A recent massive Nintendo leak has uncovered a surprising gem: a massive Pokémon MMO that would have released in 2005 for the Game Boy Advance.
Nintendo has sprung a leak. A recent giga-leak at Nintendo has released tons of documents and files to this point never revealed to the public, including the source codes of various games such as Mario 64, uncompressed data and internal documentation revealing scrapped plans for future Nintendo titles. While much of the attention has been focused on Mario data, the Pokémon franchise had numerous bits of data leaked, including unused Pokémon designs and unmade Pokémon titles.
One of the more interesting titles that was ultimately scrapped is a Pokémon MMO game that would have been released in the early 2000s, perhaps as early as 2005. The Online Pokémon Project, set to be released for 2005, might have altered the trajectory of the franchise for years to come. So what was it, and why did Nintendo ultimately decide against making it?
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The Online Pokémon Project would have been a GameBoy Advance game based on the style of Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen, which were both released in 2004. In that same year, company iQue approached Nintendo intending to create an MMO RPG for the Pokémon franchise. The Chinese company founded in 2002, just two years before this pitched Pokémon game, was established as part of the union between a joint partnership between Nintendo and Taiwanese-American entrepreneur Dr. Wei Yen. iQue released Nintendo games and products in mainland China under its name.
While the game would be available for the GameBoy Advance, it required a PC to go online. The game would contain an online and offline mode. In the offline mode, each player would be able to capture about 30 different Pokémon. However, when players hooked up their GameBoy Advance to their computers, using their handheld console as a controller, they’d be able to access online mode, which would allow them to capture the rest of the available Pokémon while interacting with players across the world.
To keep players engaged for a long period of time, new events would be periodically added to the game, including new Pokémon, new areas, and new challenges for players. Despite being planned for a 2005 release, the game was ultimately scrapped. iQue would continue distributing Nintendo consoles and games in China until 2018.
How Would This Have Changed Everything?
Pokémon games for awhile had used link cables to interact players. Trading Pokémon has always been a core component to every game — and one of the keys to its continued popularity. However, this level of open-world multiplayer interaction is unprecedented, even today. No mainline Pokémon game has had a mode where players can, in real-time, interact with one another in an MMORPG setting.
It is important to note that this is far from the first game of its nature. Nintendo had for some time by now experimented with connecting its handheld consoles to its main generation consoles. Individuals who played Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles already would have been used to a multiplayer RPG experience where one connected their GBA to a console. However, few games until this point had hooked up handheld consoles to a PC. This would have required new inputs and connections to link up. Perhaps a Cable Link system that led to a USB port.
While it is difficult to say why the game never left the planning stage, it is possible to theorize. One possible reason is that developing such a game would have been too complicated and expensive for Nintendo to greenlight. While 2004 would see the release of World of Warcraft, one of the biggest MMORPGs of all time, the game did not require multi-console interconnectivity. The game would have been expensive to keep running. Consumers would need to buy not only the game, but presumably whatever wires necessary to hook up their GBAs to their computers just to be able to play, and that’s before considering the price of any subscription for the service, which at that time was required for all MMORPGs.
Ultimately, Nintendo would find far more success releasing a new Pokémon game every month rather than create an MMORPG for the franchise. Considering the continued mainstream success of the franchise, the cancellation of the Online Pokémon Project makes sense, even if fans will continually ask “what could have been?”
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