Commentary Corner - Pokemon 'Not Quite' Home

Commentary Corner - Pokemon 'Not Quite' Home

Pokemon Home, Nintendo's latest cloud offering, has been in circulation for several days now. Marketing material circulated by Nintendo promised several key features for storage and exchange of pokemon. A new and updated Global Trade System, Wonderbox trading, dedicated private trading rooms and friend trading. Certainly if you believed the marketing hype (as I did), you were gibbering with excitement at the prospect of Pokemon Home.

That opener kind of gives away what I think about Pokemon Home on release. But I didn't want to be ambiguous.

Pokemon Home is rubbish. It is hamstrung by the desire to give away as little for free as possible. The potential for an excellent pokemon trading platform is there, but I'm not sure if that makes me angry or disappointed.

Let's start from the top. In isolation, Nintendo Home's pricing model is not egregious when placed side-by-side with other AAA subscription model offerings. Twenty five dollars a year for what I would consider to be a pokemon enthusiast product. However, context is important. Pokemon Home's predecessor, Pokemon Bank, cost six dollars a year. If you consider other features present in Pokemon (such as the global trade system) were included in the core titles and thus did not need the Pokemon bank to operate, then what you are asking for is an extra twenty-one dollars a year for... what, exactly.

Despite Home's relative high cost compared to previous Pokemon cloud storage offerings, I do not believe it is unreasonable. After all, services are worth what consumers are prepared to pay for them. There is some merit, however in the argument that if you are a dedicated pokemon fan, the outlay for Pokemon has grown through iterations of the game. Previously a title was sixty dollars. Now a Pokemon title is eighty dollars, thirty one dollars in live services per-annum and forty dollars for the first two expansion packs. From sixty dollars to one hundred and fifty - so a two-hundred and fifty percent increase over Ultra Sun and Moon. Without being drawn on the quality of Sword and Shield (which I maintain are good main-line titles) that is a significant increase. It's certainly possible to understand the resentment long time fans hold toward Nintendo and Game Freak.

I'm remain unconvinced that Pokemon fans deserve a cloud solution for free in perpetiuity. Nor do I believe they deserve free additional content. But where Pokemon Home loses me is in the quality of the product.

My experience with home is not unique and you'll find a host of similar experiences on the web. I downloaded the application on my phone, linked my Nintendo account and started exploring.

I first tried the GTS (Global Trade System). It's an excellent idea, in theory. An online marketplace where you can search for a specific pokemon owned by another person and trade the specific pokemon that trainer wants in exchange. I tried the system out and conducted a search - specifically for a pokemon my brother-in-law wanted. Lo and behold:

The entire platform is like this. Common as muck pokemon, uploaded onto the GTS, demanding that someone provide them with a pokemon you only get once from a time-limited event. Yes, you can filter it out, but then you don't get any hits. It's actually worse than not having it as a feature, because at least that way you wouldn't be compelled to check it out in the vain hope that someone is actually asking for a reasonable trade. It's like monopoly, where your bratty little brother demands a thousand dollars for old kent road - piss off, dickhead.

Then there's wonder trading and room trading. Different variations of the same theme - gambling with pokemon instead of real money. I can see the appeal if you have pokemon you wish to throw away. Otherwise a waste of time - but probably not pokemon - if you're using this, you don't care what you're getting back and it's probably going in the bin anyway.

Which brings us to the final 'feature' of Pokemon Home. Friend trading. This, for me, is the Home killer. Now before I get carried away, it is important to note that to trade in Sword and Shield you require a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. In that context, Nintendo is put between a rock and a hard place. Gate off friend trading to premium subscribers and make Home look like an even greater cash grab. Or allow friend trading through Home through the internet for free and have Pokemon fans stop using Nintendo Switch online.

Of course there was a third, sneakier option - make friend trading garbage. Which is precisely what they did.

Friend trading is limited to ten pokemon per day. Your pokemon home plan has no bearing on this. Have a lot of trades to do? Guess you're waiting for the day to cycle over. But that's not all! Want to trade over the internet? Ruh-roh! It does a GPS lookup! Good thing your mobile device doesn't need to use lots of power to maintain a GPS radio whilst you're in a mobile phone app! This is all of course, to reveal the final cuckening that occurs. Trading is distance based. Yes, you heard that right - the process of trading with a friend makes you do a GPS lookup to make sure you're close enough to then trade over the internet. Nintendo added an extra step. I'd say it's for no god-damned reason, but I know why.

It's because trading in Sword and Shield requires you to give Nintendo money. It had to be a strictly worse version of trading in their mainline title so people wouldn't just use home instead of trading.

Good grief.

So that's Pokemon Home - a shining example of how not to deliver additional content to your video game. I haven't used it since my trial of it - and I don't see myself using it anytime soon - and I certainly don't intend to give Nintendo money for it. And neither should you, probably.

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Rowan Naveau

About Rowan Naveau

I'm Rowan (Vulkan) - and this is my blog. Here you'll find a stream of consciousness about video games, wargaming and just about everything else.