This week is Pokemon’s 25th anniversary. For months, the internet has been ablaze with speculation, rumours and expectation over what’s coming. All of this excitement brings to mind one thing about the Pokemon community and the gaming community in general: how much we often struggle to maintain a balance between wild expectation and reality.
Whenever a Nintendo Direct is announced, or when a special event such as Pokemon’s 25th anniversary rolls around, it’s always fun and expected for us fans to hope for things, to dream of what might be on the horizon. However, a troubling theme is emerging: people start to take these hopes and expectations to heart - and then respond with rage when they don’t come to pass. It’s not healthy for individuals, or for the wider community.
For example, let’s cast our minds back to June 2020. A ‘Pokemon Presents’ stream had been revealed, a Nintendo Direct-style presentation hosted by The Pokemon Company so it could show projects beyond the typical Nintendo format titles. By any measure this broadcast was considered successful, revealing New Pokemon Snap, details on the Pokemon Sword & Shield DLC, and a few more things. However, it ended with an announcement of another Pokemon Presents stream.
The following week was intense. People speculated at length about what might be revealed in this new stream. Many pointed out that the year before, a Pokemon project had been announced to be in the works by TiMi Studios, a subsidiary of Tencent, and it was likely to be that. This largely went unheard, however, as an over-excited conspiracy theory machine was already spinning into overdrive.
Led by YouTubers, the online fanbase started focusing on the tiniest details of the first Pokemon Presents, intent that a hint for the second broadcast must be present. Expectations grew, and terms around remakes of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl or the concept of a Pokemon Let’s Go Johto based on Gold and Silver trended on Twitter for days. Fan expectations were set, and set high.
Of course, this didn’t happen. Sword & Shield’s DLC cycle wasn’t yet complete, after all. The next step was expectedly awful; people got angry. Some insisted their time watching the stream was wasted. Others claimed Tencent must have paid The Pokémon Company for its own separate stream, despite TPC being the head of the project. The Like/Dislike ratio on the trailer of the newly revealed game, the mobile-based Pokemon Unite, was one of the worst in gaming for quite a while.
In many ways, it could be seen that leak culture is most to blame for these sorts of toxic fan reactions. Pretty much every week there’s a dozen lists of rumours for Pokemon, Nintendo Directs, and so on. More often than not they’re either complete fabrications, or built off obvious things or crumbs of information from more reliable sources.
From this, YouTubers and Twitter accounts that want to grow their following will cover pretty much every minor thing regardless of veracity, calling it a leak while acting as if it’s true. This causes people to start to trust it and believe it, and if it turns out to be false, anger follows. Over my time in the community, I have seen people believe so many of these only to be left irate or worse when it turns out not to be the case. It even got to the point of near daily abuse, harassment and even as far as death threats towards people trying to calm things and prevent the spread of misinformation. As the webmaster of one of the big Pokemon websites, I experienced this first hand.
As we sit in the thick of the hype for the Pokemon 25th anniversary celebrations, we all must remember to be a little more guarded. Whenever you see a Twitter account spouting off “leaks”, we must always be sceptical. Even if the account in question has posted correct things before, we should consider how often they’re correct - and always take these things with a pinch of salt. To do otherwise can just ruin the excitement and enjoyment of an event like this anniversary. Rumours are often spread to stoke that excitement, but as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Too often the rumour mill hype machine only leads to toxicity - and that isn’t good for the fan community.
With the promise of some 25th anniversary announcements, Pokemon fans will undoubtedly want to know what’s coming. There have been announcements promised for all areas of the franchise, so what we do know is that we can expect reveals for the Trading Card Game, anime, movies, spinoff games, new Pokemon Go events, and more.
Simply put, hope for the best, expect the worst. Don’t believe rumours and “leaks” 100% and just have fun through this all. If you go in expecting certain things to be shown or to happen, especially if you’ve been misled by people, then you’ll have a bad time. Go in with relatively blank expectations and a couple of hopeful wishes, and you can be surprised!
More than anything else, fans should use an occasion such as this to not just look to the next exciting new experience, but also to consider the past. Pokemon fans should recognize that they are extremely lucky. Look back at the last 25 years - at the history, and what the franchise means to you. Regardless of what is announced, the 25th is an occasion for celebration of all that, rather than dismissing all that solely for what comes ahead. While we can always get new information for the future, and often do, we should never just make it the focus and certainly not an expectation.
With that in mind, anything shown over the coming celebrations can be a bonus and not a disappointment that it didn’t hit our preconceived notions - we just have to set our own expectations. Don’t take everything at face value and really, just enjoy the ride!