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Gameverse | October 27, 2020

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Should Nintendo Make a Pokemon MMO?

Matthew Byrd

If you haven’t been paying attention to the Steam sales charts, you may not have noticed that a game called Temtem is quickly becoming one of 2020’s runaway hits.

What is Temtem? Well, there’s a lot of things you can say about it, but Temtem is essentially a Pokemon MMO.

Yes, there are differences, but we’re talking about a game where you run around various locations, catch and tame new monsters, and use them to battle other monsters and their trainers. Of course, the big difference in this instance is that you can do all those typical Pokemon things with a large online community of other players trying to do the same.

You should know that Temtem may be surprisingly popular, but it’s also quite buggy, suffers from some questionable grinding mechanics, and doesn’t really feature that much end game content or extra content beyond the grind of the experience. It’s a seriously flawed game that has nevertheless captured the imaginations of millions.

Of course, that just raises two questions that many find themselves asking: “Should Nintendo make a Pokemon MMO?” and “Why haven’t they made one already?”

The answer to that first question is “Probably.” You can argue whether or not MMOs are quite as popular as they used to be, but titles like Destiny and even the resurgence of World of Warcraft show that the genre does have life left in it and is capable of capturing the attention of a variety of gamers.

More importantly, you can kind of just see a Pokemon MMO working even if Nintendo chooses to only utilize relatively simple genre mechanics. While it’s not quite this simple, you can basically imagine a single-player game of Pokemon where most of the other trainers are real people. We’ve even seen raids in recent Pokemon titles, and Pokemon Go showed that people love the idea of Pokemon as a communal experience.

If that’s too hypothetical for you, then you’ve really just got to look at how Temtem has become a hit by just offering the basic framework of a Pokemon MMO. Imagine what Nintendo could do with that concept with their budget and resources.

Naturally, that leads us to the question of “Why hasn’t Nintendo made a Pokemon MMO?” which proves to be a much more difficult and frustrating query.

This may be controversial, but there are some who believe the answer to that question has something to do with Nintendo’s doubts regarding what the future of Pokemon is. Pokemon Sword and Shield were actually mostly pretty good games, but they fell way short of fan expectations for the first proper console Pokemon adventures.

You just get the feeling that Nintendo (and Game Freak) is hesitant to really take the Pokemon franchise beyond its early formula. That may sound odd given the various Pokemon spin-offs that exist and even the success of the aforementioned Pokemon Go, but when you really look at it, Nintendo at least seems hesitant to release a major Pokemon game that (ironically) evolves the core Pokemon concept from a gameplay perspective.

That seems to be the root of this problem. Again, Temtem shows that a truly successful Pokemon MMO won’t be able to entirely rely on the novelty of that concept. At some point, it’s got to be as compelling as an MMO as it is as a Pokemon title. Besides, Nintendo and Game Freak really don’t have that much experience with creating such elaborate online experiences. Finding out what makes a Pokemon MMO special beyond some superficial encounters and the inherent fun of the genre would require them to take some notable steps outside of their comfort zone.

A Pokemon MMO could be special, and there are probably a lot of people that would love to see one. However, if Nintendo isn’t willing to make a Pokemon Switch title that feels like something more than a slightly larger (though often oddly smaller) Pokemon handheld game, then is there really a chance they would give this concept the attention it deserves?