Pokémon is one of the most iconic and popular video game franchises of all time, maintaining consistently strong sales for over 20 years now. Similar games (such as Level-5’s Yo-kai Watch) have attempted to cash in on that proven winning formula, but no series has come anywhere close to the global dominance Game Freak has achieved with Pokémon.
In a recent episode of the Game Hugs podcast, Nic Watt (founder of the indie studio Nnooo and former Lead Designer at EA) revealed that EA was once working on a
Pokémon competitor for Nintendo DS. Although the project never made it out of the prototype phase, it was apparently in the works for quite some time, and Criterion (the developer behind Burnout) regularly participated in testing for the game.
“Working with EA was a completely different experience [to working with a small studio] as we had the longest prototyping period I’ve had for any game I’ve worked on: it was amazing. EA wanted this game where the idea and it was going to be their Pokémon game. They didn’t have an RPG in the handheld space and they really wanted one.
“We did a lot of paper-based prototyping for the battle mechanics and even made a whole card game. Then we got the people from Criterion – who worked on Burnout and with the studio – in [to test it]. That’s the good thing when you have a company of 300 people, you can just ask ‘do you guys want to come in and play our game for the afternoon.’ The team did find it hard because the prototyping was so long, and a lot of things got reset from time to time. But by the time I left, it still had not hit full production and I know that was really tough for a lot of people.”
— Nic Watt
It would be interesting to see what EA was working on as competitor to
Pokémon, but it’s hard to imagine anything competing head-to-head with such a popular franchise on Nintendo’s own hardware.