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Why did Pokken fail?


Well-Known Member
May 13, 2014
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Hi people. Today (or tomorrow depending on where you live) is XY's 10th anniversary, and a few people remember that in the middle of the prerelease period a strange footage of Lucario and Blaziken in 3D was shown. The producers said that "it was a representation of the future of Pokemon" but we all knew there was something fishy about it. Eventually the game was revealed in 2014, and it received a lot of fanfare whenever a new character was announced. Pokemon Tournament was released in 2015 in the Wii U, it got some DLC that added Pokemon from the Japanese arcade version, and got a Switch Port named Pokken Tournament DX which added the DLC content, Decidueye as a playable character. Sales figures appear to be incomplete but they were at least 1 million for each game.

After those two (or debatably one) games the franchise went dormant, and while it was a VGC pillar those days ended eventually. After all the hype it received and how it seemed like Pokemon finally entering a very popular game genre, there doesn't seem to be much interest in it in both the fans and the company. So, why do you think it did not have a big impact? Was it sabotaged by Bandai and TPCi or was it doomed to fail from the start? How would you have made it more successful? Discuss.
The fact that it first released on infamously poorly-selling Wii U may be a factor. That was a major impediment that I don't think there was any real way around at the time. I doubt a concurrent release on 3DS would have helped; I don't remember whether the New 3DS (with the extra buttons that would even be needed to properly translate Pokkén's control scheme) was out when Pokkén released, but even if it was, handhelds and fast-paced fighting games aren't a good fit. And I don't know the intricacies of The Pokémon Company's relationship to Nintendo, but something tells me that releasing Pokkén on non-Nintendo consoles like the PS4 or XBox One was not an option. And then the fact that the Switch port was such a direct port rather than a whole new entry likely cut into sales as well.
I mean, the fact that it was a spin-off game that only allowed you to use a very limited selection of Pokemon was probably the main reason why it failed. Also it was a Wii U game, which was probably the final nail in the coffin.
I doubt it was the main factor, but I don't think the name was doing it any favors. Calling it "Pokken" was bit too complicated and confusing I'd say

Something more straight forward like "Pokemon Tekken" or idk "Pokemon Fighters" might've gotten the game across a bit better.

On a side, apparently in Germany, Pokken was very similar to their word for smallpox so they actually did end up calling it Pokemon Tekken over there
I would have really like Pokken if it had RPG elements, like explore the world like Legends: Arceus but with fights like Pokken
Part of it was the Wii U. The Wii U just sold so poorly that nothing really succeeded that well. But that doesn't quite explain it all, because Nintendo re-released several Wii U titles on Switch and they enjoyed rather dramatic turnarounds. Mario Kart 8 for example, only sold 8.46 million on the Wii U. On the Switch? 57.01 million! Pokken was also re-released on Switch but only went from 1 million to 1.54 million. So the Switch didn't really open up more sales for the game.

Another factor might be timing. Pokken Tournament DX released in 2017, which was packed with far more popular games like BotW, Mario Odyssey, the aforementioned Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Splatoon 2 among other games. Pokken Tournament DX... probably got sent out to die competing against all of that, it's hard not to get utterly buried under those kinds of heavy hitters. So that's probably a factor, 2017 was a rough year to release a game that wasn't in an established, popular series, in a lighter year people might've been more likely to try it.

It could also be a genre issue and maybe there just wasn't enough interest in a fighting game, but Smash Ultimate sold 32.44 million on the Switch, and some other established fighting franchises like Mortal Kombat and Tekken have cracked 10 million (and Street Fighter has come close) so I'm not sure that's it. Maybe Pokken could get there if it sees multiple entires with sustained success, but with it only selling ~1 million I don't think TPC is going to give it another chance.

Really I think it would be much better to have an ARPG spinoff with real time battling and allow you to battle other players as with the main game. That could make for a nice spiritual successor to Pokken that would have wider appeal, since RPG fans and potentially exploration/open world fans depending on the map design would also be interested. I myself am more the exploration/open world type so I'd be more interested in this than Pokken 2, but it's possible they could make a Pokken subseries successful even though it hasn't been yet. But it would need a lot of circumstances to go right for it and it would be risky, so I suspect they won't do it.
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