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Interview Q&A from the Pokémon Conference (May 30, 2018)

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The official Pokémon website added the Q&A from the Pokémon Conference in Tokyo and a video with the full Press Conference.
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Pokémon Creators Share More Details
The existence of an all-new Pokémon and more is revealed during a question-and-answer session in Tokyo.
Following the big press conference in Tokyo, where The Pokémon Company unveiled exciting news about upcoming games, the press got a chance to ask questions of Pokémon president Tsunekazu Ishihara and GAME FREAK directors Junichi Masuda and Shigeru Ohmori. The Q&A provided some juicy new details—including the existence of an all-new Pokémon in Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee!—as well insights on the development of these new titles and the transition to Nintendo Switch. Read on for the full transcript.


If Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! are based on Pokémon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition, will they have only the original 151 Pokémon? For example, will it not include more than the three original evolutions of Eevee?

Mr. Masuda: In general, it's the original 151, but as we just showed with Alolan Exeggutor, some of the Alolan variants will also appear.

With Pokémon appearing on the field and the catching gameplay being more similar to Pokémon GO, does that mean there are not any wild Pokémon battles?

Mr. Masuda: With these games, we're really focused on clicking the Joy-Con to throw the Poké Balls to catch Pokémon. We decided to get rid of the wild Pokémon battles to catch them, but we still have Trainer battles with a variety of difficulty where you use your Pokémon in battle.

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When you were choosing the Pokémon for the two titles, why did you choose Eevee as the other Pokémon along with Pikachu?

Mr. Masuda: One of the reasons for that is that in Pokémon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition, you start with Pikachu, and your rival begins with Eevee. So there's that element. But really, over the years, I've been overwhelmed by the passion that fans have had for the character, including tons of fan art. I've always really loved the cuteness of Eevee.

And one thing that I didn't know until recently is that fans have unofficially dedicated November 21 as Eevee's special day. There's a way to pronounce that date in Japanese that sounds like “Eevee.” It just seems like over the years, fans' reaction and passion for Eevee really made me think that it was a popular enough Pokémon to serve as a counterpart to Pikachu.

How does the connection between Pokémon GO and the two Switch games work?

Mr. Ohmori: The games use Bluetooth LE to connect directly to each other.

At the end of the video introducing Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee!,there was some text that says you'll meet a special Pokémon, and I'm just wondering if that means something different than the Alolan Exeggutor you just talked about?

Mr. Ishihara: You were really paying attention to the details! I can say that the video is referring to an all-new Pokémon that will be appearing in Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee!

Will you be able to trade and battle with other players in Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! via local wireless connection?

Mr. Masuda: These games will definitely have the wireless trading and battle features that have existed in Pokémon games up to now. You will, of course, need two Nintendo Switch consoles to do that kind of gameplay.

Now that these games are on Nintendo Switch, it's possible for multiple accounts to use the same device. Can multiple people play the same game? Or will it be similar to the handheld games where you can have only one player per game?

Mr. Ohmori: You can have multiple accounts on the Nintendo Switch, so each account can have its own save file. For example, if you have siblings they can play on their own accounts.

Nintendo has recently announced that the company will begin its online gaming service this September. Will Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! use this service?

Mr. Ishihara: We don't have any plans to use this online service right now.

With the 2019 game that you also mentioned, will these be an upgraded version of Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee!—similar to Pokémon Ultra Sun and Pokémon Ultra Moon—or something different?

Mr. Ishihara: They'll actually be different games as all-new Pokémon series entries, kind of like how Pokémon X and Pokémon Y, and then Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon, were new games within the main series.

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Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! are coming to Nintendo Switch, as opposed to dedicated handheld game systems [that typically host Pokémon RPGs]. Nintendo Switch is seen more as a home console; what drove you toward the decision to develop on this new system?

Mr. Ishihara: At Pokémon, we really view Nintendo Switch as more of a combination of a handheld and home console system. It has the features of both, and we hope to take what was good with the handheld system and expand on it. That's why we're excited to bring the games to Nintendo Switch.

You just mentioned the games coming out in 2019, and obviously we're very excited. Is there anything else you can tell us about these new games?

Mr. Ishihara: I can't really say much more than what we've already talked about today. But what I can say is that Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! focus on the home console gameplay experience, but the games next year will focus more on handheld features and gameplay experience.

Obviously, we've seen there are many ways to enjoy Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! if you're a Pokémon GO player. Are there incentives for Pokémon GO players who don't have a Nintendo Switch to go out and pick one up to play these games?

Mr. Masuda: I think one of things that will be a lot of fun is for kids who might not be able to play Pokémon GO on their own. Maybe they don't have their own smartphone—they can play with their parents or older sibling, but they're not able to play on their own. So perhaps players who are playing Pokémon GO can catch Pokémon and send them over to Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! The kids can then raise those Pokémon on their own and get a variety of Pokémon that way.

I can also say that we have some ideas that will benefit Pokémon GO players who are interested in Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! and vice versa. So if you're playing both, there will be good things that happen in both games.

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In Pokémon Quest, will you be able to share game data between the Nintendo Switch version and the smartphone version?

Mr. Ishihara: There's no shared data between the two versions. They're entirely separate titles so there's no sharing between the two.

Will Pokémon Quest require an active Internet connection to play at all times?

Mr. Ishihara: An Internet connection is not required to play either version of the game.

This kind of follows on the earlier question about how Nintendo Switch overlaps between a handheld and home console device. What is it that you found appealing about developing for the platform? And will the games going out in 2019 take advantage of the functionality available on Nintendo Switch?

Mr. Ishihara: It's kind of an open secret from talks with games media, and I have to apologize to Nintendo, but at the time I was definitely skeptical about whether Nintendo Switch would be successful. But really thanks to amazing games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of Wild that drove hardware sales, I really felt Nintendo Switch was a good platform.

But of course, since Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! are coming out this year, that means we've been working on them for a little while now. So we definitely had this feeling that we would be able to help drive this platform and increase its sales. So there's that aspect that made us work harder to succeed.

We also saw this as an opportunity to make a Pokémon RPG for everyone, and provide another Pokémon game for those who started with Pokémon GO looking for somewhere to continue their adventure. We looked at this as a really interesting challenge to put Pokémon on a home console and see what we could do with the experience.

Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! represent our take on what the home console experience will be. I think you'll see with games coming out in 2019, we've seen how people use Nintendo Switch as a handheld device and we want to see what our take on the Pokémon handheld experience on Nintendo Switch will be.

Does that mean that you've been developing these games since before Nintendo Switch launched in March 2017?

Mr. Ishihara: Yes, of course. Game development does take quite while!

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We saw that the Poké Ball Plus lights up and makes sounds. What are your future plans for this device? Do you have plans to use it in other ways?

Mr. Masuda: The Poké Ball Plus development really started after the Pokémon GO Plus came out. We started thinking about what the best Pokémon accessory would look like and feel like. We began talking with Nintendo's hardware team, and they came up with the idea of creating the ultimate Poké Ball for players to have, and then we started talking about what that actually means. Of course, in the ultimate Poké Ball you would have to have Pokémon that go inside it. That's kind of how we got started.

Being the ultimate device for Pokémon games, I do think we've shown some of the versatility of it in that you can use it with both Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! as a controller, and also as a Pokémon GO Plus with Pokémon GO.

And, of course, we've mentioned that you can put a Pokémon from your game into the Poké Ball Plus and walk around with it. There are some cool things that will happen, but I can't say more about them today.
 

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Eurogamer Q&A with Junichi Masuda (source: eurogamer)
Can you elaborate on the smartphone and switch connectivity?

Masuda: So in terms of how the connection works, we wanted to make it as simple as possible, so on the Switch there's a connect button, you press the button on it, and then in Pokémon Go on your smartphone you press the connect button. So it's a very simple Bluetooth connection.

In terms of what you can do with the connection, right now you can send Pokémon from Pokémon Go to Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee - and they don't go straight into your collection or your party, they enter into an area that's kind of like a Safari park type thing where you can see the Pokémon moving around in there, and you can actually go there and interact with them and catch them. But there are also some incentives to move a lot of the same Pokémon from Go - the same species - and there are some sort of mini games you can play if you do that.

Do Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu/Eevee work like the main series, with exclusive Pokémon to each game? And will there be trading between the two?

Masuda: Similarly to the main series Pokémon games up until now, we've created two versions, Pikachu and Eevee, to have different Pokémon appear in both games, to really facilitate trading and make people want to trade with each other. So, there is that wireless trading and that kind of gameplay around trading with each other so you can complete your Pokédex.

How does this fit into the series, when it seems like such a clean break? Are there any references at all in Let's Go to other games that have come out? Do any old characters return?

Unfortunately all I can say is that they're based on the Pokémon Yellow version, and more details besides that are... something that I hope people will look forward to.

Can we learn more about the assessment you made about Pokémon Go and its success, and are there other things you've picked up from Pokémon Go to include in Let's Go?

Masuda: So in terms of first about how I assess the success of Pokémon Go, of course it makes me very happy to see Pokémon Go be such a huge success and such a phenomenon - and really we think it introduced a lot of people to Pokémon, the idea of catching Pokémon, the idea of a Pokéball. And because of that we really wanted to expand on that kind of idea of what a Pokémon RPG could be, something that's broader, for everyone, and that's why we work on these games. So that's one assessment on Pokémon Go.

With that in mind obviously there are so many people that played Pokémon Go - I think we reached 800 million downloads - so we wanted to create a fun experience for them but at the same time really make a fun game for fans that have enjoyed the RPGs up until now, so it's really kind of merging those two audiences into one game that we all can have fun and play.

I'm trying to think of other things we picked up from Pokémon Go... I can't say about any other gameplay ideas that we picked up from Pokémon Go, but one of the things we really focused on was that experience of allowing for, for example, parents to kind of go out and catch Pokémon for Pokémon Go and then give some of those to maybe their kid, who's playing Let's Go Pikachu on Switch for example. So that experience is one of the things we wanted to really take a lot of care over for these games.

And there's probably a lot of things, I guess more subconsciously, that did come into the development of these games - of course I worked on Pokémon Go, for example I created the music for both of them [Go and Let's Go] so, there's probably some things that maybe I'm not thinking about that did affect the Switch games.

How do you think the core RPG players will react to the Let's Go games? I know Pokémon Go was immensely popular but it had quite a mixed reaction amongst more 'hardcore' players - how do you appease those players and is it more a case that they should wait to 2019 for the game they're after?

Masuda: So the first thing I can say is that... I've been the director on the main series Pokémon RPGs - most of them, up until now - and there are a lot of kind of core tenets or rules of the series that I've never broke up until now, for example the whole idea of the flow of going into a battle against wild Pokémon, reducing their health and then catching them. That was one of the things that we just never wanted to change but, with these games specifically, I wanted to create a new experience for kids and with this time I decided to shift that towards more of a kind of casual, lighter experience. So that's one of the things I wanted to do.

And one of the things, for example, up until now in the tall grass you couldn't see which Pokémon were in there so, a lot of players would kind of avoid the tall grass in their journeys, up until now, and one of the big changes this time is that you can actually see the Pokémon before you actually run into and encounter them so, it's kind of changed the dynamic to much more of a proactive experience, where you're going out and seeking Pokémon.

So for me, having worked on the Pokémon main series games, and Pokémon Go, both the players who have enjoyed our RPGs until now, all the fans are extremely important to me - but also the people who played Pokémon Go, and that was their first Pokémon game, they're also extremely important to me, and what I really want to do with these games is prevent both of these types of players from going in different directions, and I'm hoping that these games will kind of bring them together.

So what would make me happiest would be if Pokémon Go players and traditional Pokémon RPG players actually come together and are throwing out Pokéballs together, either with the Joy-Con or using their smartphones, and really enjoying Pokémon together.

And that's also one of the things I just mentioned about the parent maybe going out and catching Pokémon and giving them to their children, and sharing that catching experience.

Just to quickly follow up on that, I know you can't talk too much about the 2019 RPG but can you tell me when the decision was first made to develop that game as well as the Let's Go games? Did you decide to do LG first and then the 2019 game? And was that decision made to mitigate the risk of the more hardcore, long-term players maybe not being so into it?

Masuda: So it definitely wasn't like a risk-avoiding thing. We knew that we wanted to create another Pokémon "series", as we call them, for all the fans that have really enjoyed the games until now. But the games that we're talking about for 2019 we've been working on those for a while, the same with Let's Go Pikachu and Let's Go Eevee - part of it is because there's a lot of functionality with the Nintendo Switch and we really want players to really experience what there is to offer here so, we're making two different games at the same time.

And specifically for these games, me personally I really want more kids to pick up and play with the Nintendo Switch, that's really the goal for me.

Related to that, looking forward, do you envisage there being two series of Pokémon games, say a Let's Go series and a main series like Sun and Moon - are there going to be two or are they going to come together again?

Masuda: So I'd say there's a possibility of that, should the games sell really well and obviously a lot of people play them, but right now we're really focusing on the development, and just getting a lot of people to play the games in the first place!

You said earlier there were a few things that never changed in Pokémon Go but have changed in Let's Go - with Nintendo choosing to make others like Mario and Zelda more of an open world, for the next Pokémon did you want to experiment with more of an open world, with exploration and roaming?

Masuda: So with the Pokémon games I'm sure you all know we're always trying to make them fun appealing for players of all ages, not just to older players and not just to kids. So, I can't really commit either way but, if we find a way - I think it's possible - if we were to find a way to preserve the fun and kind of broad appeal of Pokémon, and also have that kind of more open gameplay, then that is one possibility. It's hard to say right now.

So that's definitely, those type of questions, I always - I wouldn't say worried - but in some way I'm always concerned that we go and take it too far, so it's no longer approachable? I used to be a fan of top-down shooting games, like R-Type [points to a nearby arcade machine], and as time went on that shooting genre just kept pursuing that sort of more difficult, more complicated direction and it just got to the point where people couldn't enjoy them as much and they just weren't as approachable as they used to be. So I just want to make sure that, at Pokémon, we don't make that same kind of - I don't want to say mistake but, go down that same direction.

You said that the game is inspired by Pokémon Yellow from 1999? Can we find the same story as it was then?

Masuda: So one thing I can say is that the game world, the overworld, the whole map, is very true to the original Pokémon Yellow games. And also the story kind of sticks to the story beats from Pokémon Yellow.

One of the kind of reasons behind that was, with the games being released 20 years ago, I kind of imagined that maybe some parents who played Yellow version when they were kids, will now have kids of their own and they can kind of remember that adventure and maybe give some hints or tips to their kids that are playing the game.

Maybe some other fun things, for example the first Gym Leader, Brock - a lot of kids who maybe grew up with the animated series and not the original Red and Blue series, they may not even know he was a gym leader, so there might be some fun discoveries there.

We know the Poké Ball Plus vibrates and makes sounds - can you elaborate on that some more?

Masuda: I can only say there's some fun things, if you do put a Pokémon in the ball and walk around with it, without saying details, but one cool thing if you put your partner Pokémon - so maybe your Pikachu - inside of it, I think maybe there's some extra things that makes it feel as though the Pokémon is really inside the ball. But I can't give any details.

So it was actually in the video for example if you shake it, it'll actually sounds like it's in there, so things like that - and also some things we haven't revealed, that are cool that affect the gameplay if you walk around with it.
 

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Love the Poké Ball Plus, wants one now!
 
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