Nintendo Co. is gambling that it can sell millions of Switch consoles this holiday season by introducing a new “Pokemon” game that interacts with the free-to-play mobile hit “Pokemon Go,” as well as a new character that resembles a hex nut.
“Let’s Go Pikachu” and “Let’s Go Eevee,” which went on sale worldwide Friday, are the first titles from the popular series for Nintendo’s newest console. Armed with richer graphics, the games are designed to appeal to the 850 million fans who have played “Pokemon Go.” Those who buy the new games can sync their smartphones and Switch consoles through a Bluetooth connection and doing so lets users transfer pocket monsters between the mobile app and Switch games, and also unlock Meltan, the new character.
Nintendo is aiming to boost Switch sales during an otherwise lackluster year for software releases. Analysts point to 2016 when the debut of “Pokemon Go” reignited interest in buying 3DS consoles to play more games in the series. They estimate Meltan can help sell 7.5 million units of the new titles by March, according to four analyst projections compiled by Bloomberg. “Meltan” was trending on social media among Pokemon fans within hours of the game’s release.
The “Pokemon” series has sold 101 million titles on Nintendo devices since 2004, second only to the “Super Mario” franchise with 121 million, according to Nintendo’s data.
” ‘Pokemon Go’ had a significant positive impact on 3DS hardware and ‘Pokemon’ software sales, so I think the potential is there for a similar impact on Switch,” said Piers Harding-Rolls, head of games research at IHS Markit. “Nintendo believes this will make a great gifting product over the holiday sales season and is a key reason it hasn’t dropped its Switch full year shipment forecast.”
Nintendo needs to win the support of more gamers like Christina Grybel, a lifelong “Pokemon” player in the U.S. who plans to buy a Switch to collect the new pocket monster. “The main reason to get the ‘Let’s Go’ game is for Meltan,” she said in an interview.
At the same time, the move to link the new Switch game titles to “Pokemon Go” has alienated some members of the Pokemon community, who say Meltan’s introduction is a cheap move aimed at fans who like to collect every available pocket monster. That, they say, forces gamers to spend at least $360 (about ¥40,000) to buy a Switch and a “Let’s Go” game. As a result, some say that Nintendo is making it very difficult for fans to achieve the motto of the series — “Gotta Catch ‘Em All.”
“Some people will never be able to finish their collections in ‘Pokemon Go,’ which is sad and against what ‘Pokemon’ stands for,” said Lisa Zahn, a lifelong “Pokemon” gamer from Germany. Other veteran players are also threatening to boycott purchases because they say core features such as battles have been over-simplified to appeal to smartphone gamers. Lackluster reviews aren’t helping, with the new titles receiving some of the lowest scores in the series.
Nintendo declined to comment, while Pokemon Co. didn’t respond to a request for comment.
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