Could Pokémon ever work as an open-world game? Could we ever see a Pokémon game on the Nintendo Switch that offers the same breadth of freedom and player choice as Breath of the Wild? Would a game like that even work in the Pokémon universe? These are some of the tough questions posed to Pokémon series producer Junichi Masuda in a new video from Game Informer. You can check out the full interview above, but for answers to these questions, we’ve provided a summary below.
In short, and this may shock some of you, Masuda-san seemed pretty confident that a Breath of the Wild style video game would not work for Pokémon. In short, he didn’t seem to think that the main gameplay mechanics that make the Pokémon games what they are — meeting friends, catching Pokémon, and bonding with those Pokémon — would work in such a free and expansive world. These stories are best told in a more linear and controlled fashion, and the team at Game Freak would need a very good reason to introduce an open world like this. Here’s what Masuda-san actually said in reponse:
“I think anything’s possible. For us, it always comes back to what the most fun way to experience that world and catching Pokémon in that space… would that be the best way to enjoy that experience? Or would that be more similar to how Pokémon Go is, where it’s merged with the real world?
“But I also love the type of game like Zelda, they have this really strong setting and the gameplay really matches it. If we could find a way to make that kind of setting work with that gameplay, and giving players a fun reason to go out and capture Pokémon, then there’s always a possibility.
“That maybe is something that the fans want, but from my perspective the Zelda type of game is more suited to having a sword and going out and fighting enemies. Not sure it’d be best suited for going out and catching Pokémon. I don’t think it’d work if we just brought over the current gameplay and put it in that world. We’d need to have a good, interesting reason for players to be in that kind of environment going around and catching Pokémon.”
In other words: don’t hold your breath. I’m sure you and I could justify an open-world Pokémon game with a hundred ideas, but implementing one of those ideas into an entire game is a daunting task for anyone — especially for a company that has, until now, only developed handheld games. Let’s see what next year’s Pokémon game has in store, and we’ll go from there.