Ask the Members

The mixed response to Sword and Shield’s DLC

While most perfer the move to DLC, there’s some fair points of concern raised on the Pokémon Sword and Shield Expansion Pass.

Last month, paid downloadable content (DLC) was announced for Pokémon Sword and Shield, to the surprise of many. It is a first for the main series of games, with only the spinoff title Pokkén Tournament DX for the Nintendo Switch having paid DLC, and microtransactions in games supported on mobile devices like Magikarp Jump and Pokemon GO.

How have people reacted? We’ve seen a range of opinions. In this article we highlight the general response, and explore why some people are all for it, while others are more hesitant about the news.

What’s in the DLC?

The Expansion Pass contains two parts to it, one releasing this June, and the other in Fall 2020. Priced at $30 USD, it will bring with it brand new Pokémon (such as the new Legendary Calyrex, and the Kung Fu Pokémon Kubfu and Urshifu), new Galar forms (e.g. Slowbro and Slowking, and seemingly for the Kanto Legendary birds), and new Gigantamax forms (such as for the other Kanto Starters). It also comes with new areas akin to the existing Wild Area, and new characters.

While over 200 other Pokémon not originally part of the Galar Pokédex will be available to catch in these new areas, you will also be able to obtain them via trading or transfer from Pokémon HOME without purchasing the DLC. You can read more details in our original news article.

Pokémon Direct announces Mystery Dungeon Rescue Team DX, Sword and Shield Expansion Pass

General response

The DLC is a clear change from the ‘enhanced version’ method The Pokémon Company has opted for in the past. Pokémon Yellow, Crystal, Emerald, Platinum, and Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon were all based on their preceding games with sometimes little difference between them. Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 were different in being direct sequels, offering a brand new story with a new choice of protagonist and several new areas on top of various quality-of-life improvements.

Comparing the two together, most seem in favour of DLC, but there’s a significant chunk who are unsure of this new direction, or even prefer the old way.

Points for the DLC

Majority rules, as they say, and it may prove to be a successful venture for The Pokémon Company, despite the fact the enhanced version games, at full retail price, have still sold fairly well historically. User Fairy is one of those happy with the change, along with the news that more Pokémon are coming to Galar:

Already paid for the expansion and I couldn’t be happier for it! I think it looks great and honestly I’m so excited that Game Freak’s making good on including more older (and apparently new!) Pokémon, even if they’re just being drip fed to us. It’s a good compromise, in my opinion, especially because restarting your adventure for a third game in the gen was always a little meh.

She wasn’t alone in being tired of restarting your adventure in the enhanced version. Cherrim also agreed with this sentiment.

This is absolutely perfect for me. I’ve found myself less and less enthused to play third versions as the years go by. (I asked for Ultra Sun for Christmas the year it came out and my copy is still in the plastic wrap.) The option to get all the new content and only pay ~$35 instead of paying $90 for a whole new game and having to replay all of it again? It’s perfect for me. This is how I want to consume Pokémon games from now on.

Alex also was a fan of the DLC option, given the lower cost compared to another full-retail-price game.

I think paid DLC is fine, especially at a lower price than the original games. If they went the way of Sun/Moon and just released UltraSword and UltraShield, priced it at $80 and called it a day, I likely wouldn’t have bought them. Cheaper DLC that offers a smaller but better developed region sounds great. And it adds a bunch of old Pokémon, to boot. At the time of writing, it seems as though they put a lot more work into the Wild Area, which is what severely disappointed me about Sword and Shield. I thought it would be a ton of fun to explore every nook and cranny of the areas, but I found they are boring and samey. Nothing interesting to explore apart from new wild Pokémon. No story development entwined within the wild areas. Just a huge place with random NPCs and raid battles. It got old fast.

I’m a fan of expansions for the Pokémon series, as opposed [to] starting new games over every couple of years. Most of us play the same character anyway, so if they treated Sword and Shield as the baseline “vanilla” game for the Switch going forward, each new installment could be a new region that your character travels to. You keep all your Pokémon that you trained up, and instead of catching ’em all every single time, you just catch the new ones and add on to your already-filled dex. You could just cheese and destroy all the gyms with your super leveled Pokémon, or catch the new ones and beat the game that way. The latter sounds way more fun to me, but whatever, it’s up to you. Your character would have a super stocked wardrobe and you could collect items of clothing from all the different regions as the game adds more and more expansions. Treat it like World of Warcraft. Vanilla is Sword/Shield, then release a Burning Crusade, Wrath, Cataclysm, etc etc etc. That would be dope.

In short, there’s a lot of support for the option that grants you the same differences seen in the enhanced version games, without having to replay the same adventure again, and at a lower price

Not necessarily that great

However, there’s plenty to be said about how the base games, Pokémon Sword and Shield, should be more complete without needing DLC in the first place. Take Bellsprout‘s thoughts, for example:

If Sword/Shield was a game that had a good amount of content that kept me playing for hours past beating it I would welcome the DLC with open arms. But I beat the game at around 30 hours and then slowly stopped playing because there was barely anything to do after finishing.

My feelings are the game was already an extra $20 on the switch. I got a game that had about the same content as X and Y, possibly a little less. Now if I want more content I have to pay more for an expansion that I feel probably should of just been apart of the game. So I’m not feeling wild about it all.

It’s certainly true that outside of Max Raid Battles and the Battle Tower that there isn’t too much to do in the postgame. Past titles such as the Sinnoh games granted us the Battle Frontier, Contests, the Underground, and a new island with several routes and areas to explore. Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver had the Battle Frontier, the Pokéathlon, the PokéWalker, and a whole second region to explore. There is no new area to explore in Pokémon Sword and Shield – unless, of course, you buy the Expansion Pass.

Dawn had many things to say on the matter, arguing that the generation eight games have been designed with DLC in mind and withheld until now, essentially meaning that a large chunk of the game is paywalled.

I would not have preferred a third version. What I would have preferred is the game I should have gotten when I bought Pokémon Shield, because this content should have been in the game from Day #1. It is NOT entitled to say this. I would invite people who believe that it is to consider that postgame has been in previous titles, and that what you’re paying for with this designed to act as postgame, something you didn’t previously have to pay for separately. To address the point about third versions and sequels having the postgame and needing to buy them again: you knew those were coming. It was guaranteed those were coming, because they always did – excluding Pokémon X/Y, of course. This DLC was NOT announced when Pokémon Sword and Shield were released, but has been announced two months later. The assumption that Pokémon Sword and Shield would not be receiving DLC is a valid one, because this sets a new precedent for Pokémon. Therefore, it is not entitled to say that this content should have been included from Day #1. What they sold us was an incomplete experience disguised as a complete one. It’s pretty standard industry practice to do this now, yes, but even so. There is a personal element to it as well – I felt that Pokémon Sword and Shield were extremely lackluster, content-empty experiences, and I will explain the rest of that shortly – but I am not basing that statement solely on this. I suppose that won’t make it any less valid to some, and people will still think it is, but I’d still like it understood that I have reasoning outside of personal dislike.

I will concede – reluctantly – that this is not entirely Game Freak’s fault, because they clearly rushed Pokémon Sword and Shield out to meet a deadline that was not within their control. If they’d been given the time they needed, we would probably be getting these games with all this content in them. Much as I dislike Masuda and his attitude and approach to these games, I do believe that a lot of these decisions he supposedly made, he made under duress, at the behest of powers far beyond himself who care only about the profit that the games are making and not the quality of them. Masuda is a composer ill-fitted for his current role, and I am sure that he did the best he could.

But it’s obvious Game Freak have had this in the works for a long time, because the amount of information they revealed about this DLC practically outstripped everything they showed for Pokémon Sword and Shield across about a year’s worth of snippets of information. This is where all the content in Pokémon Sword and Shield went. For them to be announcing it this soon, to the point that they feel comfortable putting up an expansion pass already, shows very clearly that this is at least a third of the game they originally had intended to release. Now they’re going to make us pay for it if we want to experience it, because they can get away with it.

There’s a matter of price as well, as mentioned earlier, even if it is cheaper than a full retail game. Let’s compare with other titles on current and recent Nintendo platforms.

  • Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – $19.99 for the Champions Ballad story, Master Difficulty, new items and quests.
  • Mario Kart 8 – $11.99 for four new racing cups with four tracks each, a 200cc speed setting, and new characters.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2 – $30 for a new story mode granting at least 25 hours of gameplay, quest packs, and a challenge mode.
  • Splatoon 2 – $19.99 for the Octo Expansion, a challenging single player story mode.
  • Super Smash Brothers Ultimate – $24.99 for 5 DLC Fighters ($5.99 individually), each with new music tracks and stages, and alternate outfits for the Mii Fighter character. Second DLC pass available for 6 more upcoming Fighters.

Only one is as expensive as the Pokémon Sword and Shield Expansion Pass. That too is regarded as a solid addition (critic score of 80 on Metacritic) that by itself beats out a typical playtime of the generation eight titles. Objectively speaking, you’d be hard pressed to say that any of the above games are less polished or complete without their DLC offerings than Pokémon Sword and Shield as well. The level of new content may be similar in some regards to what the Expansion Pass will offer, but those games didn’t, for instance, suffer the same level of issues in graphics, have the same issues with online connectivity, or quite spark the same level of annoyance of ‘Dexit’ during or after development. After all, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate touted “Everyone is here” as a selling point; while we are seeing some return to Pokémon Sword and Shield, for many the damage has already been done. Legendaries will make up a significant number of those returning Pokémon that had always been available before, and there’s another ~200 that will be unaccounted for.

Price may be too much for some players as well, as VisionofMilotic stated:

While I’m glad to hear 200 more Pokémon and new forms are coming, I am sad to say that I think Pokémon is going in a direction that I won’t be able to afford for much longer. Even though I was really excited about the Galar region at first. Sorry guys!

60 dollars a game is not easy for me to come up with, please don’t judge me for my wallet. I was having to adjust to the idea of not being able to pay 39.00 anymore, and having to add that extra 20 dollars. The paid DLC content is even tougher because now it locks me into having to make more than one purchase if I want to have the complete experience of a region.

If you were always going to buy more than one version of the game then just buying Sword/Shield and then an expansion pass is the more economical choice in the long-run. I personally was just planning on buying 1 game though. I thought it would still be possible to have the total adventure with one purchase, say a last installment called Pokémon Crown.

As gimmicky as having a third game released that had all of the content from the previous games and more was, if Game Freak refuses to have it all in the first games then it was a little easier for me to just wait patiently and buy the last game when it became available i.e just buy Platinum instead of Pearl and then Platinum. I hadn’t bought Pokémon Sword and Shield, even though I like what I had seen of Galar’s style and its creatures because I was holding out, expecting to wait a year and then pay my 60 dollars to have a definitive play through of Galar, instead of paying 60 dollars for say Pokémon Shield now and another 60 for say Pokémon Mace later, it made more sense to me just get the final game. Now if I want to do everything in the region I can’t do it for 60 dollars, I’m going to have to go up to 90, buy 1 game and then buy dlc instead of just 1 game with everything. I like Pokémon, but not as much as that, even though I am really curious about all of the new characters, places and stories that would open up to me if I bought the dlc. I’m not paying 90 dollars for the full gaming experience of a region– that is too much, and I’m not paying 60 dollars for half of the experience either because it’s not all of the game.

Where do you sit on the debate? Are you getting the Pokémon Sword and Shield Expansion Pass, and what are your thoughts on this new direction for the series?

Edited by ddrox13 and Ranko.