National Pokédex Controversy – The Depth Behind Pokéfans’ Valid Outrage

28 comments

I have spent more time playing Pokémon games in my life than I’ve spent playing the top 5 games in my Steam library sorted by “most time played” combined. I could be considered an expert on Pokémon. I’ve played them all. I know them all. I know the community.

There has been an overwhelming amount of back and forth discourse in the Nintendo Switch gaming community lately about the removal of the National Pokédex from Pokémon Sword and Shield. Some fans support the change, but a majority of fans are vehemently against it. I want to dig a little deeper into the reasons why fans are so upset, and why expressing this outrage does not make them “entitled crybabies”.

The Sword and Shield Situation

The National Pokédex and the ability to transfer collections is a feature players have had access to since Pokémon Diamond an Pearl released with the Pal Park thirteen years ago.

During E3 last month, Nintendo announced that Sword and Shield as well as future Pokémon games on the Switch will not include a National Pokédex. Only a fraction of all existing Pokémon will be in each upcoming release and there will be no way to transfer a player’s entire long term Pokémon collection to Sword and Shield from past games. Players will only be able to transfer Pokémon that exist in each game’s Regional Pokédex and will need to store the rest on the original game or in the Pokémon Home app.

To explain how the two-Dex system usually works for non-Pokémon players, the Regional Pokédex allows the player to catch all of the Pokémon that are obtainable in the main region featured in each set of Pokémon game releases, known as “generations”. (Sword and Shield will be Generation 8.) After beating the game’s main story, the player earns access to the National Pokédex, which contains data on every Pokémon in existence across all games, all Regions, all generations (over 800 Pokemon) and allows you to have them on your game file via a transfer method such as the Pokémon Bank app.

Pokémon’s slogan has always been “Gotta Catch em All!”, but in Sword and Shield we won’t be able to catch them all for the first timer ever. Why is losing the ability truly “Catch ’em All” a big deal to many Pokemon fans?

Losing Favorites, Memories, and Rare Collections

There are a wide variety of reasons as to why Pokémon fans are upset with the National Pokédex announcement, some of which the opposing side of the argument may not have considered. The removal of the National Pokédex will deeply harm the entire ecosystem of the Pokémon player community.

Every Pokémon is someone’s favorite, no matter how overlooked by the internet at large. There was recently a survey of over 52,000 pokemon fans on Reddit. The results revealed that only four pokemon out over over 800 had not received a single vote. With a higher voting pool, it is likely even those four would have received a vote.

Pokémon can be a incredibly sentimental for players. Many feel genuine attachment to their teams from the various games over time and some people still keep the first team they ever beat a Pokemon game with and have brought it with them across platforms for over a decade.

One topic I haven’t heard come up much to my surprise is the effort put into players’ special collections. There are multiple types of Pokémon collecting that ardent Pokémon fans engage in which will be completely ruined by the loss of the National Dex and transfer options: The “Living Dex”, competitive collections, shiny collections, and Event Pokémon collections.

Redditor Zento’s Living Dex from Pokémon Black and White

1. The Living Dex refers to a “live” collection of every existing Pokémon. This type of collection will include one Bulbasaur, one Ivysaur, one Venusaur, etc. down the line, for each Pokémon in existence, all stored by Pokédex number order inside the player’s in-game PC or inside the PokéBank app. It’s by far the most exhaustive and time consuming type of collecting, as it takes much hunting, breeding, and trading with other players to accomplish.

2. Competitively bred collections are another big one on the list. Many players like to engage in online competitive battles and most who do breed their Pokémon specifically for this purpose. Pokémon breeding for optimal stats, natures, and abilities is no easy task. It takes extensive learning, a lot of time, and endless patience to get the perfect team for competitive battles. That’s just one team, let alone several or dozens!

The shiny versions of the original 151 Pokémon

3. “Shiny” Pokémon are an alternate color version of a Pokémon and each Pokémon has a unique shiny recolor. Your normal chances of encountering a shiny pokemon in the older games was 1 in around 4,100 encounters, and in the newer games the encounter chance can be improved with the Shiny Charm item to around 1 in 1,500. Either way, shiny Pokémon are very rare and coveted by collectors. Some players may never see a shiny Pokémon in their gaming careers. Personally, I have over three boxes of shiny Pokémon I’ve collected since Gen 3. Losing any of these individual Pokémon would be a huge heartbreaker.

4. Lastly there are Event Pokémon. Nintendo offers special Event Pokémon giveaways at specific times and locations via online or physical distribution methods. These are versions of Pokémon you cannot find in any games. For instance, you might need to go to GameStop to get a specific, rare, Legendary Pokémon in shiny form, but only for two weeks during the summer of 2018, and that’s it! No other chances. Other Event Pokémon might come with a ticket for seeing a Pokémon film in theaters. The older the Event, the rarer and more coveted the Pokémon.

Perceived Unjustified Reasoning

Pokémon is one of the highest grossing video game franchise of all time. With Nintendo’s money and resources, there is little that would not be available to GameFreak’s team to meet their goals, assuming they made a pitch for it.

The reason given for omitting the National Pokédex?

“[…] we’re creating it with much higher fidelity with higher quality animations. But even more than that, it’s coming down to the battle system. We’re making sure we can keep everything balanced and give all the Pokemon that appear in the games a chance to shine.” – USGamer interview

Players are not satisfied with the given reasons of animation quality and game balance because they seem like anti-consumer cop outs that can be remedied if corporate greed was removed from the picture. Fans feel straight up lied to.

In the shown footage from E3, we do not see any of this alleged “higher quality animation” or attention to detail. The #BringBackNationalDex tag quickly took over Twitter after the announcement. Fan forums are full of community members comparing animations side by side with older ones from past games that are more detailed, and even Chinese bootleg Pokemon games with better animations.

In this thread, a professional animator lifts the veil on how easily the Pokémon models are taken from the 3DS games and upgraded for the Switch. In the below video, a student animator shows how quickly they not only recreate a model from Galar’s overworld, but also add in movement animation that is missing from Nintendo’s footage.

A comment from a Japanese Pokémon fan on the associated E3 announcement video was upvoted to the top of the comments section, giving some fascinating insight into the opinions of Japanese players about the National Dex controversy:

“People here in Japan are very angry about this also. This is a huge deal for two reasons, the first reason is that in Japan we are rarely vocal about our opinions because we don’t like to start conflict. If we are very passionate about something and tell people our opinion publicly, it must be very important. Pokemon is a very popular video game series in Japan and a lot of people care about it. We want Gamefreak and Nintendo to put as much effort into these games as they can to make it the best quality game it can be.

They could have definitely added all of the Pokemon and had no real reason to cut them. The Switch can definitely handle 1000+ Pokemon models, it is much more powerful than the 3ds and that could handle 800+ Pokemon plus their walking/running animations. They already had every old Pokemon model from Sun and Moon to use and just had to update it graphic wise. Plus they already had the 151 Kanto models finished in Let’s Go.

They could have put Sword & Shield as a priority and had the best team working on the game but they didn’t, instead they side lined Pokemon in favor of a new game and had their secondary team developing Pokemon. They didn’t hire enough people to work on the game and treated it like it wasn’t important.

The second reason this is a problem, is that when they realized they weren’t going to have enough time to update every Pokemon model and put it into the game, they chose not to hire more people and do it. Instead they came up with an unconvincing excuse all so that they wouldn’t have to spend any extra time, money, or effort into developing the game. They figured they could get away with cutting content because they figured people would buy the game no matter what terrible decisions they make. They think saving money is more important than making a great game…”


You can find the full comment here.

Set Precedent Broken With No Warning

Image result for pal park pokemon pearl
Pal Park, the first Pokémon transfer option introduced 13 years ago

With thirteen years of consistent inclusion, the National Pokémon and collection transfer options are widely considered by Pokémon fans to be a fundamental, core feature of Pokémon games. In fact, some players are young enough that they have never played a Pokemon game that did not have these features.

Collecting decisions have traditionally been made by players based on transfer availability. These are decisions they might not have made if they knew that eventually they would lose the ability to maintain cross-generation collections. I am not alone when I say that if I had known this was coming, I would not have spent nearly so many hours on Pokémon over the years.

Let’s try an analogy: Imagine that every car in the world was made by the same manufacturer. Now, imagine that manufacturer announced that cars henceforth will no longer be made with a trunk or storage space. If consumers were upset by this announcement, would they still be accused of acting entitled?

Image result for pokemon uhaul

After all, we live our lives (first world, commuter culture lives) with the expectation of being able to transport not only our self but our property with us in our vehicles. We buy products expecting to be able to transport them home, transport them when we move houses, take luggage with us on trips, and so on. Of course car owners would have alternate options such as carrying items by hand, by bike or motorcycle, sending them by mail, or renting a U-Haul.

Unlike the analogous vehicle owners, Pokémon players have no other options. They are being forced to give up something they already had access to as a core feature in Pokémon games for over a decade. Removing long term, much loved features from products typically results in consumer backlash in any industry. Is this really not understandable or not a valid reason to voice negative feedback?

Are Pokémon fans acting unreasonably “entitled”?

No, they are not. Consumers are rightfully entitled to their anger over Nintendo’s whiplash National Dex change from left field. This situation has lead to players feeling like they are being lied to and cheated out of a broad mix of experiences they felt were core to the overarching Pokémon experience because of corporate greed. Every Pokémon, no matter how overlooked, is someone’s favorite somewhere. Players want to keep their entire collections. With the National Pokédex’s removal, Pokémon’s literal catchphrase, “Gotta Catch ’em All”, will become a lie.

“Just speak with your wallet”, some internet voices on social media say in response, “Don’t buy the games!”

Boycotting is useless in this case because Pokémon is so wildly popular that a relatively small portion of outspoken fans organizing on the internet won’t make a dent in Nintendo’s sales. All boycotting the product will do is punish the players doing so by preventing them from enjoying the new game with the Pokéfan community during the most exciting time for Pokémon games, the immediate post release weeks full of discovery.

There is no legitimate reason the National Pokédex could not be included at launch with a delayed release or at a later date in the form of downloadable content. Long term franchise loyalty should be worth something to publishers and fans feel like Nintendo is slapping them in the face after a decade of returning for new adventures every year with all of their favorite Pokémon. Nintendo’s PR team would be fools to ignore the fans over the National Pokédex issue.

Thanks for reading!

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28 comments on “National Pokédex Controversy – The Depth Behind Pokéfans’ Valid Outrage”

  1. I’ve been following this whole thing since E3, and every interview or new piece of information that comes out makes me less and less excited to grab one of these games. I remember back in the day when Red/Blue came out, my friends and I would talk all the time about how a 3D open world Pokemon game would look on the N64, then Gamecube, then Wii and so on and how excited we were for that to happen. Now we have it, and it looks like a step up from the 3DS, and in some ways a downgrade. It’s just strange that this is the way GameFreak are choosing to progress the series.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Even if they were to keep up with the upcoming generations with each console, they would only have to update a new set of models for the initial launch then you’re good until next console release. There’s no rule stating they HAVE to do a near release every year. No one would mind if they took a little longer to keep all the Pokémon IMO.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This was a very good explanation of it all! I was a huge Pokemon fan as a kid and as much as I still like it, I don’t really play it (or anything for that matter) anymore. It is an interesting topic of discussion, though. Personally, I think I wouldn’t mind the change (if I still played). Pearl was the Pokemon game I poured the most time into, and maybe I just wasn’t very good, but I think the games made it near impossible to naturally complete the National Dex. My brother and I had an Action Replay and ended up cheating our way to about 80% completion before we got bored and tired of it.
    Personally and based on what you’ve explained here, I don’t think the outrage is completely valid. I understand why people may be upset with the choice, but I don’t know if being physically angry is needed. After all, people play new games for the new Pokemon, not to catch/see a Charmander again and again.
    I think a good compromise would be for the game’s settings to have it as an option. If you turn it on, you can’t turn it off, but once you beat the Elite Four, if you want access to other gens, you can have it if you want, but it’s not mandatory or forced upon you.

    P.S. That Reddit poll of the favourite Pokemon you linked here was very interesting!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for reading! So the problem with having a toggle option is that if you have the National Dex available in any capacity, GameFreak still has to upgrade or create all those models. Right now they are saying it’s not feasible because of too many Pokémon and the time it takes to do so. This is patently untrue as they could simply delay the game to make them all or release them in an update. They could do it if they wanted to. This is why people are accusing them of being lazy/greedy.

      Like

  3. Good article! I myself think its somewhat contradictory they aren’t going to include the National Dex, you then brilliantly pointed out the “Gotta Catch Em All!” slogan that is older than many who play the currently. This seems to be another example of where Nintendo could have defused the situation, but tried to use the lazy cop out excuse. I think if they didn’t want to include every single Pokemon they’ve ever created due to the extra work it creates (or whatever the real reason is), being a bit more transparent could have helped. A positive example of that would be Nintendo coming out and stating they weren’t happy with what they had so far with Metroid Prime 4 so they were scrapping it and starting over from the beginning. They didn’t think Pokemon fans would understand that after they’ve released a game just about every year?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for calling me out, I guess! ; ]

    In the time since I wrote that post, I’ve gotten a little more information surrounding the controversy, as I actually wasn’t aware of a few key details.

    The first was the company’s excuse (not statement, because it’s an excuse) that they wanted to focus more on “high-quality animation” in battling and such. If we were to theoretically equate this to focusing on the dynamax/gigantamax schticks, then I would WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree that people should be pissed. Instead of putting in every pokémon possible, let’s put in BEEG POCKET BOYS THAT SHOOT BIG FIREBALLS WHOA PEW PEW AHHHHHHHHH. That’s pretty garbage.

    I also didn’t really investigate just how hard it would be to implement every model into the game. I only thought “900+ pokémon moving and being out in the world and animating every battle animation and all the little details” and was like “That seems like it would take forever…” With the timeframe set and it being their first game on the Switch after being on handheld for a million years, I thought it’d be impossible to include that with everything else. That top comment in the video from the Japanese dude was a real eye-opener, though.

    As a last defense with my post itself, I never went either way in terms of whether I support or oppose the national dex in S&S. I only framed it in my belief that putting in the national dex along with everything else was insane, especially considering the set timeframe and the number of pokémon. At the time I believed fans were being super entitled, but after hearing the “high quality animation” excuse, I no longer think this. As for what I prefer, I don’t really care. I’m not the sentimental type that keeps my pokémon team everywhere; I start new with every game. I choose based on what the game provides, so the national dex isn’t important to me. I WOULD, however, choose a national dex over dynamaxing/gigantamaxing in a heartbeat.

    This was a really good post. You unleashed an ocean’s worth of evidence that supported your argument incredibly well. It even made me side with the consumer a tad more, though I’m still generally neutral to it all. In that same span of time since writing that post, S&S has lost a lot of the appeal that it initially did when they showed it off in early June. I’m currently resting on “Probably not buying it.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually read your post when I had this one left like 2/3rds done and it inspired/reminded me to finish it so I went ahead and pinged you in it. I can totally remove it if you’d like. No worries! ❤

      “BEEG POCKET BOYS THAT SHOOT BIG FIREBALLS WHOA PEW PEW AHHHHHHHHH” HAHAHAaaa I snerked out loud.

      Completely agree about Dynamax. It doesn’t interest me at all. I wish they had made Mega evos permanent. Those had a lot of thought and detail out into them. And I totally get people who aren’t into the National dex collecting. It’s certainly not for everyone.

      I’m in the camp of “will buy it regardless and just be sad”. Lol

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No, it’s alright. You can leave it in. I’m honored I inspired such a fierce rebuttal! I haven’t bought a Pokémon game (for myself; my sister loves them) since Omega Ruby (and ended up thinking it was mediocre), so I’m already pretty skilled at letting them pass by. I’ll just get Death Stranding instead.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Speaking as one of many long-time Pokemon fans, I agree that the National Dex exclusion really sucks, but I honestly don’t feel like it’s the deal-breaker that people are making it out to be… (feel free to boo and hiss at me?)
    1. Yes their excuse about the time it takes was lame, right up there with the FFXV “all-male party feeling more approachable” statement from Tabata; they should have made a more up-front and genuine statement regarding the decision they made to not include every Pokemon.
    2. Transferring competitive Pokemon over doesn’t really matter – as someone who dabbles in competitive, with each new game that drops, there is typically a stipulation in the rules that states your competitive team has to be hatched/bred/caught in the current region. Transferring would help the breeding process be faster (in order to get better EVs/IVs more quickly) but realistically it’s not too big a deal.
    3. The old games still exist with all the old Pokemon – it’s easy to return to an older title and revisit your old teams, play in the Battle Tree for a while or whatever. It’s not like they’re disappearing forever.
    4. Anyone who played Pokemon back in the Red/Blue and Gold/Silver days knows what a pain in the ass some of the mechanics were back then – the one-use only TM’s were one of the worst I can remember. They have made so many quality-of-life improvements, and changed mechanics to make the games less obnoxious. The fact that people complain about not every single Pokemon being catchable in-game seems a little extra to me when I look back at all the stuff we had to put up with in the older games (sorry, this point isn’t super relevant I know).
    5. Everyone wants the Pokemon franchise to continue – we all want to explore new regions, and find new Pokemon. So what happens when there are 1500 Pokemon? 1700? 2000? My point being, I don’t think the “Catch em all” concept could last forever. Eventually it’s going to get to a point where including all Pokemon is going to be overwhelming and unfeasible. The fact that its happening now is a shock, but realistically it was going to be this way eventually.

    Sorry for the novel! I don’t think anyone is acting unreasonable in being upset over this issue, I guess I’m just not as angry about it as other people are. Hopefully the games are stellar and everyone can come together again and move past this issue.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You’re good, I get you. 🙂

      1. Agree. My biggest issue personally is the lies. Just admit that you don’t want to commit extra studio time to it. Just admit it’s about money. Sheesh.
      2. Yes it would certainly help. I have about 20 boxes of 4/5 IV breeding pairs I’ve saved. I call it my “Breedimg Catalogue” and let friends borrow them. Lol
      3. People want to play on the new console though. That’s the whole point of getting the new games.
      5. I haven’t seen anyone complain about them not being catchable, just not being transferable. I apologize if that was confusing in the post. The catch em all slogan complaint meant people can’t keep everything they’ve already caught over the years. The numbers won’t be feasible later but they are now. No warning for this was bad. Very bad. They should have said something much much sooner, like two years ago, rather than as a footnote during E3 randomly.

      I’m not angry as much as disappointed. I’ll get the games anyway and just look at my collection sitting sadly in the Pokebank lol

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL “breeding catalogue” is a good name for it honestly. I get that people want to play with them on the Switch, but I’ve seen people talking like the fact that they’re not including them means they’re vanishing. Like no, you still have them on your old consoles, they’re not going anywhere. And sorry, instead of ‘catchable’ I should have said ‘obtainable’ by whatever means. Your post wasn’t confusing at all, just my poor word choice. Agreed that they should have been more transparent about the change earlier, rather than waiting until the last minute.
        I feel the same, I’m sad about it, but I’m still looking forward to seeing all the new Pokemon and trying them out. All my lovely Sun/Moon mons that I worked really hard on are stuck in bank-limbo as well 😦

        Like

  6. Prefacing this with context: I’m a lapsed fan of the franchise. I’ve poured as much time into the older games as some of the top time played games in my Steam library. The last game I played was the gen 3 remakes. I skipped the Sun/Moon generation entirely and had no interest in playing Sword and Shield until I saw the derpy water starter.

    Personally, I don’t care. I’ve played every game with only the regional dex and frequently deleted my old teams to play through the games again with a new group of monsters. I’ve done 100% of my competitive stuff online through alternative means and don’t have the patience (or desire) to do shiny farming, nor completing the Pokedex.

    From my perspective transferring Pokemon forward has always been a huge pain in the ass. Gen 1 to 2 required you to trade them one at a time, 3 to 4 only let you send over 6 at a time, 4 to 5 required two pieces of hardware, and 5 to 6 required a paid monthly subscription to an otherwise useless service. This is all a long way of saying only the most hardcore of fans would be truly losing out by the lack of this feature.

    Does that make those who are upset entitled? No. Expecting more from things you enjoy is a great way to encourage creators to make things even better. It’d make sense that the people most invested in Pokemon would be upset by the lack of this feature.

    Should people be as upset as they are about it? Ehhhhhh…

    Some of the criticism GameFreak is getting is certainly warranted and I’m glad people are finally criticizing how terrible the games look. The messaging and how they’ve chosen to tackle the problem also leaves a lot to be desired. Despite that, I dunno if people should be as upset about this as they are. Putting out a tweet in association with that trending hashtag, or voicing that you’re displeased in a Reddit thread I can get behind. A several week meltdown including new Reddit threads daily, the standard slew of toxic Twitter vomit, and comparison videos made to refute what the devs are saying though…I’d rather spend my time focused on something else personally.

    Granted, I’m saying that as someone who fell out with the franchise and only had a grain of interest when I gazed upon Mudkip 2.0, so what do I really know?

    Sidebar: Give my glorious 2D sprites back! Even if they’re not animated sprites. I’d still take that over what we got in the 3DS, and now Switch, era of Pokemon.

    I hate the 3DS era of Pokemon. All the Pokemon look like garbage and the games struggled to run on the 3DS. What really caught me off guard at the time was that so few people seemed to be giving GameFreak flak over it. It only took 6 years, but now we’re all on the same page. Praise be! \o/

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that still costs money to use does it not?

        So you’re paying an additional monetary fee on top of the game’s base price so that they don’t blow away your (probably <2mb) Pokemon collection from their cloud storage.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. 5 USD is still too much for something that should by all rights be free. Or at least that’s always where I’ve stood on it. Don’t even get me started on paying for online access to games on the consoles…

        That’s a nice change though. Having everything centralized and easily managed outside of the consoles is a huge plus. And it also has the appropriate price. :p

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve always hated the argument that gamers are entitled for having certain expectations of the games they buy with their own money. Especially when it comes to a franchise with such a large, established fanbase as Pokemon. I was never a big fan myself, but I understand the appeal and the anger that tone-deaf moves like this can stir up. As for the “vote with your wallet” point, sure, that’s fine, but why alienate your fanbase in the first place?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yeah, I definitely understand why Pokefans are so upset and I think it’s completely justified. It’s not enough for me to cancel my pre-order, but I also wouldn’t judge those who have given up on buying the game. It’s becoming more and more apparent that Gamefreak is phoning these games in and not putting the amount of work and effort you would expect from such a globally popular series. I really hope Nintendo can switch Pokemon to a different company if this continues, but from what I’ve heard it’ll be very difficult to get the series away.

    Like

  9. Nice article! I stopped playing the Pokémon Games after Black/White came out. I didn’t like those games and didn’t want to buy a new handheld for every new game I could play and while that may sound cheap, I think that’s it’s reasonable. Surely, you do upgrade your PC but you don’t just buy three or for PCs to play newer games, eh?
    So, that’s why I can’t really relate to newer games and stuff but I can see how not-having-the-national-dex upsets quite a lot of people and I agree that a belated game is better than a rushed game. If they’re gonna rush the game and bring out an unfinished pokémon game, people will still buy it. They won’t be all that happy about it, but they still will do. And that sucks, since there aren’t that many Pokémon-like games out there – apart from maybe Spectrobes, uhm..Heartbeat..other RPG Maker games..yeah, but no high quality releases done by major gaming companies. :c
    Great article though! Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading! Yeah people will still buy it regardless including me. But I’ll still be miffed about it. Feelsbadman. Dude Spectrobes was awesome! I loved that game. Ni No Kuni also has a robust creature capture system and the port is coming to Switch soon.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Spectrobes was one of my favourite NDS game back in the day apart from the Prof Layton series, Harvest Moon and Ghost Trick! My absolute favourite Pokémon game is, btw, the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series! You can hear my fanboying about its soundtrack in that Moonlighter review I posted the other day 😀
        I haven’t played Ni No Kuni yet, but I think the second part came out for PC and I may buy it someday while it’s on sale. 🙂 We’ll see.

        Liked by 1 person

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