I’m not any kind of Pokémon fan. I haven’t played the card game, watched the cartoon, nor have I tried any of the 100+ video games in the series and its various spin-offs. But as someone who watches the games industry and its shenanigans, I feel compelled to add my two cents to the conversation surrounding the latest entries in the long-running series: Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet.

If you didn’t know already (and you didn’t gather from the title of this article), Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet have become the latest games to fall victim to one of the worst trends in modern gaming: the dreaded “release now, fix later” business model. To put it bluntly, both games (which are 99% the same game, but Pokémon as a series has been intent on ripping off its biggest fans since the first titles were released more than twenty-five years ago) are buggy messes. Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet are unfinished at best, and players have found what is arguably the worst experience ever in the long-running series.

The three starter Pokémon – which I’m told are all new for Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet.

Today we’re talking about the Pokémon series. But this “release now, fix later” approach has been tried by many different companies over the last few years, and after every big blow-up I think – and hope – that this will surely be the last one. Whether it’s Mass Effect: Andromeda, Cyberpunk 2077, or even 2013’s Star Trek, every time one of these unfinished messes is pushed out too early by a corporation that should know better, I hope that we’ll finally see the back of this truly irritating trend. But it just keeps happening!

Pokémon is one of the biggest names in gaming, and certainly one of the biggest franchises on Nintendo hardware, so you’d think that The Pokémon Company, Nintendo, and developers Game Freak would want to ensure the highest possible quality. With Pokémon Legends: Arceus released just this January, and Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl released last November, it’s not like there’s been a dearth of games in the series lately, nor is Nintendo exactly struggling for money; the company has sold almost 90 million Switch systems and made a quarterly profit of just over $1bn in the three months up to the end of June.

An excerpt from Nintendo’s most recent financial statement.

Why bring up the financials? Well, it’s simple: there was no need to rush this game out of the door. A few weeks or even a few months of extra development time could have solved many of the issues that players have been complaining about, turning a disappointing experience that will be forever tainted in players’ minds into a perfectly creditable new entry in this long-running series. I don’t claim to assess Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet from the point of view of a fan, so I can’t tell you how well-received the new setting, new characters, and new critters might’ve been. But as someone who used to work in the games industry, I can tell you this: it’s very difficult to recover from a bad launch, and it’s nigh-on impossible to change opinions about a game after it’s already out in the wild and criticism is spreading.

And I don’t understand how corporations in the games industry consistently fail to learn this lesson. Very occasionally a title like No Mans Sky will take a disastrous launch and turn it around, but even then, that game forever comes with a caveat in the minds of many players – and many more will forever choose to skip it in favour of other titles that weren’t released too soon. And for every No Mans Sky there are dozens of Anthems and Aliens: Colonial Marines that never win back the support of players. And the jury’s still out on 2020’s most notorious mess, Cyberpunk 2077.

Promo image for Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet.

So why did Nintendo do this? There was no need and no benefit to releasing an unready game – and plenty of dangerous consequences. As a brand you have to say that Pokémon feels rock-solid, but it only takes one or two rotten releases to turn fans away, and while Pokémon was a unique proposition when it launched in the 1990s, other games and series have since come along and could pose a challenge. The history of the games industry is littered with once-celebrated franchises that are now either entirely dead… or worse, relegated to nothing more than crappy mobile releases.

Nintendo needs to learn lessons from this, as do The Pokémon Company and Game Freak. While internet connectivity makes it technically and logistically possible to launch a game in an unfinished state and patch out the bugs and glitches later, it’s been proven time and again to never be a good idea. Once the narrative sets in that “Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet are buggy and unplayable,” it becomes very difficult to change – and once a game is routinely picking up 0/10 or 1/10 scores from players, that’s more than enough to cost sales.

A player character in an out-of-bounds area.
Image Credit: Beta Brawler on YouTube

But there’s also a lesson for us as players and consumers, too. The most important takeaway should be this: pre-ordering is never a good idea. I’ve lost count of the number of games that were released to poor reviews or in a disappointing state, and when there are so few benefits to pre-ordering – especially for digital games where scarcity isn’t a concern – there’s just no need to do it. It’s better to wait and see how well a game is received – especially if, like me, you don’t have a huge amount of disposable income to spend on video games.

That’s before we consider the advantages of waiting. Obviously if a game is released in an unfinished state, waiting even just a few weeks can mean the difference between an awful experience and a significantly better one, but it’s also possible to see significant price drops or sales. Games that don’t perform well at launch can be heavily discounted within a very short span of time. Even the Nintendo eShop has sales from time to time, so unless you’re the hardest of hardcore Pokémon fans, it can make a lot of sense to wait and exercise a little patience and caution. Perhaps it’s too late to do that with Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet (though I hear rumours of Nintendo issuing refunds to some disgruntled players) but it’s definitely something to keep in mind for future releases.

A visual bug in Pokémon Scarlet or Pokémon Violet.
Image Credit: Beta Brawler on YouTube

It’s unfortunate that the games industry has worked itself into such a rotten state that we have to say “be cautious” even about games that we want to be excited for – but that’s the reality of where we’re at. Corporations have continued to push the boundaries of what’s acceptable, and while some games – like Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet – generate a degree of backlash as a result, the sad fact is that this will happen again, perhaps as soon as next week. Even companies with good reputations – like Nintendo or CD Projekt Red – can get themselves into trouble, and we shouldn’t be afraid to call them out for it. It’s poor behaviour, and while Nintendo is definitely getting a kick in the wallet, it likely won’t be enough to dissuade the company from misbehaving again.

For Pokémon fans who feel let down, I feel ya. I’ve been there too – and unfortunately, so have most players at one time or another. It’s never a pleasant feeling when a game we’re hyped or excited for turns out to be a disappointment, and it’s even worse in a case like this where just a little extra development time would, in all likelihood, have resulted in a much better product.

Definitely steer clear of Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet for now. I hope that Nintendo and Game Freak get their acts together and patch out as many of these bugs and glitches as they can as quickly as they can – but for now, it’s one to avoid.

Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet are out now for Nintendo Switch. The Pokémon franchise – including all titles discussed above – is the copyright of Nintendo, The Pokémon Company, and/or Game Freak. Some screenshots and promotional artwork courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Ten of the best games… that I’ve never played!

After Star Trek, gaming and the games industry is probably the subject I write about most here on the website. I used to work in the games industry as regular readers will recall, and I’ve enjoyed the hobby for decades – though I spend less time playing these days for a number of reasons. However, with decades of gaming under my belt, and time spent on the inside, I like to think I can write about the subject from a unique perspective and perhaps even with some degree of authority. So let’s completely ruin that by looking at some of the biggest games and game franchises that I’ve never even played!

The entries on this list are games (and franchises) that I’ve heard almost universal praise for; these titles are undeniably good. However, for a variety of reasons I simply haven’t got around to playing them, or they seemed like “not my thing” so I never gave them a try. I’ll make an attempt to justify myself… but I’m sure you’ll agree that this seriously harms my “gamer” pedigree! There shouldn’t be any major spoilers because these are games I haven’t played, but we will be discussing some details. If there’s a title you want to avoid even the slightest chance of spoilers for, it may be safer to skip that entry and move on to the next.

Here comes the disclaimer: just because I’m not interested in these titles or haven’t played them doesn’t mean I’m saying that they’re bad. Look at the title of this list! These games are generally held in very high regard, so if one of your favourites is here and I’m being negative about it, please try not to take it personally. Our experiences are all subjective; we all enjoy different things. And that’s great!

So without further ado, let’s look at the list!

Number 1: The Pokémon series (1996-present)

When I was still at school in the late ’90s, Pokémon cards became a short-lived craze among some of the younger kids. I considered myself “too grown-up” for a silly card game like that, which was a pretty typical attitude among my teenage friends at the time! I did, however, receive a pack of the cards as a gift at one point – and promptly gave them away to someone I knew who was collecting them.

I also didn’t own a Game Boy at the time – though in those days they were available to rent! Do you remember going to a rental shop and literally checking out a whole console? But because I didn’t own a Game Boy – and could afford to rent one so infrequently – I never got around to trying out the first entry in the series. Since then, there have been eighteen mainline Pokémon games across eight “generations” that have come out on six systems, and a number of spin-off titles too, including Pokémon Go, which seemed to take the world by storm in 2016.

And I’ve managed to avoid playing any of them! Japanese-style RPGs aren’t my favourite kind of games usually – particularly due to their style of combat – and combined with Pokémon’s youthful style and seemingly ever-growing list of critters, it’s something that’s never seemed like “my thing”. The increasing number of creatures in particular feels a little daunting at this point, and the series has developed a lore over the course of almost a quarter of a century that spans not only the games but a long-running animated series as well. At this point, even if I were interested in the series, I wouldn’t know where to start!

Number 2: Practically every arcade game!

I grew up in a rural community, and none of the small towns in this part of the world had arcades, not even during the height of their popularity in the ’80s. The closest I got was a small “penny arcade” in a seaside town which had a couple of video games alongside claw machines, slot machines, and pool tables. On the odd occasion that I’d get to go to bigger cities in my youth, visiting a video arcade was never a high priority.

As such, I’ve only ever played a handful of arcade games, and even then not many times and not for very long. The one I can remember playing most is 1994’s Sega Rally Championship, which I was fortunate enough to play a few times when I lived overseas. But I missed out on the arcade experience that many gamers of my generation had, and I’ve never played the arcade version of titles like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, Out Run, the Star Wars arcade titles, or Space Harrier. The closest I got to playing Space Harrier in an arcade was in Shenmue on the Dreamcast! Though this entry might seem like kind of a cheat for this list since I have technically played many of these games when they were ported to consoles or via emulators, the experience isn’t the same.

Because of my health, I’m no longer in a position where I can travel very far, nor would I be able to really use an arcade machine for any length of time (unless I could do so from a seated position). So unfortunately it looks like I’ll never really be able to have that arcade experience.

Number 3: Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018)

So far we’ve looked at games I wasn’t interested in and games that were generally unavailable to me. Red Dead Redemption 2 is in neither of these categories. I could have played it upon its 2018 release on PlayStation 4, or after its 2019 PC release on my computer, yet despite being interested in its historical setting, I simply haven’t got around to doing so – at least, not yet.

As a history buff, a game like Red Dead Redemption 2 should be exactly the kind of thing I’m looking for. It ticks almost all of the boxes for things I’d enjoy – a single-player game with a detailed story, an open world with lots to do, and a fun historical setting. American history is one of my favourite fields of study (despite not being American), so there’s really no excuse for not playing this game, right? The only real drawback is that it’s a sequel (technically a prequel, despite the somewhat confusing numbering) and I’m not usually someone who likes to jump into a series that’s already in progress.

I’ve been interested in Red Dead Redemption 2 since it was released, for all of the reasons listed above, yet I just haven’t got around to picking up a copy yet. I think if I’d seen it discounted I might’ve, but on Steam during the recent summer sale event it was only 20% off, which still left it priced at over £40. I don’t have a huge budget for games, so that’s definitely one reason why I haven’t picked it up yet. Unlike some of the other entries on this list, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a game I absolutely plan to get around to playing… one of these days!

Number 4: The Dark Souls series (2011-2016)

This entry could really be expanded to encompass a number of other titles besides the three main Dark Souls games which fall into that new pseudo-genre inspired by the series. “Souls-like” games are notorious for their high difficulty, and the three Dark Souls games pioneered and epitomise that. I respect people who play games for the challenge, and I’m sure it must be very rewarding to finally overcome a difficult level or boss after numerous attempts. However, I’m not that kind of gamer!

If you read my playthrough of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, you’ll recall I played on the easiest difficulty setting. I usually do this where possible, because in single-player titles I’m more interested in an engaging story than a challenge. The Dark Souls series deliberately doesn’t offer lower difficulty options, which is an artistic decision that I respect; I’m not going to argue that the game should go out of its way to accommodate players like myself. However, it means that it’s a series I have no interest in playing.

I’m not the world’s best gamer. Completing Jedi: Fallen Order and The Last of Us Part II on their lowest difficulty settings have been two of my big gaming accomplishments of 2020, and perhaps the most challenging games I’ve played have been rounds of Fall Guys! But I’m not really someone who seeks out a challenge. I don’t have the skill to be a top-tier gamer, nor the patience to play one game over and over and over again to “git gud”. If Dark Souls seemed like it had a genuinely interesting story underneath the difficulty, perhaps I’d be willing to try. But everything I’ve seen from the series looks like an incredibly generic fantasy world with hack-and-slash gameplay, so I don’t think I’ll be convinced to give it a try any time soon.

Number 5: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (2016) and Fortnite Battle Royale (2017)

I’m not really into competitive online gaming, at least not unless a title offers something genuinely different. Fall Guys, which I mentioned above, does fall into that category, but PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite really don’t. Both titles are in the action/shooter genre, and if I wanted to play a game like that I could choose from myriad single-player offline titles.

However, in both cases I have a great respect for what the games bring to the table. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds didn’t exactly create the battle royale genre, but it certainly elevated and refined it, and Fortnite is a phenomenon that the gaming world hadn’t seen since Minecraft. Both titles brought millions of new people into gaming as a hobby and helped the medium grow to the point where it’s wholly mainstream. I’ve touched on this topic before, but when I was younger, gaming wasn’t exactly a niche but it was certainly a nerdy, geeky hobby to be associated with, shunned by adults and self-proclaimed cool kids. The rise of titles like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite – and their ubiquity on practically every platform from consoles to phones – has meant the video gaming hobby has expanded far more than I would have ever thought possible a few years ago.

That doesn’t mean, however, that I’ll be tempted to try either of these games any time soon.

Number 6: World of Warcraft (2004)

Earlier, I criticised the Dark Souls series for feeling very generic and uninteresting in its fantasy setting. The same simply cannot be said of World of Warcraft, the title which arguably defined the massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) genre. It has a rich lore and a deeply detailed, painstakingly crafted world, all of which has been built up over more than fifteen years with updates, patches, and expansions massively improving the game in that time.

From my perspective, World of Warcraft falls down simply because of its online nature. I just don’t enjoy playing with other people in this kind of always-online environment, and I find that interacting with other people is immersion-breaking. In a fantasy world, I need that sense of immersion to enjoy myself and have a good time, and as I said in the previous entry on this list, there are many single-player titles which offer something similar.

The longest I’ve ever stuck with an MMORPG was Star Trek Online, which attracted me for obvious reasons! However, even being set in my favourite fictional galaxy and having some enjoyable story missions couldn’t overcome the issues I have with this kind of game, and after struggling on with it for a while, I eventually stopped playing.

Number 7: The Final Fantasy series (1987-present)

As I mentioned when talking about Pokémon, I’ve never been the biggest fan of Japanese-style roleplaying games. The combat in particular is something I find offputting, not because it’s bad but there’s something about its slower, turn-based nature that I tend to feel doesn’t gel with an action-oriented title. The Final Fantasy games have always had this style of gameplay, which is one reason I’ve never been all that interested.

The second major reason why I’ve never jumped in is that the Final Fantasy series is complicated. There are sixteen “main” games (counting Final Fantasy XIV twice as it has an online and offline version), as well as dozens of other titles (perhaps as many as fifty if you consider mobile games and spin-offs). There are also films and other associated media, making the series quite daunting to get started with. While I gather many of the games are semi-standalone titles, there is a lot of background and lore that connects them and keeps the series intact. Maybe that’s a bad reason not to jump in, but coupled with the style of gameplay being something I generally don’t enjoy, it’s enough to be offputting.

Though I have owned several of the consoles that Final Fantasy titles released on – like the SNES – many of the most well-received entries in the series are or were PlayStation exclusives. As someone who didn’t own a PlayStation until the dying days of the PlayStation 3 (which I bought so I could play The Last of Us) I didn’t have access to most of the games released between the mid-90s and the mid-2000s.

Number 8: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)

The SNES was the first home console that I owned, but for many of the same reasons given above regarding my general dislike for Japanese-style RPGs, I didn’t play the only Zelda title released on that system: A Link to the Past. Nor did I play the Zelda titles on the Nintendo 64, Wii, DS, 3DS, or any other Nintendo console I’ve owned in the years since. I wouldn’t say I’ve deliberately shunned the Zelda series; it’s more a case of having other priorities and putting my money elsewhere.

I must be practically the only Nintendo Switch owner to have not played Breath of the Wild, as the game has been one of the system’s best-selling titles since it launched in 2017. Though I have been tempted to pick up a copy, especially if I could find it pre-owned or at a discount, I simply haven’t got around to it yet, as I’ve had other games I’m more interested in playing.

Number 9: Super Mario Galaxy (2007) and Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010)

Ever since I received Super Mario 64 for Christmas in 1997, I’ve been a huge fan of Mario’s 3D adventures. I was even lucky enough to play through Super Mario Sunshine on a friend’s GameCube as I didn’t own the console for myself. Yet I skipped the two 3D Mario titles that were released on the Wii.

The Wii had one of the best Mario titles ever in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and I had great fun playing that game. But the two Mario Galaxy titles didn’t hold much appeal, mostly due to the level design, which consists of a number of spherical planets and asteroids to navigate. I found those environments looked incredibly confusing, and the Wii’s motion controls seemed like they would make that worse. With so many other titles to play on the Wii, which was a fantastic console that had a great library of games, I kept putting off playing Super Mario Galaxy. When a sequel came out I put that to the back of the queue as well, and I’ve just not got around to picking up either game.

I think I still have my Wii in the attic, so perhaps one day I need to get it out, dust it off, and finally pick up one or both of these games. In 2018 I had a great time with Super Mario Odyssey, so it’s clear that my enjoyment of 3D Mario titles hasn’t waned at all!

Number 10: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)

A couple of years ago I set out to play the famed Witcher series. Not wanting to begin with the third entry, I started with the first game – but I had a hard time getting into it and haven’t picked it up since. It wasn’t the world, the lore, or the story that I found offputting, but rather the mouse-and-keyboard controls. I’m so used to playing most action/adventure titles with a control pad these days that it was a bit of a jolt, and I’m surprised that a game from as recently as 2007 didn’t have any controller support on PC!

As a result, I didn’t get into the series and haven’t got to its incredibly popular and critically-acclaimed third entry yet. The Witcher 3 is many people’s pick for game of the decade or game of the generation, and I’m very interested to try it for myself. I own the game and both its expansions, so I will one day get around to playing it – once I’ve completed the first two titles!

The Witcher and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings are supposed to take around 40 hours each to complete, so it may be a while before I finally get to this acclaimed game, but unlike some of the other entries on this list, it’s one I hope to play one day.

So that’s it. Ten great games and franchises that, for a variety of reasons, I’ve never played. Sorry if your favourite made the list, but remember that this is all one person’s opinion, and I’m in no way trying to argue that these games are bad. Some of them just aren’t my thing. If you love them or are passionate about them, great! Diversity takes many forms, including the titles we enjoy in the entertainment space. It would be a very dull world indeed if we all enjoyed the same things!

Hopefully this list has been a little bit of fun. If you’re new to the website, I write lists and articles on gaming and related topics often, so I hope you’ll check back for more in future. Until next time!

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective studio, developer, and/or publisher. Screenshots and promo artwork courtesy of press kits on IGDB. Arcade machine photo courtesy of Unsplash. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.