a brief timeline of pokemon bullshit

okay here’s the background. skip ahead to the next bolded section if you know how all this stuff works already

so pokemon started on the game boy, and you could trade pokemon between games. two full-priced gameboy games. if you wanted all the pokemon, you’d have to buy two copies or convince someone to part with certain pokemon you could get only one of per game.

then a new generation came out, which meant you could transfer pokemon from pokemon red or blue to pokemon gold or silver. neat.

nintendo also had events where you could go to stores like Toys R’ Us and get free, exclusive pokemon you couldn’t get anywhere else, like Mew.

151 pokemon.

Then the Gameboy Advance came out and Nintendo had a problem: how do you move pokemon from gen 1 and gen 2 to gen 3? well… you can’t. They hadn’t planned ahead. Okay. So they remade Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow as FireRed and LeafGreen and rereleased them in gen 3 alongside the ‘next’ Pokemon games, Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald. They also released a pair of Gamecube games you could get pokemon from through the GBA link cable, and Pokemon Box, which let you store all your pokemon for safekeeping.

They also released Pokemon Box. You put pokemon into the box. You can take the pokemon out again. Neat. Good way to keep pokemon without needing to worry about losing your cart. Bulk transfers were nice too.

Now there are 386 pokemon.

When the DS came out, they were ready. DS could play both DS and GBA games. This meant you could take a pokemon from FireRed — the original 151 pokemon — and transfer it directly to gen 4 (diamond and pearl).

Pokemon Company is always kind of weird, and the seamless transfers became a thing of the past. It made sense in a way — trading from the Gameboy Advance to the DS, a console that didn’t exist at the time — was always going to be a challenge, but Pokemon does this dumb thing where they try to make shit as in-world as possible.

So: you can transfer pokemon, six at a time, from GBA to DS. Then you have to go, in-world, to the Pal Park and hunt down the pokemon you already caught to try to catch them.

You had a Wii game, Pal Park, that you could store Gen 4 games on. As far as I can tell, there was NO way to store Gen 5 pokemon except on the carts.

Rather than explaining how every single generation had absurd requirements — for instance, to go from Diamond/Pearl/Platinum to Black/White you’d have to see all 150 Pokemon in the Sinnoh Pokedex, we’re going to jump all the way to Gen 6 and Gen 7, which were both on the Nintendo 3DS instead of the Nintendo DS. If you want to see how direct transfers work, please look at this guide for going from Generation 3 to Generation 7.

Shit’s complicated, fam. There are 649 pokemon.

Anyways, to get from DS to 3DS, you have to install an app on the 3DS that lets you pull pokemon from the DS games called Pokemon Transporter. Then you gotta open an app called Pokemon Bank (as well as have a Gen 6 or Gen 7 pokemon game) and transfer the pokemon to Pokemon Bank. Then you can drag and drop pokemon from one game into the next. You can put any Gen 6 or Gen 7 pokemon into pokemon bank, but once you take a pokemon from gen 6 into gen 7, you cannot take it back to 6, even though they’re both 3ds games (because gen 6 doesn’t have the data for it in advance and apparently you can’t just add the new ones in as DLC or something. not a big deal. would have been really cool though).

The biggest thing about Pokemon Bank is while it’s the easiest way to transfer Pokemon in bulk (you just plug in a cart and boot it up and drag n’ drop pokemon to bank, close it, replace the cart with the one you want to transfer to, and drag pokemon from bank to game). It’s really good, but for some reason you have to pay $5 a year for it, and if you forget, god help you, Nintendo will delete all your pokemon after a completely arbitrary amount of time. Since it’s once a year and they send you no reminders… it’s… it’s stress-inducing. But the software itself is really good, though it kind of sucks that the Pokemon Transporter functionality is a separate app.

I know that shit is complicated. There are now 807 pokemon.

so basically, pokemon fans could take a pokemon and have it be their companion from generation 3 all the way to generation 7 with no problem. that’s an expectation the series has set for them. sure, it might be complicated bullshit, and sure, you often have to beat the campaign before a transfer, but this is a game about building lifelong relationships with your pokefriends and is accepted as the status quo for the series. no other game does this that I know of. it is distinctly pokemon.

Nintendo Switch comes out. Some people think it’s a new handheld, so obviously it’s getting a new pokemon game, others think it’s a new home console. Whatever, it’s both. But being both, that means… the one thing gamers have always wanted, the one thing they’ve been begging for since Pokemon began: a mainline pokemon game that you can play on your TV. Wow! How exciting.

Then Nintendo announces yet another gen 1 remake (by this time, with 807 pokemon, fans are kind of annoyed at how often gen 1 pokemon show up, and gen 1 had been remade or rereleased twice at this point) but with basically no mechanics at all because it’s based on Pokemon Go. It’s called Pokemon Let’s Go! Gamers are disappointed. This? THIS is what they have been waiting nearly 20 years for? Sure, they got themselves worked up into excitement, and yeah, even if you were like me and weren’t gonna live or die by it, it was kind of disappointing that Gamefreak’s Home Console Debut was a mechanics-lite simplification of one of the greatest JRPG franchises of all time.

There was outcry.

Gamefreak was quick to assure people that hey, they WERE working on a mainline game, but it wasn’t ready yet.

Fans simmered down.

Then they announced, uh, well, this stupid ass bitch.

I think it’s literally the least-popular pokemon cover mon in history. Normally there’s a pretty even split between Pokemon games, I’ve found, but with this one, I have finally, as of today, met ONE person getting Shield. One. But whatever. The game itself looked fucking lit and people were excited, and holy shit, there was actually a fully 3d world you could explore in real time! finally!

but, wait, hold up… for some reason pokemon still doesn’t have free cam all the time (a big request, especially on switch). That’s kinda weird, right?

Anyways, the big blow came when Nintendo announced… Pokemon Home.

There are Very Few Details, sadly. All we know is it’s the Bank replacement and all your Pokemon from past gens will go into it… and… that’s it.

Oh yeah, right, and also Pokemon Sword and Shield, the first time we’re actually getting a Home Console Main Line Pokemon Game That Still Has Weird 3DS Limitations Like Limited Free Cam… won’t have all ~850 Pokemon in it. It only has around 435, less than HeartGold/Soul Silver, the Gen 2 remakes from Gen 4.

Fans blew a fuckin gasket.

It was accepted that you’d be able to transfer Pokemon forward forever. Even when Sun/Moon removed the national pokedex, you could still transfer pokemon from Gen 3 into those games, you just couldn’t catch them directly.

But now Pokemon would be moved from Bank to Home and there would be no way to access these Pokemon… at all? Ever? I love my Shiny Rayquaza, but every time you move a pokemon forward a gen, you can’t move it backward. Now, for the first time ever… Shiny Rayquaza would be stuck, unable to be used in any game, just… sitting there until an uncertain time in the future when he might get re-added to the game.

It’s no wonder people were upset. I would even argue that they were reasonably upset. Pokemon is about catching them all. Remove that component, make it so people can’t use their Pokemon, and you’re going to have a lot of people who are upset.

It was reasonable.

At first.

Now it’s devolved into a giant ass screaming match where fans are upset that a game running on the ancient Nintendo Switch internals isn’t somehow 1080p60. They’re harassing journalists and game developers for ‘lying’ because GameFreak said that they rebuilt all the pokemon from scratch but the Switch game wireframes are from the 3ds games. There are youtube videos calling this a disaster, an atrocity, whatever. Like. people are fucking insane. When a journo let slip that morale at GameFreak wasn’t doing so good, some fucking insane gamers were like “good it’s working” as if Yelling At Them will somehow magically put 400+ Pokemon back into the game and make it run better.

GameFreak deserve a lot of criticism for a lot of dumb bullshit. They do. They absolutely do. But this bullshit now? These people acting like they’re incompetent fuckwads who don’t know how to make games?

It’s how The Discourse works these days. Someone develops a preconception — Pokemon Main Line Game Finally on TV! Yay!! — then gets upset when reality doesn’t match up (it’s Pokemon Go instead of a regular Pokemon game so it’s super mechanics lite!). Then that snowballs with little disappointments (really? the whole reason we were excited for a mainline game on tv is you’d actually, like, have dual analog controls like Breath of the Wild! — fans were really hoping for a Breath of the Wild style glow-up for the series here). Then genuinely bad news worth being frustrated by shows up and suddenly the outrage mill on Youtube is finding the most profitability by photoshopping the crew to look angry and evil and driving as much anger for as many views as possible.

It fucking sucks.

It’s partly Youtube’s fault — they reward outrage more than quality. It’s partly the fans’ fault — their expectations were always out of whack. And, you know, in a VERY small way, it is GameFreak’s fault, because they’re giving us a new system to store our Pokemon but it’s more like a prison. That sucks. But it wasn’t worth this outrage.

Fans are fuckin garbage, is what I’m saying.

I do some freelance work, game design consulting, and I’ve worked on games Hardspace: Shipbreakers and created games like Adios and Paratopic.