Why did Nintendo skip Pokemon Z?
Rumors about a Pokemon Z version had been circulating the Internet for months. With the release of new forms of Zygarde and the beginning of the Pokemon X Y & Z anime arc in late 2015, fans were almost certain that a sequel to 2013's bestselling X and Y versions would be announced and released within the next year.
Yet, to the surprise of many, when Pokemon Day 2016 rolled around (on February 27th), Nintendo didn't announce plans for the long-anticipated Z, but for a new generation of Pokemon games with Sun and Moon. This caused many to question why the long-standing tradition of releasing a third game (or pair of sequels, as with Black & White 2) within the current generation was nixed. Why change a formula that has worked for 20 years?
Nintendo hasn't given any answers, and most fans seem willing to forego their confusion in the hype surrounding a new generation. But the question remains: why was Pokemon Z skipped? There are many possible reasons, but I think these can be narrowed down to three truly compelling theories for why Nintendo decided to start on Generation VII instead of complete the X & Y trilogy.
1. A new generation tends to generate more sales
Pokemon Black and White have sold approximately 15.6 million copies worldwide. Black and White 2? 7.81 million. The same trend holds for each generation -- Diamond and Pearl sold better than Platinum, Ruby and Sapphire better than Emerald, etc. The first games in a new generation simply sell better than their follow-ups; new generations generate (ha!) more hype, and thus more sales.
So, monetary-wise, it makes sense to churn out new Pokemon generations every three years (like with gens 6 and 7) instead of pushing it back another year in order to release a less lucrative game. And with Pokemon's 20-year anniversary taking place this year, it also makes sense that Nintendo is trying to milk the series for all it's worth.
Of course, that begs the question: will Nintendo return to Pokemon Z at a later date? This leads to my next theory...
2. Nintendo is planning to release Z on their new handheld
The Nintendo NX is coming out next March, and rumors indicate that a new handheld, codenamed MH, is in the works as well. Nintendo has learned from the initial disappointing sales of the 3DS that for a device to sell well, it needs to have a good starting line-up of games. And what better choice than a game from one of Nintendo's bestselling series?
Releasing a new generation on a brand-new system could be too risky of a move, as casual fans would be hesitant to dish out the money for a new device right away, thus limiting sales. But Pokemon Z could provide the right balance, convincing serious fans to buy the newest handheld while not isolating more casual fans who wouldn't be as interested in a follow-up title, anyway. But with exciting new mechanics and updated graphics, a sequel to the already much-acclaimed X and Y (which have sold 14.7 million copies, making them the bestselling game on the 3DS) could provide a lifeline for a struggling company wishing to promote their newest gaming systems as effectively as possible.
3. Returning to France the year after the Paris Attacks would be too soon
Nintendo and Pokemon have always been very careful about stirring controversy or reopening recent wounds. The episode of Pokemon Black and White that was supposed to introduce Team Plasma was cancelled after the March 11 earthquake, tsunamis, and nuclear meltdown because of its destructive content, and it hasn't been released since. Is it really that odd, then, that Nintendo wouldn't want to release a video game in which an evil team destroys parts of a region very clearly based off of France less than a year after the horrific terrorist attacks in the nation's capital that left more than 100 dead?
On the other hand, a game in which the French people effectively triumph over their adversaries and rebuild their region/country could be the exact antidote that those still reeling from the attacks need. Nintendo had an interesting chance to integrate real-world events into their games here -- and, of course, they passed it up.
Additionally, if this theory turns out to be true, it means that there's a partially-developed Pokemon game out there that was quickly canned or delayed in November 2015, less than a month after the new forms of Zygarde were released and the anime's X Y & Z arc began. Were those releases actually initially planned to lead up to the announcement of Z version, before the Paris Attacks put a hold on future developments? We may never know, but if this is truly the reason behind Z's disappearance, I hope that we'll still see a completed version sometime in the next few years once wounds have had more time to heal.
So, there you have it, the three best theories for why Pokemon Z was skipped in favor of Sun and Moon. Which one do you think is the most likely? Do you have any other theories? Let us know in the comments!