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Ever since players got to choose from the original trio of Bulbasuar, Charmander and Squirtle in Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue, the world of Pokémon has evolved into a franchise unlike any other. Seven generations of the games have been released, with an eighth generation on the way, along with spin-off games diverting from the original format having also spawned over the years. It also holds a long running anime show, with over a thousand episodes and movies coming out every year, which is unprecedented for anything based on a computer game. The love for all the branches of the franchise is clear to see, so why have Nintendo not cashed in on the MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) genre?
You would have thought with over 20 years of games they would have attempted to created at least one MMO. But, so far, only fan created unofficial games have been created. Every other platform available for gamers to turn to have made massive bucks on the MMO circuit, but it seems to be a realm Nintendo are scared to venture into. It is a shame they have not made an MMO yet and Pokémon is a game clearly setting out a premise and plot ready for them to use. Here is how Nintendo could easily work on their first major MMO and finally break into a market they seem to be avoiding.
Starting Out on Your MMO Adventure
One of the first things a player has to do with nearly every Pokémon game is to choose their gender and name. This is standard for the majority of MMOs. Even games like Grand Theft Auto, who only sport male protagonists in story mode, allow players to select a female character during MMO gameplay. One thing Pokémon does not allow players to do is customise their trainer's outfit or style—you may be given the option to alter hair colour, skin tone and eye colour, but how the character looks is set in stone. Later games have allowed for more customisation as the player progresses in the game, such as salons for new hair cuts and clothing boutiques for new clothes. An MMO version should give some limited hair and clothing options to begin with and then allow for more options to be purchased later in through the gameplay. Even if all players can do is select between the clothes, hair, and appearances of the male and female protagonists of each generation.
Choosing Where to Start
After a player has chosen their name and look, they would then select which Professor they wish to have as their mentor. This would then dictate which region the player will start their journey in. If they chose Professor Oak they could select from the original trio and start in Kanto; if the selected Professor Birch they would begin in Hoenn and get to choose from Treecko, Torchic, or Mudkip. With the Professor selected, the story mode would kick in and allow the player to run around the region, capture the Pokémon of that land, earn the eight gym badges or complete the trials, and then head to the league for the elite four and the champion battle. With the title of the region earned, players would then open up the National Pokédex and be called to return to their Professor.
The Professor would inform them that the S.S. Anne is located at the port and can take the trainer to new regions to discover new Pokémon and set out on a new adventure. With MMOs earning money primarily through micro-transactions, here is where Nintendo would begin to rank up the moola like their competitors. The game would cost your standard price for a new game, but with Pokémon games offering so much from generation to generation, it would not be unacceptable for Nintendo to charge $25-$30 per new region. While some may argue no MMO holds prices so high for new content, you do have to remember these expansions would be whole new games for players to enjoy rather than a new level or a couple of new characters to choose from.
Once a player has selected the new region they wish to purchase, they would board the S.S. Anne and set sail across the vast oceans. Upon arrival in the new region, they would be greeted by the new Professor and allowed to choose one of the three starter Pokémon of that region. This is where the player would also be warned that their trained Pokémon will now disobey them as in this region they do not have any gym badges and have yet to prove themselves. This would mean if they had a level 75 Charizard from the previous region, it would become greatly unreliable, but it wouldn't restrict you from bringing across that level 7 Oddish caught but never trained. The gym badges have always acted as a way to regulate players from using Pokémon of high levels early in the games. With that explained, your character would then head out and earn the badges and complete the new region.
After Completing the Regions
You might think, what can a player do once they have completed the current seven (soon to be eight) regions? Well, your original Professor would contact you asking to see you. Returning to your Professor you would be introduced to Scott, a member of the Battle Frontier. Having proven yourself across the world, you have been invited to prove yourself the best of the best. Battling other top players, you would earn points and eventually be granted a battle to face the Frontier Brains, earning a new set of badges to prove you have mastered every aspect of being a Pokémon master. Now truly attuned to the Pokémon and being a Frontier Brain, you would be allowed to journey to new regions where you can become a Pokémon Ranger or to a dungeon realm where you become a Pokémon yourself. This would allow the MMO to tap into other games that spin-off from the original incarnation of the games and keep players coming back for more.
Trainer Battles MMO Style
When a player runs around a region they encounter many NPC trainers ready to battle them and help in training their Pokémon team. An MMO could keep some of these NPC trainers, but a true MMO would see players facing off against each other live! The game could have an alert system added to make a player aware if they are being challenged by a player with Pokémon in their party that are much higher levels than their own, and allow the option to refuse a battle. This would avoid new players being poached by veteran players for easy money and experience. To also avoid irritating players, it could be altered so when a team of Pokémon are knocked out in battle, rather than spawning back at a Pokémon centre the team will all be at half HP, forcing a player to either use items or head back to the centre to heal the team up.
The fun part behind the MMO battles is opponents may have come from a region the player has not visited yet. This could mean if a player faces someone from another region, they may have a Pokémon they did not train earlier on their team. It would give some excitement behind what you would see in these battles and bring some diversity in what you could encounter while travelling from town to town. Let us also not forget with other players live in the game, it would mean you could finally set out on a Pokémon adventure with your actual friends, much like Ash and Pikachu in the anime.
Any good Pokémon trainer knows there are legends in the games to discover. Many of these Pokémon are found as the player journeys around the map and these Pokémon would remain in the game for the player to find, battle, and capture. However, there are some Pokémon that have only ever been obtainable through special events. These Pokémon have required players to travel to an event and receive the Pokémon, access Nintendo's mystery gift feature to get the Pokémon added to their game, or on the odd occasion been a reward for players who have participated in events. These event exclusive Pokémon are:
- Mew (gen 1)
- Celebi (gen 2)
- Jirachi (gen 3)
- Spike-Eared Pichu (gen 4)
- Manaphy (gen 4)
- Phione (gen 4)
- Darkrai (gen 4)
- Shaymin (gen 4)
- Arceus (gen 4)
- Victini (gen 5)
- Keldeo (gen 5)
- Meloetta (gen 5)
- Genesect (gen 5)
- Diancie (gen 6)
- Hoopa (gen 6)
- Volcanion (gen 6)
- Magearna (gen 7)
- Marshadow (gen 7)
- Zeraora (gen 7)
That is already quite a list of Pokémon that players cannot just find in a game and capture, and what is an MMO without time limited events for players to undertake for rare items or powers? These Pokémon give an open opportunity for Nintendo to employ them as side adventures a player must undertake to encounter these rare Pokémon. They have also had items in the games that can only be obtained through events, so they also have those as an option to increase the number of events they could run in a year.
As mentioned earlier, a big part of the potential revenue could be created through purchasing the new regions for players to explore. However, MMOs tend to hold shops which allow players to purchase in-game items for their character. These can include style and clothing options, postures for their character, and items to use in the game such as healing items. Pokémon has plenty for players to need and use in the game. Exclusive shop based hair styles and clothing options is obvious, but new mannerisms and ways for the character to move would allow all players to create their own unique looking trainer. Also, being a Pokémon trainer requires items to use, from Pokéballs to potions to evolution items. There is plenty for Nintendo to pack into a Pokémon MMO shop.
Why have Nintendo not made this yet?
Considering the game is pretty much there and just needs a team to make it, you have to wonder why Nintendo have never even considered making a Pokémon MMO. The game would clearly be a lucrative opportunity for the company and Pokémon fans have always remained loyal to the franchise. Just consider how the simply mobile phone app Pokémon Go hit the world unlike any other app just a couple of years ago. It was so simple, taking a classic loved game and giving players something new. An MMO would offer Nintendo the same fortunes and allow players to live out the dream of travelling the world with their friends on a Pokémon adventure.
Would you like to see a Pokémon MMO? What would you want a Pokémon MMO to bring to players?