Seemingly every big Pokémon game leaks ahead of time, and a new generation of entries may follow suit. Over the last few days, a series of online posts purporting knowledge of the next major pocket monsters game have caught fire within the Pokémon community.
If real, these leaks promise Pokémon games that are simultaneously familiar yet different from what fans typically expect.
Yesterday, anonymous users on 4Chan uploaded what they claimed to be the names and logos of upcoming Pokémon games: Pokémon Let's GO! Pikachu Edition and Pokémon Let's GO! Eevee Edition:
This rumour sparked the recirculation of another 4Chan thread posted in late March, which listed a variety of features that also revolve around Pikachu and Eevee-centric Pokémon games and suggests they'd be for the Switch:
Fake Pokémon leaks are a dime a dozen, and tricksters try to play off manufactured photoshops all the time. But people have latched onto these recent rumours for a few reasons. For one, we do know that Game Freak is exploring ways to connect their games to the wildly popular Pokémon Go - they confirmed this to Kotaku back in 2016:
Game Freak confirmed to me that they are exploring ways to connect the main games to Pokemon Go. Nothing "concrete" yet though.
— Patricia Hernandez (@xpatriciah) October 19, 2016
More recently, internet sleuths discovered that websites "pokemonletsgopikachu.com" and "pokemonletsgoeevee.com" were registered by CSC Corporate Domains, Inc. - the same company that acts as a tech contact for the official pokemon-sunmoon.com website.
The latest domain registrations do not, however, name Nintendo, Game Freak, or The Pokémon Company, which the listings for pokemon-sunmoon.com do.
It's possible that another entity has used CSC Corporate to squat the domain names, but there are a few other details that are adding fuel to the fire. The March leak says that "following" Pokémon will make a return, and as we reported back in 2016, Game Freak included unused walking animations for every single monster in the game.
So, that aspect of the leak seems to jive, as Game Freak has seemingly already worked on the functionality of letting creatures in modern games follow the player around on the main map.
Earlier this year, an extremely blurry screenshot that bizarrely showed an Eevee riding a Lapras appeared online. It seemed to depict a route from the original Pokémon games:
At the time, the screenshot was dismissed as a fake: the visuals looked too much like the 3DS generation of Pokémon to be a Switch game. That, and why was an Eevee seemingly riding on the trainer's head? It seemed too weird. But the more recent leaks say something curious: "catching Pokémon works like in Go."
This could mean a variety of things, but based on the screenshot above, a possible explanation is that the new game will get rid of random encounters, and instead show you the actual monsters on the map. Similarly, Pokémon Go shows you creatures on your screen before you engage with them, rather than thrusting you into battle without knowing what you're up against.
Beyond that, a remake of Yellow would explain why the route seems familiar to veteran players. Yellow remains one of the few old-school games that Game Freak has yet to renew for a modern system, so that move would make sense.
Pokémon Yellow, which was released back in 1998, was the third version of the original Red and Blue release. In it, instead of picking a starter as you normally do, players embark on a journey with a Pikachu. Your rival, however, carries an Eevee.
In this game, Pikachu could follow you around on the map, and you could also stop to have a conversation with it to see how the monster felt. As the game was already the third version of two existing games, there was no Eevee-centric entry available at the time.
Still, given how your rival worked, having a modern remake embrace Eevee as the Pikachu counterpart makes sense.
Other pieces of evidence about the possible new games are more circumstantial. In April, an official Pokémon account seemingly winked at the leaked screenshot with some plushies:
⏰ 11時21分 イーブイタイム をお知らせします ☀
ラプラスに乗って 探しに行こう♪ pic.twitter.com/T6M1eRha8P
— 【公式】プロジェクトイーブイ (@project_eevee) April 13, 2018
Actually, the account seems to have a penchant for pairing up Pikachu and Eevee, possibly because the account is Eevee-centric, of course:
— 【公式】プロジェクトイーブイ (@project_eevee) May 9, 2018
Pokémon Sun and Moon producer Junichi Masuda keeps highlighting the pairing of Pikachu and Eevee on his social media as well:
— 増田順一@GAME FREAK inc. (@Junichi_Masuda) May 12, 2018
— 増田順一@GAME FREAK inc. (@Junichi_Masuda) May 11, 2018
— 増田順一@GAME FREAK inc. (@Junichi_Masuda) May 13, 2018
Granted, these pictures may mean nothing. Pikachu is the Pokémon mascot, and prone to show up in nearly anything Pokémon-related. Anecdotally, Eevee seems to be the second most popular monster out there, with nearly every game in the series introducing a new form of the fluffy critter.
Having both Pikachu and Eevee paired together may be simple fan service. Then again, given how beloved both Pokémon seem to be, entries focused on them makes a lot of sense.
One aspect that makes this leak confusing is that Pokémon fans are expecting a new entry into the mainline franchise, as Game Freak announced a "core" title last year. Remakes don't seem to fit the bill, and it's disappointing to think that the next Pokémon game on Switch will look so much like the 3DS games.
Shouldn't there be a big graphical or mechanical leap? These leaks don't promise any of that, and instead seem to be focused on capturing the attention of existing Pokémon Go players, or old-school fans.
Nintendo and The Pokémon Company did not return a request for comment initially, with the Pokémon Company later saying that it "does not comment on rumour or speculation."