Last Saturday’s announcement of Pokémon Black Version 2 & Pokémon White Version 2 was rather shocking.  We knew that there was going to be a Pokémon game announcement, and we all knew that it was likely going to be the third installment of the fifth generation Pokémon game that would most definitely include new Kyurem forms.  We didn’t, however, see it all.

Most fans were predicting the game announcement would be Pokémon Gray, the “third” installment in the Generation V Pokémon series, but they were wrong.  Instead both Pokémon Black & White Version 2 were announced, two separate games.  This marks the first time in history that a main series Pokémon game is getting two different titles as the “third” installment and the first time a main series Pokémon game gets a direct sequel in terms of numbering.

A bigger shocker was that both Pokémon Black & White Version 2 will be for the DS and not the 3DS.  That’s right, the new main series Pokémon games won’t be for Nintendo’s latest handheld.

Many people are discussing this decision, but was it the right way to go?

The Good

There are some good reasons that Nintendo and The Pokémon Company International would like to keep these new games on the Nintendo DS.  The most significant factor is the global the install base for the Nintendo DS family of hardware, which sits at approximately 150 Million units.  Yes, that includes four different hardware configurations (DS, DS Lite, DSi, and DSi XL), but one cannot simply scoff at a large install base like that.

Comparably, the 3DS has sold around 16 Million units globally, and one must also remember that the 3DS can also play DS titles. In reality, due to backwards compatibility, the install base for older DS titles is around 166 Million units. While that number seems massive, one must remember that doesn’t equate to 166 Million different users, as many people have various DS or DS-compatible devices.

Additionally, Nintendo knows that this large DS install base is hungry for Pokémon.  Pokémon Black and Pokémon White, which released last March in regions outside of Japan, has gone on to sell around 13 million units globally.

Maybe Nintendo is worried that the current market of 3DS owners isn’t enough to support the kind of sales that they expect from a new main series Pokémon release.  The original DS launched in 2004, and it took until 2007 for the first main series Pokémon game to come out for that handheld outside of Japan (Diamond and Pearl). Could it also be that the current 3DS install base isn’t saturated with Pokémaniacs?  It could very well be that 3DS sales haven’t fully penetrated the main age demographic for the series. Again, Nintendo and The Pokémon Company International want to profit off these new games as much as possible.

The bottom line is that releasing both Pokémon Black and White Version 2 on the Nintendo DS will just increase profits for these two specific games.  This is a short-term approach, but it will work.

As far as the player is concerned, this means more people will be able to enjoy the games, and that is important, since Pokémon thrives on competing and trading with others.  Additionally, maybe you are someone out there that has yet to purchase a 3DS and are happy that you can wait a bit longer.  Regardless, after looking at the numbers, this is an announcement that will benefit more players than hurt.

The Bad

While the points mentioned above may sound great, they aren’t without fault.

Nintendo is trying to build up an install base for the 3DS, and has been doing a great job so far.  If Pokémon Black and White Version 2 were just ports of Pokémon Black and White with 3D graphics and some new features, and made exclusively for 3DS, they would easily sell many more 3DS units and promote healthy growth for the 3D handheld.  It’s clear that most people that would have picked up a 3DS for the latest main series Pokémon games would also, eventually, buy other non-Pokémon games.

For this reason, I think it would have been a better decision to promote long term growth for the 3DS instead of going for the quick buck (although a big one) that Pokémon Black and White Version 2 on the original DS represents.

The concerns don’t end here.  Pokémon fans that don’t have a 3DS may now hold off on buying one altogether.  If someone is a major Pokémon fan, and they know that these games are coming to the DS, won’t it now be harder to get them to make the jump to the 3DS?

Because both Pokémon Black and White Version 2 are coming to the DS, it’s likely that the next main series Pokémon games won’t hit until late 2013 in Japan and, therefore, 2014 in North America.  Additionally, I would expect to see a 3DS Lite around this time.  Savvy consumers may be thinking the same thing, thus delaying a 3DS purchase.  This hurts Nintendo in the long run.

I’m also confident that many people bought a 3DS in hopes of new main series Pokémon games and, after this announcement, they may feel burned in the short-term.

The “Unown”

There are still some unknown factors in this Pokémon Black and White Version 2 situation.  We still don’t know much about the game at all!

That’s right.  There hasn’t been a single screenshot, gameplay video, or much information outside of there being two new forms for Kyurem, and of course both games heading for the Nintendo DS.  Due to this lack of info, I feel Nintendo and the Pokémon Company International may still have a chance to use both Pokémon Black and White Version 2 to their advantage by selling 3DS units while still profiting massively off the traditional DS market.

Long time Nintendo fans may remember that The Legend of Zelda Oracle Series released for the Game Boy Color only one month before the Game Boy Advance launched in North America.  Why is this significant?  Both games had added features when played on a Game Boy Advance.

Nintendo and the Pokémon Company International would be wise to do something similar for both Pokémon Black and White Version 2.  It’s likely that Black Kyurem and White Kyurem will be exclusive to Pokémon White Version 2 and Pokémon Black Version 2 respectively.  What if the player had the option to catch them both in either game when played on the 3DS?

Other ideas include special 3DS access to Pokémon that know moves they previously couldn’t learn when playing on a DS.  Maybe there can also be an entirely new area only accessible to 3DS owners, or special 3DS exclusive Pokémon forms.  The ideas go on and on.

Having 3DS exclusive content would solve the problem by giving Pokémon fans that shelled out more cash for the 3DS a sense of satisfaction and a slight competitive edge over those that didn’t.  At the same time, those Pokémon fans that have been holding off on a 3DS purchase may be motivated to get one because of the exclusive content. This, in turn, would increase the 3DS install base.  Both Pokémon Black and White Version 2 could end up being titles that help to move some of the DS install base over to the 3DS by taunting them with content.

Ultimately, I think it’s way too early to tell if releasing both Pokémon Black and White Version 2 on the DS is the right choice, but Nintendo keeps telling people that the new games are also playable on the 3DS.  This could be nothing more than stating the obvious, but hopefully, for the sake of growing the 3DS market, it means there will be 3DS exclusive features.


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