In an interview with Japanese outlet Famitsu, the Pokemon Company CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara spoke candidly about his worries regarding the Nintendo Switch pre-release. Ishihara said pointedly that he "didn't see" the Nintendo Switch selling, due to its ground-breaking nature as a combo handheld/console device. What changed Ishihara's mind, like many others, was the overwhelming fun and success of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
"I think [Zelda] had a big impact," said Ishihara regarding the Nintendo Switch's unprecedented launch. He goes on to describe how the Nintendo Switch has grown into a great platform for new games and new experiences because of the risks Nintendo has taken with its latest first-party games:
"Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Super Mario Odyssey as well as other titles also had great timing and is helping widespread adoption. On top of that there are games like Nintendo Labo that include elements you don’t normally see in games, so it’s the ideal environment for a platform. I think this is a great opportunity for us to introduce new games and bring new experiences that will earn even more fans."
It's likely fair to assume that Ishihara has nothing but confidence in the Nintendo Switch going forward, but his initial worry about the platform is certainly notable.
Given the pressure on Nintendo following the struggling Wii U, it wouldn't be a surprise to hear that many Nintendo and Nintendo-affiliated executives were nervous about the Nintendo Switch. What's rare is to hear such opinions voiced out loud, but these sorts of honest perspectives are more common from Japanese companies than western.
Further in the interview, Ishihara makes clear that despite his worries regarding the Nintendo Switch, the Pokemon Company was fully invested in the platform very early. Both Pokemon Let's Go and the Pokemon Company's "second title," likely a reference to the main-series Pokemon game launching in 2019, were being worked on prior to the Nintendo Switch's launch. Speaking regarding the Nintendo Switch's launch, Ishihara would describe:
"That’s the point where thoughts like ‘maybe the hardware won’t sell?’ changed to a feeling of ‘our game will give the platform traction’. In a way, our second title this time around will be one of the driving factors behind that."
With Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu and Pokemon Let's Go Eevee both launching this November, it's interesting to hear Ishihara putting his focus on 2019's game. But it is the Pokemon Company after all, and the Pokemon Company's main gaming product is the main series of Pokemon titles. It's great to hear how excited about Pokemon 2019 the Pokemon Company is, though. But his comments may also betray a level of wariness regarding the influence of Pokemon GO on the Pokemon Company's other projects.
Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee launch November 16 on the Nintendo Switch. The next main-series Pokemon title will follow on Switch in late 2019.