Pokemon And Call Of Duty Have Exactly The Same Problem

Pokemon Scarlet & Violet barely work. The open world of Paldea looks terrible, filled with bland plains and flat mountains. There are glitches aplenty – I’ve hard crashed once, and others have found far worse. Worst of all, I’m not sure there’s a good game underneath all the poor presentation. They’re a pair of games held together by Yamasking tape and decades of goodwill, but for many, it’s wearing thin.

I liked Sword & Shield more than most, it seems, but I saw them as a stepping stone to what a new generation of Pokemon could be. The Wild Area was immense, in my eyes the future of Pokemon games, and I forgave its performance issues because it was a huge step towards the Pokemon RPG I always dreamed of playing as a kid. The DLC improved on that further, and I had a great time playing the Isle of Armor and Crown Tundra.

Let’s Go looked lovely, leaning into a specific art style and succeeding, but I was bored of Kanto, and the Go-style catching mechanic doesn’t get enough shit for how bad it was. Despite that, we had overworld shinies: another step forward. Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl again leaned into an art style, this time a chibi vibe which I hated. The game was also terrible, a like-for-like remake of an overrated Generation that was full of bugs. We didn’t even get the Distortion World.

Legends: Arceus restored my faith a little after BDSP, which I can’t even remember finishing. The catching mechanics were the best Pokemon has ever had, and the open world areas were great fun to explore. Alpha Pokemon were suitably scary – arguably the true bosses of the game – and filling in an Ancient ‘Dex was great fun. But it still looked shite.

Roll on Scarlet & Violet. I was cynical coming in, but deliberately tried to avoid leaks so I’d have the best possible experience. Exploring is great, the new Pokemon designs are pretty much always exceptional, and some of the stories it tells are quietly beautiful in a way that I wouldn’t expect from a Pokemon game, at least not a modern one. But it looks awful, worse than Legends: Arceus and worse than Sword & Shield. Additionally, it runs worse than any Pokemon game to precede it. Sure, the Switch isn’t the most powerful console, but Monster Hunter Rise plays without a hitch.

Sword & Shield felt like a stepping stone, as did their DLC. Legends: Arceus was the next tentative stepping stone, but now it seems that Scarlet & Violet are not the finished product either. Another stepping stone? That’s £200 worth of ‘getting there’ as Pokemon tries to realise its open world ideals, and that’s not good enough. A game of this prestige, from a company of this stature, shouldn’t look or run like this. A game that costs £50 should be better.

As it happens, Call of Duty is having the same problems. While the graphics are tiptop, Modern Warfare 2 is running on my GTX3070, not a Nintendo Switch. However, the story is too formulaic, and it doesn’t really know what to do with itself. These problems aren’t identical to Pokemon’s, but it’s another iteration of a prestige franchise that’s frankly lacklustre. Warzone 2 has more problems, from a bafflingly quick TTK, to appalling looting mechanics. Additions like the Tarkov-esque DMZ mode are welcome, but not at the expense of the gameplay.

It may seem odd to compare Pokemon and Call of Duty, but they’re facing remarkably similar issues, and those problems are cropping up for exactly the same reasons: corporate greed.

Pokemon Sword & Shield was universally hated – unfairly so, in my eyes. Legends: Arceus had plenty of problems, despite an exciting premise. And yet, Pokemon Scarlet & Violet was the most pre-ordered Pokemon game ever. Modern Warfare 2 is incredibly likely to be the best selling Activision game, if not the best selling video game this year. These are series that will sell, no matter the quality of the actual product.

That’s why we’re getting two Pokemon games a year at the moment. That’s why Activision is hoovering up indie developers like a black hole and feeding them into the Warzone content machine. We get a Call of Duty game nearly every year, as well as constant updates for the battle royale. Even if developers have unique ideas for these series, do you think they’d have enough time to brainstorm, trial, adapt, and test them?

I feel for the devs on massive franchises like these. There were three years between Pokemon Red and Silver. Three again between the latter and Sapphire, at which point the remakes started, and the gap reduced to two years between games. It seems to have just gotten worse in the decades since.

Releasing Pokemon and Call of Duty games is like printing money. But the current rate of releases is unsustainable, and it seems the more we have, the worse they are. We’ve had three main series games and two remakes since The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild released in 2017. It honestly wouldn’t surprise me if another one surprise dropped (or Tears of the Kingdom was delayed again) before we return to Hyrule. I’m much more confident that the next Zelda game will be good than the next Pokemon or Call of Duty, and that’s because it’s not being rushed.

Boardrooms and executives won’t agree with me, but I want fewer Pokemon games that are better quality. The same goes for Call of Duty. We don’t need to play a new one every year, let alone two. Take your time on Gen 10, Legends: Celebi, or whatever’s next, and make Paldea look like Kamura Village.

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