going to happen eventually. It had to happen eventually. There's 1,000 pokemon at this point, and coding, balancing, and bug testing that many pokemon is a massive task. Period.

Sun Jun 16 19 11:57pm
Rating: 1

I don't get the whining at all. I mean developing a world with over 800 Pokemon would be insane, it also would probably not be very fun for the majority of players. There would be too many Pokemon, and it would detract from the area and story elements added.

This is a game in a different part of the world, and like real life not every animal lives in every part of our world, why would they in Pokemon? It could actually harm the lore.

My 2¢. I am excited for the game(s).

Mon Jun 17 19 12:28am
Rating: 1

One major issue I've had with the series for a long time is that they keep adding more and more pokemon, many of which are quite boring and uninspired. This is the biggest problem I have with the decision to not include every pokemon. They are basically saying that it's too much work when they are just making more pokemon for the sake of it being a new gen. I have never felt that is necessary, especially when 90% of them will not be good for battles anyway.

I would much rather have had them stop making so many damn new ones after gen 2, and just keep making better games each gen. Can anyone really explain the need to have I excess of 800 creatures at this point? New mon have never been the appeal of the series for me. Not since gen 3.

They are for me. My favorites have been scattered across all of the generations. (With the exception of Generation I, which I feel is the most boring and uninspired. I began in Generation I, by the way.)

Mon Jun 17 19 12:29am
Rating: 2 (Updated 1 time)

- Game Freak once again says they're thinking of adding gameplay elements to Pokemon Home
- Musuda has the concept of bringing Pokemon out to even the spinoff titles from Pokemon Home in mind

And here is why I think they will make a "Pokémon Stadium"-like game which allows for all Pokémon to battle and trade.

This could even be part of the Home app.

Pokemon Home has been confirmed they will let you trade any pokemon you own, so it's not like they are in complete stasis.

I know. Which is why I said that. A stadium like game should be a lot bigger though.

I see the Home app having trading (confirmed), a national Pokédex (with 2D sprites of all 'mon), breeding. And later on some form of battle mode. Or in a spin-off battle game.

I’m in agreement with these reasons. Everyone wanted a mainline Pokemon game on Switch..... the transition from handheld to console is not without challenges, or sacrifice. It’s a lot of work making an HD game.... developing art assets for hundreds of characters has to take a crazy amount of time and money. We’re seeing why Pokemon company stuck to handhelds for so long.

My problem is how they’ve been charging for Pokemon Bank all this time without (to my knowledge) making it clear that this could happen. People are angry because they were somewhat misled... even if there’s good reasoning behind it.

They should make a reality show where the 50 most unpopular pokes are killed off every week. Gotta make this fiasco entertaining! XD

Garbador, your days are numbered!

I actually like the decision, because it makes the games feel a little less overwhelming.

In what way? From a competitive perspective?

The opposite: I'm a casual Pokémon player, and this might be the first game since the GBA days where I might actually manage to complete the Pokédex.

However, I still think Game Freak made the wrong decision based on what most Pokémon players want and expect.

Keep in mind there was always a separate pokedex to complete that only included pokemon you could catch in game, this decision doesn't reduce that number. And in the previous entry, there was only one pokedex - just the pokemon you could catch in game. You could still transfer in old pokemon though.

I agree. It has become a real pain to hunt down so many of them in these later games. I like the idea of a smaller roster with more meaningful pokemon in them.

Personally, I really only see this effecting the competitive scene. I've never found a reason to bring old pokemon in to use during the campaign.

It is still a bummer, of course.

I have a living pokedex in pokemon bank, but honestly I'm not too disappointed. I saw this coming, it had to happen eventually. Think about it, if you have to design and animate one pokemon, and that takes you a day, with 1000 pokemon it would take you almost three years to do them all (and that's working weekends and holidays). Even with a bunch of help, you've still only done the pokemon, now you have to make a whole game around them too... I'd rather have a good, quality game than see Garbador animated in hd.

There's no reason for Gamefreak not to have a library of reusable assets of nicely detailed Pokemon to speed up this process, why restart every gen and make a whole new engine and build entirely new assets for all existing pokemon. Gamefreak really only need to make the 70 or so new pokemon over the space of a year, from concept art to game this probably takes a few weeks, and it's a rolling effect where a team will handle each step in the pipeline, so even though a model will take a few weeks to go through the pipeline the difference between assets reaching the game will be days, you could have basically the entire new set of Pokemon reach the game in the space of a year with a small team. From what I've read there is already a library of reusable assets for every Pokemon, and there's a decent amount of detail that you could continue to use them into the next generation as long as they stuck with the cell shaded art style. There's no excuse on so many different levels for this sort of incompetence. Gamefreak have the sales pull to have an entire extra studio to handle the management of reusable assets, and to farm out engine development to a competent team of engineers, but they don't. Gamefreak are the most incompetent professional development studio in video games, I feel bad for anyone hoping for Pokemon's Breath of the Wild, it's never going to come because Gamefreak have no idea what they are doing.

Mon Jun 17 19 12:06pm
Rating: 1

You're right that they could get pretty good mileage out of reusing the pokemon across several games. But the downside of that is that you are then beholden to the quality and capability of those models going forward. Ten years from now they might want something better than 3DS-quality pokemon and then what? Redo 1500 pokemon. And that still doesn't address the balance issue. I happen to agree with them that this decision was inevitable.

It took them until the 6th generation to address Dragon type pokemon, balance isn't really an issue, but it's also something that can be changed as needed based on feedback, this is the case with pretty much any other games, does Magic the Gathering balance it's pool of 20,000 cards, they can't even edit pre existing cards, just have local competitions ban them, something that probably happens with Pokemon already, it happens with Smash.

As long as GF stay with their current visual style they can continue to reuse their current pokemon assets for over a decade, and reiterating as needed isn't going to require significant redoes, the current pokemon assets they have are nicely detailed and look smooth unless close up, animations can be reused much easier than the actual models too, so you've already saved a lot of time there. 10 years is a long time. The cost of hiring an external studio just to manage a large library of reusable assets is quite small in the long run, and it would suit all of Gamefreaks needs, as long as they plan a transition to a higher level of detail in advance.

Mon Jun 17 19 04:08am
Rating: 3

Honestly, these excuses are BS. First of all, they already had high poly models of every pokemon in Sun and moon. The animations are nothing special in the series, and please, the graphics are too much work? For a game that looks like an early xbox 360 game? Wait, it looks even worse than that, because the 360 had Kameo at lucnh, wich still looks much better.

Gamefreak should have increased their team a long time ago, they have the money for that, but no, they know they can get away with anything by just being lazy. Every gen they give us a new mechaninc and then get rid of it by the next gam, without exploring it more or improving it, but why do that, when they will sell millions with the bare minimum of work, right?

This is the first gen that im going to skip, because if they don't put the work to make this the best it can be, both in visuals and features, but instead just gives a big step backwards, then why should i reward them by buying the game?

Ever since they made the announcement, I had been wondering why they didn't just keep quiet about it. Then I realized they also coupled that with saying they're not sure if they'll bring in the remaining Pokémon.

What they're doing now is seeing how people react to the news. If there's a lot of outrage, they'll make an effort to bring them back. If not, they'll leave things as is. It's still far enough from the game's release for them to make that decision, which I'm certain is why they said what they did now. If they said it any later (or kept quiet), there wouldn't be enough time. Considering all the angry reactions, I think they've decided by now. There is no way they don't know about all this. They have people whose jobs are to go to popular Pokémon websites online and read what the fans have to say. They're not allowed to interact with them, but they are supposed to report back on what they encounter.

They also cited balance as the primary reason. This convinces me more that they'll bring back the other Pokémon, bit by bit. The Splatoon games achieve balance among the weapons, for instance, by having comparatively small amounts of them at launch (remember that when Splatoon 2 launched, it had less than half of the total weapons Splatoon 1 had). After some time had passed, they released weapons at regular intervals, both new ones and returning ones. The players would take to the newly released ones, and the development team would gather data. By the time the final weapons in Splatoon 2 were released (the Sheldon's Picks set), the weapon count went into the triple-digits, yet all of them are competitively balanced.

I don't expect Game Freak to be able to competitively balance every Pokémon nearly as well as the Splatoon team balances their weapons, but it isn't impossible to take gradual steps toward that, which I'll bet Game Freak is doing, and the only way they can really achieve that is by starting small and dripping in a few evolution lines every now and then until they have them all. After all, if, say, the Drowzee line is not in Sword and Shield, how would they know what needs to be fixed about Hypno so it's as useful to a team as, say, Jellicent, which IS available?

By the way, I'm not too bothered by there being missing Pokémon you can't bring over. Of the Pokémon I have in Pokémon Bank, I'd estimate about 95% of them were sent there and have remained there since.

Lots of newly discovered game developers here who know better than GameFreak. What an honour to share the comment section with such geniuses.

Then go back to doing pixel art.

Mon Jun 17 19 08:35am
(Updated 1 time)

They literally already have the models. All they have to do is enable them for use in the game. It's not a storage issue. It's not even a workload issue. If they were actually updating the models and battle animations every gen then this decision would be somewhat understandable, but that's not what we're seeing. (and even then, since they aren't found in the game, it wouldn't be a big deal if those extra Pokemon used "last gen's" models when you bring them in, some old games did that with sprites) These are the same models they've been using since X&Y, with the same canned animations. As it stands it comes across as just another excuse for Game Freak to further descend into their comfortable laziness. This may not be the "biggest deal ever" in the sense that you don't "have to" play with Pokemon not found in the region or maintain a living dex, but it's the straw that broke the camel's back for most people it seems, after multiple gens of increased laziness from Game Freak. They need to treat the world's biggest media franchise with more care than they have been. Whether that's directly GF's fault for refusing to expand their operation adequately, or the fault of the Pokemon Company/etc for deadlines they impose on GF to align with other media arms (TCG, anime, etc), something's got to change.

Every Pokemon is somebody's favourite. I believe that wisdom comes from Game Freak themselves.

This comment section is a perfect example of why Pokémon has declined in quality since X and Y.

Mon Jun 17 19 12:00pm
Rating: 1

Honestly, I’m ok with it. I got plans to send my babies to HOME and to SWSH. Not all of my Pokémon are going to HOME, for I still play USUM.

Mon Jun 17 19 12:14pm
Rating: 1

As I said before, I'm fine with this, and their reasons make a lot of sense to me. This will allow them to focus on quality over quantity and also make it so it's not overwhelming to catch every pokemon in the game. I like the idea of them making up for fewer pokemon by having more game content.

The key to making this acceptable is to MAKE SURE POKEMON HOME IS GOOD. If we feel like that's a good place to keep our extra pokemon and they can have a purpose there, I think it will go a long way toward smoothing it over for people who are understandably upset. Home has to be more than just a bank, otherwise they would just continue using Pokemon Bank.


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