Today the Pokemon Company official announced the new cloud service for the Nintendo Switch, Pokemon Home. The service would act similarly to its predecessor, Pokemon Bank on the 3DS but with extra features thrown in, but before we get to that, lets look into what systems Home supports.
Courtesy of the Pokemon Company’s official site, we have this infographic that showcases the different platforms Pokemon Home supports. We can see that Pokemon stored in the Pokemon Bank app on the 3DS can be directly transferred to the new cloud server so we can bring over all Pokemon from previous games into this new service. Keep in mind though that since Sword and Shield does not support all Pokemon registered in the National Pokedex that means the Pokemon not supported in the game have nowhere to go unless further implemented in a future patch or game. The service also offers support to the Let’s Go series with Pokemon GO support coming soon.
Fans immediately took to Twitter following this news with many speculating as to why the service launching next month does not include support for Pokemon GO initially. No word as to why so far, but many others up to know were speculating the cost of this service. When Pokemon Bank debuted in 2013, following the X and Y titles; it cost $5 USD service a year. Just cheap enough for the price to go forgotten. Due to its nature, people were speculating for Pokemon Home to be around the same price or be included within the Nintendo Switch Online (NSO) subscription service.
What we discovered today was something that no one expected, the price and services offered with the subscription.
While there may be a “free” plan it does not allow for more than 30 Pokemon to deposited from either Let’s GO or Sword and Shield. The premium plan is needed for access with Pokemon Bank. That number is absolutely nothing and so is the wonder box numbers. Sure, it is free to access the trading features that Pokemon Home has to offer. But price aside for now, it doesn’t make for a great practice carrying on into the future that this wonderful trading feature of wonder trade, the GTS that has been a core staple of the games since Gen 4, friend trade and room trade are all kept exclusively to this app. It does not set a good precedent going forward that such a vital mechanic to the Pokemon franchise is kept separate from the base game. The Y-Comm system in Sword and Shield is an utter disgrace and absolutely atrocious with how difficult it is to communicate and trade with other players. Mechanics like trading should always be included in the game itself and never in some outside app.
There are also more features within the app of course that I have linked to for convenience like the National Pokedex, Mystery Gift and IV checking. The issue here is that for one, the IV checking is locked to that premium plan, a free mechanic offered in the main games. The National Pokedex is also limited to the app since not all of the Pokemon are supported in Sword and Shield so while the #BringBackTheNationalDex movement did get what they want, they truly haven’t. It’s more of a fake out with saying “Oh, here’s what you want, just not in the actual game.” It does very little to quell the rampant discourse currently going on within the community.
The price alone is also asking for too much with $16 USD a year on top of the NSO which is $20 USD a year. The biggest takeaway from this is that unlike other platforms like Xbox or PlayStation, their online subscription plans may be more expensive but they are also universal. Every game that uses online functions on their platform run exclusively off their online subscription, they do not charge their own so for the Pokemon Company and Game Freak to start doing that sets a scary precedent for the future of the franchise. The price alone just to use this one franchise’s services is almost on par with Nintendo’s universal online service which is just as appalling as it because 3x the price of the Pokemon Bank.
To make matters worse, the research I did on the site the more I realized that Pokemon Home is just a literal re-skin of features found in Pokemon GO even down to the UI. Sure, there is most likely a point to it but when the core features like mystery gift and trading are held exclusively to the mobile app version it makes you wonder what the point of this service really is. Originally, it was though to be a convenient app and while it does that to some degree it also intentionally fragments everything even further.
Breaking this down even further, I worked my way through the toxic sludge that is the Pokemon Company’s social media page on Twitter and found a a lone comment and a few others like it that really did the math and broke down the numbers regarding the storage space.
When stated like this it really makes you wonder how little storage we are truly granted. If you are curious to break it down even further to know how large in data size each Pokemon is and how much storage 6,000 Pokemon equate to then I will link to a video down below that will touch up on that. From these people breaking down the math it could be summarized that a PS2 SD card is larger in size for cheaper than what is offered in terms of storage for the price. That is a really old piece of hardware too and it makes it difficult to justify to $16 USD price tag for the premium plan when all of the trading features that make up the selling point are given for free, let alone should have been included in the core game at launch and if not, then patched in.
So let’s do the numbers so far since that video also wants to dive into the bigger issue surrounding this, how much does Pokemon cost now? In this new era, what does it truly take to get the full experience? The base game for either Sword or Shield is $60 USD and to use online features like raid battles and in-game trading that is another $20 USD for a year subscription to NSO, top that with $16 a year for all the functions and features of Pokemon Home and so far you are looking at around $96 USD total for just one version of the game. Now, as the video goes into there is also the DLC announced for this year that will add another $30 on top of that so the total cost to get the full experience and full enjoyment out of the new games comes to $126 USD. That is A LOT of money to drop on a single game to get the full experience out of and for every year after it will still cost $36 for just one game so if you want to buy into this and you don’t choose to be one and done, the game will cost you $36 every year to continue to get the full online functionality. But therein lies the other issue, Pokemon Bank is notorious for deleting Pokemon held in it with subscription payments are missed, will Home do the same thing since whatever Pokemon are put into it cannot be taken out if they are not programmed into the new generation?
Now, a lot of people want to argue costs and how to justify DLC and additional charges so I want to put it like this, these games have become exorbitantly expensive because they can and seeing as how some of the fandom is, they will continue to be because they can get away with it. Back in the day when Pokemon games were on the original Game Boy handheld, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advanced, each game cost around $30 USD when they launched. That is the same cost as the DLC cost for Pokemon Sword and Shield. Later, these costs increased as the shifted to more advanced systems like the DS where the games increased to $35 USD each and later the 3DS where they became $40 USD. Those prices were the standard just like console games that game to sit at $60 USD during the era of the Wii. These prices were set because they were the price consumers were willing to spend at the time for what they would receive.
Back then when handhelds were supported alongside consoles the prices for them were cheaper because of the limits the hardware had and the development put into the games at the time. Console games were always seen as more expensive because they were larger in terms of data size, development cost and content provided. The consoles were seen as the major leagues of the gaming world and even now as they continue to advance we see that $60 mark shift to where games like God of War 4, Nier Automata, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Breath of the Wild and Final Fantasy all cost that much but we see what those games are truly capable of. The content each one provided and how each game sought to push the boundaries of the platforms specs even further. That $60 mark was truly worth it for how massive and immersive each of the titles were. Some games like Persona and other jRPGs took well over 100 hours to complete one playthrough but also offered so much content that its replayability value continues after even playing it 50 times through for some.
What justified these game’s high price tag was that each of them felt complete and were known for their graphics and storytelling. Any DLC tacked onto them after felt like they complimented the game rather than being something that filled in voids of missing content which is the concern with Sword and Shield. The biggest issue surrounding these games is that price tag and what justifies it. The games in their handheld era were more justified in their price increase because during the entire run of the Game Boy systems to the DS, the games only saw a $5 USD increase and we saw features like the GTS and with Black and White, the C-Gear and Dream World among many others. During Gen 5 with all of its extra online features the series truly felt alive and interconnected like the game lived outside of the DS system and all of these services were free then. That’s the biggest difference, all of the features were free and extra unlike the new ones of today that feel like they continue to fragment the game through mobile and console versions along with locking it all behind a fairly steep paywall.
When Pokemon decided to make that huge shift and take the core game from handheld to console, they had to do a lot to absolutely wow their fans just like when Nintendo announced that Breath of the Wild would be an open-world Zelda game, they delivered and took everything by storm. Expectations were high because of games like XD Gale of Darkness and Coliseum which were developed by another company but still set the bar pretty high during the GameCube era of what a Pokemon game on a console system should be. Fans were speculating a massive region and Pokemons main selling point is the adventure and discovery, that’s what they marketed Sword and Shield to be that every feature created as to enhance the immersion of exploration. Instead, the game is entirely hollow with the “open world” region, the Wild Area being tiny in size with nothing in it, it was just a massive field with no range of textures or regions like mountains and actual lakes. The bodies of water felt more like if I went to the community park in my area down the street rather than the reservoir not too far away from me. The game felt incomplete to majority of the community with all kinds of bugs and glitches with the online system. It was absolutely cumbersome and the graphics and textures looked more from the N64 rather than the Switch. The entire game felt rushed and incomplete and needed patches to smooth things over and instead we get announcements for a paid DLC and a paid service that fixes the issues in the game.
This is the new Pokemon experience. What I want to highlight on in that video above is that the commentator says that “DLC should be complimentary and not to complete an incomplete game.” That is exactly the reason why people are appalled at the price gouging going on and cannot justify the cost. There are more games and daily necessities money go to as is but if someone wanted to pay extra for DLC they would spend it on a game that felt complete where the DLC just complimented it. In the Persona series, the DLC is just cosmetics for characters, no extra story content so it is purely optional if someone wants to get it or not because they have already had the complete experience the game could offer. In Xenoblade Chronicles 2 the entire DLC also cost $30 USD and came out in waves. The game as a whole already felt complete in terms of story and content offered to justify it, the DLC only gave extra items and a couple additional blades that weren’t needed like a pay-to-win service. The DLC also included a challenge mode similar to the Master Sword trials in Breath of the Wild including story DLC that was literally a digital copy of an entire new game called Torna The Golden Country that cost $40 USD for the physical copy without the base game or DLC. On the other hand with Sword and Shield it’s DLC punished consumers who bought the game when it launched by releasing the game bundled with the DLC for $80 USD, $10 USD less than buying separately.
When it comes to this extra content and justifying the price for the complete experience it comes down how complete of an experience the base game had. With Pokemon in this era, the game felt incomplete and instead of the developer patching issues that still exist in it today they announced several paid services that would make for a better experience. At the end of the day it’s just difficult to defend spending $126 USD to get to full experience out of a game that most games offer at $60 USD.