Pokemon Scarlet and Violet arrived in the hands of eager fans and keen Pokemon trainers almost two weeks ago. It sold 10 million copies within three days of release, making it the fastest-selling Pokemon game of all time. That said, there’s simply no argument about the abysmal state that the game launched in, and players ought to be more concerned about the future of their favourite franchise.
Pokemon is the highest-grossing franchise globally. With multiple TV series, rafts of films, near-annual video game releases, and a trading card game – all packed with cute pocket monsters – it makes sense that Pokemon dominates the markets in practically every country on earth. A franchise conceived in 1996, Pokemon has also been one of the best games for connecting generations; I can bond with 30-year-olds and 4-year-olds alike over just how cute Pikachu is, or that heart-wrenching time Ash was turned to stone. The way this franchise can bring different people together is, honestly, magical.
I love Pokemon. I have loved Pokemon for years. But Pokemon Scarlet and Violet concerns me more than any other Pokemon release in the series 26-year history. Pokemon Sword and Shield was far from a fun time, but it performed well and plenty of people loved it. Ultimately, I don’t expect to click with every Pokemon game in existence, and that’s okay. Pokemon Scarlet and Violet – with fresh, innovative gameplay in a vibrant open-world that runs at 5fps, with horrendous pop-in, and Pokemon falling through the floor mid-battle – is a different case altogether.
Pokemon Scarlet and Violet shipping in the state that it did is a huge shame, and a massive disservice for fans. Sure, Pokemon loyalists will snap up anything you present to them (myself included), and that won’t stop anytime soon. But does that give the developer and publisher the right to release a game in this state? No.
Game Freak and Nintendo letting a title that performs this poorly slip through the QA cracks is concerning. Since the series’ conception, we’ve been privy to new mainline games every two to three years, with remakes and spin-offs thrown into the mix to pad out the release schedule and buy Game Freak time to work on the big generational jumps. Considering just how poorly Pokemon Scarlet and Violet’s technical performance is (a trend kicked off in Pokemon Legends: Arceus) leads me to believe that Game Freak can’t quite continue to keep up with this demand. Not without some serious changes.
Pokemon Scarlet and Violet has fantastic gameplay. The best Pokemon has been in years. This gives me hope that future games will be just as innovative and accessible to newcomers, while still being a challenge for veterans. Adding in new things to keep the series’ heart beating, but retaining everything that even Red and Blue kids love, too. But if something doesn’t change with Game Freak’s development process – or, perhaps, Nintendo’s release schedule – I worry we will see more broken games in future. As if we haven’t been witness to enough of those in recent years.
Scarlet and Violet isn’t the only game to show promise, but let itself down with poor performance; we all saw The Callisto Protocol’s reviews plummet on Steam last week, the state of Battlefield 2042 last year, and dare I say it, Cyberpunk 2077 the year before that. Pokemon is an enigma in the sense that its reputation will hardly be tainted by Scarlet and Violet’s performance issues, and that’s the scariest part in all of this: if Game Freak, Nintendo, and The Pokemon Company see no repercussions for this, will games continue to be delivered quickly, at the detriment of their quality? If Arceus has taught us anything, then… yes.
I’ve seen plenty of players blame the Nintendo Switch’s hardware for all of this, and I present to you The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. A visually breathtaking game with smooth, performant gameplay that runs perfectly on the console. That was released five years ago, no less. Need more evidence? How about ports of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and DOOM (2016), each of which run better on the console than Pokemon Scarlet and Violet – a native game! – is capable of.
I’m not calling for Pokemon fans to boycott the series; that’s unrealistic. After all, I paid for the game myself and have had plenty of fun with it. However, I am suggesting that everyone be aware of the future of the series, and be just as concerned. If Pokemon Scarlet and Violet can release in this awfully broken state, sell millions upon millions of copies, and still receive rave reviews, what incentive is there for Pokemon to ensure its future games launch in a better condition? And what message this send to other developers?
Nintendo did issue a patch for Pokemon Scarlet and Violet last week, which made NPCs function at a few more FPS, but it didn’t introduce any massive, noticeable differences in performance in my experience. The publisher did say that, “we take the feedback from players seriously and are working on improvements to the games,” though. This is a pretty big deal, as Nintendo is notoriously quiet.
Let’s hope that by taking player feedback seriously, the team behind the Pokemon games will put a little more time or manpower into the development of future games in the series, and not continue to push broken games into the mouths of hungry Pokemon players. The community has kicked up enough of a stink this time around that maybe – just maybe – the next Pokemon game will learn from these mistakes, and Game Freak will do what it can to make the next entry in the esteemed series the very best… like no-one ever was.