Much is at stake for every new Pokémon generation Game Freak dishes out. If you've noticed, new games will bring about new gimmicks and Pokémon. Using those designs, the Pokémon Company would sell merchandises, create anime and even movies from it. That's how they earn their moolahs. Refer to this infographics to get a good sense of how media franchises earn their cash.
However, business reasoning aside, I believe there are other reasons why Game Freak still won't shy from their old formula.
Note: All images are screenshots I took while playing Pokemon Shield on my Nintendo Switch.
The essence of Pokémon games is the sense of childhood wonder
Many fans were clamouring for something new. Give us an open-world game, they say. But that's not what Pokémon is all about. Pokémon wasn't striving to become a big, cool game where you go around solving side quests. The core essence of Pokémon games wasn't freedom, but a feeling of child-like excitement as you explore the region.
It was always striving to become a game close to your childhood and to let you relive the sense of wonder as you adventure across the region.
This is part of the reason why Pokémon will never go for super-realistic designs. Characters are always drawn cartoonish, and the game's environment design gives a sense of awe and wonders through colours and creativity as opposed to realistic designs. Pokémon designs too, are "cool" and fascinating to learn of.
It's supposed to be a world the child in you can enjoy happily.
This is something I believe Game Freak knew, and how they managed to ensnare fans again and again.
Still a kid's RPG at heart
Role-playing games are easy to understand. You leave your comfortable home to do something great that no one else has ever done. You encountered friends along the way that supports your endeavour. They are great folks, and everyone in your party is different from one another. You go through thick and thin to overcome the hurdle that is the big baddie, and your goal from the start of the game never changed. Of course, you'll definitely win in the end.
What I just described can be applied to almost all RPG. It is simple, and a tried formula that engages children easily. While Game Freak has done some homework to cater to the older fans, Pokémon is still a kid's game. It relies on newer fans to continue holding onto its title of No. 1 Highest Grossing Media franchise.
One can argue that open-world games are pretty much the norm now, and kids aren't as gullible as they seem. However, introducing Pokémon as an open world would introduce a plethora of controls and mechanics. That's not what a kid would want to play. They want something simple to get into, and it must get them started in the game quickly. Short and sweet, but fun is the key.
Making expectations easy to beat
Despite the Wild Area being as "open world" as it can be in Game Freak terms, we fans don't think of it as one. It lacks both size and freedom. To be frank, it's just a bigger and wider, winding paths you take to the next town.
Generally speaking, if Game Freak can do a wild area, then why aren't they doing it on a bigger scale?
Creating a better game increases the expectation of fans.
Pokémon has always been an average game, and I don't see this pattern changing anytime soon. To keep the franchise going, there need to be folks buying the said game. It boosts merchandises, trading card games and BD/CD/DVD sales. We aren't talking about companies that just churns out 1 sequel and move on to the next IP.
We are talking about a global franchise depending on a singular point (Pokémon game) to renew interest in the franchise as a whole!
The game needs to be average so the fans would buy the next one. Are we being strung along? Yes.
Then why are still we fans of Pokémon?
There's a child in you that Pokémon satisfies. There are a ton of games rated M or T out there that fulfils the niche for you. These games have some really fun mechanics, and the satisfaction just clicks for you. You get to experiment with a ton of meta, and the game's graphics just outright trumps a Pokémon game.
However, nothing fills that oddly specific spot like a Pokémon game would.
Thank you for reading.