Adult Pokémon: When is the time?
I stumbled across a film-noir style Pokémon comic this week by a man Ray Bruwelheide. It was called simply “Viridian City” (not to be confused with the catchy upbeat song “On the Road to Viridian City”) and tells a dark tale of the laws pursuit to catch a serial arsonist, with the events manipulated by an underground gangster. Except with Pokémon.
Needless to say, this couldn’t be more awesome. The tone was perfect and the more sinister and realistic depictions of some Pokémon, notably Hitmonlee and Scyther, made a wonderful comparison to the cutesy creatures which often battle in the actual franchise. In fact this comic has been so popular over the internet for the last week or so, that in more places than one it has generated the discussion: “When will we get Adult Pokémon?”
And obviously I felt that now would be a good time for me to weigh in on this.
Firstly, I love the idea. I’ve been pushing for a Pokémon console RPG, a Pokémon MMO, anything in a more modern setting for the long running fans of the series who may have been 10 or so back when Pokémon rose to fame in the late 90s – but are now in their 20s and might need something a little more engaging than releasing a new map for the same game every couple years or so (apologies if that's offensive to longrunning fans of the game boy series, but its largely true). I would sign up for a more adult version of Pokémon – in any form – the second I heard of it, but that doesn’t make it a smart move for Nintendo.
As other fans have pointed out, two series are inextricably linked in audience – even if you do the old switcheroo on the age bracket. Sure you can take a Pokémon game and slap an MA15+ warning label on it (I long for the day) but that doesn’t mean the average soccer mum who buys Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 for her 12 year old is going to tell the difference between this and any other Pokémon title.
Also there is the risk of splitting your audience. At the moment Nintendo has the adults where they want them: locked in a cage with all of the younger fans and forced to buy the same games that the 10-15 year old audience is buying as well. Once they cater to an older age group, they could well see these users split away from the other series – meaning they did all the extra work of creating a new game just to lose sales on their other title.
Not that I’m saying Nintendo would never do it; just trying to get some facts in order before we all get our hopes up. The truth is that creating a console RPG or another more complex Pokémon title is likely in the cards for Nintendo in future, but when exactly this will be is more likely to be measured in decades than in years. Think about how Pokémon X and Y will be the first Pokémon games with 3D environments in the series – and that’s only taken just over a decade from the first game to make such a big leap.
Still the idea of a more mature Pokémon does tickle me, and obviously makes great inspiration for a comic. We can only hope something more… sophisticated is in the works for Pokémon in the next 5 years ago, even if it’s not quite ‘for adults’ as a lot of aging gamers would like to hope.