Technology has improved so much today that a lot of products are inclining toward the internet, from gaming consoles like the On-live console to phones that come with 3G support like the iPhone. Unlike before when internet connection speeds were so much slower and access was very difficult (especially in third world countries), nowadays Wi-Fi can be virtually accessed everywhere while3Gsupports mobile internet connectivity. The accessibility of the internet is creating more and more options for technology.
So why not a Pokémon Online game? From my observations, Pokémon is a very socially-oriented game. From trading Pokémon to battling them to collecting and bragging to friends about that rare Pokémon you caught, the game model fits for an online interaction. However will it work as an MMORPG?
For all its perks, Pokémon also lacks certain aspects for MMORPGs like guilds, boss fights, a party system, items and economics. There are some ways to work around that will be discussed as you read on. I also did a bit of research and I found that there are actually sites that have fan-made Pokémon Online simulators. So I think to an extent there is a demand for it.
How it works
3D or 2D
I don’t see Pokémon working in a 3D world due to the multitude of gaming aspects essential for it to fit the environment, which might make it akin to Gran Turismo 5’s 6 year development.2D works wonderfully with Pokémon and eases the burden for programmers and artists. The overall appeal in Pokémon is actually it being 2D--it makes for a simpler base for a complex game. However, 3D seems great in idea but it's very hard to pull off.
There might also be a problem with the players bumping into each other. It’s either they make players have no collision physics, or give them a kick skill to nudge other players to move out of the way. The latter sounds fun, but it feels like a lot of people will whine or abuse it for their own ends.
As with any MMORPG, there are servers that handle the traffic. Most MMOs use different servers to handle these, but the Pokémon world just doesn’t seem to be large enough to handle the potential number of users. Imagine the grass areas jam-packed with people going in circles to find a Pokémon, which makes for quite a user traffic problem.
The solution I thought of is every similar to that of Guild Wars where there is only one server; however, there are multiple channels where they can switch easily in-game to avoid player traffic. This makes for a bigger community but less crowd bumping into one another.
Regions (Kanto, Johto, etc.)
Based on the sales of Pokémon games, it seemed that the first generation had the most sales. The game should incorporate older generations to entice the older gamers, while still providing enough new content to hook younger markets. The regions can also make crowd gathering less of a problem by having different starting points for the players. The game will also have Pokémon region locking to promote new beginnings and balance, but at the same time will allow players to trade different region based Pokémon. The badges will also only affect the Pokémon from that region so trading high level Pokémon won’t be as helpful but is still allowed. There should also be a Free Region where all Pokémon are allowed to be used for battling purposes. Travelling from one region to the other might require finishing the region first or unlocking a certain Pokémon skill like Teleport or Fly.
There’s a lot to do for this aspect as this is the most important of any MMO. PvP (Player Vs. Player) is probably one of the most important features of Pokémon. Creating a player League type of setting would make a fun PvP concept having 5 friends battle it out in an elimination of trainers or a tournament setting. It could also have a 3v3 battle; recently I was told that these exist, 3 Pokémon fighting 3 Pokémon at the same time with one trainer. They could use that and have 3 trainers and 3 Pokémon vs 3 trainers and 3 Pokémon battle. There could also be quests or instances (Ex. going inside the Team Rocket Bldg.) using this setup to improve a sort of co-op PvM (Player Vs. Monster). However, the Pokémon game franchise has done well with its competitive nature rather than co-op and adding it might expand the game’s audience. Having co-op gameplay can really make a difference for an MMO and is very vital for its success. Games like World of Warcraft have guilds, huge boss battles, a party system and instances. This is the challenge for Pokemon MMO, to have a social base that isn’t purely competitive.
Instant messaging also needs to be applied as any MMO should have. Creating a friend list and also creating a group (guild) should be included. There are also things that players should be able to do besides trading. Pokémon sitting might be a nice option in earning money and player interaction. It would also be nice if they could implement the Pokémon trading card game but that might be pushing it and they might lose sales in that business. The game will require better economics; they should have more options to use money on. Personalization is also a must in a social game; they could implement Pokémon hats to equip. Imagine wearing your favourite Pokémon’s hat, doesn’t it sound adorable?
As the franchise seems to release quite a lot of newer versions like the recent Black and White, it would make the transition much better for the players retaining all their records in their older Pokémon games. Updating and balancing would also be better for a competitive community to avoid overpowered Pokémon.
Now why wouldn’t it work?
Not everyone is inclined to playing online, and this might be a problem if interested new players, fail to outweigh those who prefer an offline setup. Creating the online game would also create a division between the current offline models, which translates to lower sales based on development costs, because they would be making two games instead of one but have the same market. The only solution for that is to commit to one, either online or offline, which is quite a substantial risk. There are also a lot of players who refuse to pay for subscription fees, which may also contribute to dwindling sales. Maintaining the server would also require costs besides the development unless it would prove profitable Nintendo will surely avoid such a move.
Currently, no handheld device has the capability to commit to an MMO If, however, the Nintendo 3DS goes well, it might be possible. I think handheld is the way to go even though it is possible on the PC, as most of the fans are already familiar with a handheld setup.
Wireless technology is quite unreliable compared to wired technology, and it might cause a lot of lag for players. The codes must be very efficient to prevent massive lag and keep the game enjoyable. As a portable game it also requires games being played anywhere meaning even if I were in a deserted island, I could still play it. This won’t be possible in an MMO unless they could create a way to activate online and offline freely. This will surely turn off a lot of people especially for a portable game.
In the end, I am confident of an exciting future for the Pokémon game franchise, but there are problems to be fixed and substantial software and customer research to be done. Until then, a game like Pokémon Online shall be beyond our reach.