Maybe more than any other gaming franchise of the last 20 years or so, Pokémon has shown a unique ability to grab the world’s attention. The original games were flat-out sensations; the follow-up cartoons and subsequent games were quite popular; and as we discussed in 2018, Pokémon GO became a viral hit once more in the mobile gaming space.
At this point, we can safely say that each new Pokémon game, show, or even film to come out will be at least a moderate success. But it also feels likely that at one point or another, in six months or in 10 years, Pokémon will find another way to become a worldwide sensation, the way it was when the games first came out, or when Pokémon GO introduced millions to augmented reality gaming.
Part of the intrigue of this is that we have no way of knowing when or how it will happen. But just for fun, here are some guesses as to how it might happen all over again.
1. Blue & Red On Mobile
If you thought Pokémon GO on mobile was a big deal… well, you were absolutely right. But there’s reason to believe a mobile return of the original Gameboy hits – Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue – might just about break app stores. These are among the most beloved video games in history, and they happen to be ideal fits for mobile adaptation. They’re not particularly demanding from a graphics standpoint, the size of the games shouldn’t represent a huge hurdle, and the gameplay certainly doesn’t have demands that exceed touchscreen capabilities.
Should these two originals simply be rebooted as mobile games, they could make Pokémon every bit the sensation it was in the beginning – not to mention rope in a whole new generation of devoted fans. Plus, while it wouldn’t necessarily thrill us as gamers, the developers could work in plenty of payment incentives that would net them millions (such as having the option to pay for exotic Pokémon, much-needed items, or experience upgrades).
2. The First True VR Hit
There’s something vaguely amusing about the virtual reality “boom” we’ve seen in the last five years or so – which is really that it never quite boomed. VR was a thrilling rumour, had a gradual, underwhelming unveiling, and has since meandered back and forth between promising and disappointing. Engadget wrote recently that 2020 is VR’s make-or-break year – but this was not the first time we’ve seen articles like that.
There are numerous explanations for the bizarre, undefined nature of the VR era. But undoubtedly one factor in the narrative that VR has been a disappointment is the lack of a defining, hit video game. There are absolutely good games and some that have generated a fair amount of positive attention. But there’s not a hit that everyone knows about and wants to play, or that incentivizes people to go out and buy headsets. It’s a tall order, but should the folks behind Pokémon design such a hit, it could be the biggest development since the franchise’s inception.
3. Printed Catches From Pokémon GO
This one is a little outside the box, but it’s based on the fact that 3D printing has somewhat quietly become a far more accessible technology than it tends to get credit for. Some of the basics of modern 3D printing services are covered at Fictiv, which makes it clear that one can obtain a 3D-printed product with relative simplicity. Designs can be submitted, price quotes are quick, and the actual printing, in whatever material you may desire as a customer, takes just hours. For the most part, these services are meant to be used by businesses and those in need of prototypes for their own product lines. But there’s no rule saying 3D printing can’t be used for pure fun.
This brings us to the potential for Pokémon GO to link up with 3D printing. Because these printing services are commercially available, and not just stashed in manufacturing plants, we could imagine a world in which Pokémon GO designs could be sent as digital files for printing. In other words, when you go out into the world and capture your digital Pikachu, you could then send a Pikachu file to a connected 3D printing service and receive a Pikachu figure shortly thereafter. It would be something of a gimmick, but an incredibly fun one that might just spark another sensation.
4. A Successful Theme Park
As you may know, if you’re a Pokémon fan, there have actually been attempts – failed ones – at a Pokémon theme park before. So it’s understandable if this suggestion doesn’t necessarily inspire a lot of confidence. On the other hand, can’t you just imagine how much fun a park like this would be if someone got it just right?
Well, in this case, it might actually happen. While the 3D printing idea seems unlikely, and it’s easy to doubt whether we’ll ever see a true VR hit at this point, we happen to know, courtesy of Slash Gear, that Universal Studios is working on a Pokémon theme park. In fact, it’s supposed to be open in 2020! It’s sort of difficult to preview a theme park, so we’ll simply have to wait and see what it’s like when it opens. But if this park exceeds expectations, it could certainly bring the world’s attention back to the wonders of this franchise yet again.