The Next Pokemon Game Needs Actual Crossbreeding
Max Woolf’s AI-generated Pokemon has got me thinking a lot about the future of the series. With the number of total Pokemon rapidly approaching 1,000, I can’t help but wonder how much longer Game Freak can keep this up. At a certain point, every new Pokemon will become highly derivative of ones that already exist. We already have plenty of examples of that – all you have to do is count the snake or bird Pokemon – and the problem is only going to get worse as more Pokemon are invented. What’s more, the Dexit controversy spotlighted the fact that it won’t be possible to keep adding new Pokemon without getting rid of older ones. An ever-expanding collection hurts the game in so many ways. It frustrates players that can’t transfer their favorites to new games, it dilutes the competitive meta, and most importantly, it makes it hard to care about and form connections with individual Pokemon. I don’t think the developers should keep inventing new Pokemon forever, but luckily, the solution has been right in front of us the whole time: Pokemon breeding.
Breeding was introduced in Gen 2 and has since become a core mechanic of the series. As the breeding process has gotten more complex and involved, an entire cottage industry of Pokemon breeders has formed. These players are experts at assessing stats and selectively breeding moves, abilities, nature, and IVs from one generation to the next. It’s the most complex process in Pokemon and one that casual players would find impenetrable.
But what if there was a way to participate in breeding without having to be a stat expert? Imagine if you could make your own, totally unique, brand new Pokemon by breeding two different Pokemon together. With crossbreeding, Game Freak could invite casual players into the breeding hobby while also offloading the burden of creating new, unique Pokemon to an AI and player-driven process. Players would be able to create their own Pokemon through a simple process. The best part is that because each amalgamated species would be completely of their own making, it would also solve the saturated market problem. You could have an infinite number of new species that would all be individually meaningful to the people that created them.
If you’ve ever used the Pokemon Fusion Generator, you should have a rough idea of what I’m talking about. That app lets you choose any two Pokemon and it automatically generates a mashup of them. It’s a fun way to create some pretty cursed-looking Pokemon with funny names, but it also gives us an example of what breeding might one day be like. Crossbreeding Pokemon could give us new monsters that share qualities from parents, not just once, but intergenerationally. The offspring of a half-Starmie half-Arbok (Starbok) could breed with a half-Kangaskhan half-Muk (Kangasuk) and make a new Pokemon that has qualities from all four (Starbangakuk). The possible combinations are infinite. You could spend thousands of hours crossbreeding Pokemon and you’d never see every possible creation.
There would need to be certain restrictions to crossbreeding of course. Crossbreeds wouldn’t exist in any Pokedex because it just wouldn’t be possible or necessary to catalog every creation. It also wouldn’t be a good idea to allow crossbreeds into competitive play. Beyond that, whatever you do with your crossbreeds should be up to you. You can trade them online, battle against friends with them, or just keep breeding them over and over until you’ve made the most powerful crossbreed ever. New entries would still need some new Pokemon just to add to the breeding pool, but a small handful of 15-20 would be enough for an entire generation.
It has never made sense that breeding two different Pokemon results in the offspring becoming a unique species or the other, but it was a limitation of the hardware at the time breeding was introduced. I hope that breeding can evolve beyond stat manipulation and allow us to create our own custom Pokemon. It would solve a lot of the problems that the series faces, especially the ones that have only gotten worse over time.
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