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Pokemon Skipping a 2024 Release Doesn’t Actually Mean All That Much

Hey, look at that—Pokemon doesn’t have a new game coming out in 2024, missing an annual release for once. Fans everywhere are celebrating this move to mean developer Game Freak has taken recent criticisms to heart and is spending a little extra time on the next Pokemon game, but is that actually the case? Probably not. In fact, Pokemon skipping 2024 doesn’t mean much of anything.

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On its face, it sure looks like something. Pokemon has had annual releases for major games in the series since 2016’s Sun and Moon, so a break in the release schedule is quite notable. But it’s also important to note that 2021’s major Pokemon release was the Gen 4 remakes, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, which weren’t developed by Game Freak but by ILCA, a developer best known for the Pokemon HOME app. So while Pokemon has been releasing games annually for quite a while, Game Freak did take a break in 2021.

If you look at the pattern of previous Game Freak-developed Pokemon games, they usually release in three-year increments. And nothing about that has changed. In fact, Gen 9’s development cycle is shaping up to look exactly like Gen 8’s when we remove ILCA’s contribution from the equation:

  • Gen 8:
    • 2019: Sword and Shield
    • 2020: Sword and Shield DLC
    • 2022: Legends Arceus
  • Gen 9:
    • 2022: Scarlet and Violet
    • 2023: Scarlet and Violet DLC
    • 2025: Legends Z-A

Each of Gen 9’s entries comes three years after its Gen 8 counterpart. It looks as if Pokemon’s ninth generation of games is following the same exact release schedule as the eighth generation of Game Freak-developed games. So nothing here has changed.

The best we can hope for is that Pokemon Legends: Z-A releases in mid-to-late 2025, which would likely push Gen 10 to 2026. But that seems unlikely. Game Freak has rarely deviated from its strict development cycle, and there’s little incentive for it to change right now when we all keep buying their mediocre games anyway. Not to mention that Game Freak needs to keep pushing out a steady stream of games to fuel all of Pokemon’s merchandising and franchise tie-ins, which likely depend on the games to keep a steady schedule so they can stay relevant and timely.

At this point, it’s probably more important for Pokemon as a business entity to consistently release new games than to have the games be good. There’s a reason Pokemon has remained the most profitable franchise in the world, and it’s not because the games sell well.

So, looking at Game Freak’s development pattern, we can probably still expect the 10th generation of Pokemon games to be released in late 2025, three years after Scarlet and Violet. And unless Game Freak has significantly reduced its ambition, you shouldn’t expect Gen 10 to have any major improvements over Scarlet and Violet. Game Freak has shown that three years simply isn’t enough time to put out a quality game anymore.

Besides, even if Gen 10 is pushed to 2026, would four years even be enough time to produce a high-quality, well-polished 3D Pokemon game? Modern AAA games now routinely take five or six years to make, and that’s coming from developers with much larger teams than Game Freak.

I sympathize with Pokemon going through growing pains. Pokemon has always been a low-tech, handheld series, and the Nintendo Switch has disrupted its roots, forcing it to modernize faster than it’s currently capable of. In the past, Pokemon constantly received criticism for always reusing the same stale formula, but reinvention takes time. Game Freak needs to allow time for Pokemon to reinvent itself as a AAA console game. Unfortunately, Pokemon as a capitalistic conglomerate has become too large to slow down.

I don’t see Pokemon’s development cycle changing, nor do I see it changing anytime soon without some sort of major shakeup. We can pat The Pokemon Company on the back for not releasing a game in 2024, for allowing us some breathing room, but don’t think it means anything. Pokemon’s hardly doing anything different.


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Author
Seth Lowe
Seth is a freelance writer at the Escapist and joined the site in February 2024. An avid Nintendo lover and a true Pokemon master, surely you'll find him glued to a Game Boy no matter where he is. You can also find contributions of his on other gaming sites, such as Prima Games, Gamepur, and TheGamer. He covers Pokemon, Final Fantasy, and more for The Escapist.