Pokemon Sword and Shield Sales Prove "Hardcore" Video Game Fans Don't Matter
"Hardcore" Pokemon fans are still salty about Sword and Shield. Here's why their opinions are irrelevant.
"Some might say that 1 or 2 million additional players lost is a rather small reduction," wrote Reddit user u/CalculatingCorvid in a post titled "Don't let anyone tell you that not buying SwSh won't make a difference" on the Pokemon subreddit. "Gamefreak will notice any declines, even a minor one, because they are a corporation that wants their products to grow."
CalculatingCorvid wrote their post a few days prior to the launch of Pokemon Sword and Shield, the newest set of mainline games in the Pokemon franchise and easily the most controversial entry in its 23-year history––at least amongst a certain subset of the fandom. In the minds of these self-proclaimed "hardcore fans," Pokemon's primary developer Game Freak slighted them; so in response, they pledged to boycott the new games.
The Pokemon Company
For weeks now, the Pokemon subreddit, which has over two million subscribers, has been barraged with a near-constant stream of negativity in regards to Sword and Shield. The controversy largely surrounds "Dexit," the community term for Game Freak's decision to pare the Pokedex down by roughly half. In other words, hundreds of popular Pokemon species, some of which players have been carrying with them from game to game for over two decades, will no longer be transferable to Sword and Shield––a first for a mainline entry in the series.
Hardcore fans have justified their outrage with "evidence," cherry-picking quotes from game director Junichi Masuda to convince themselves of a vast conspiracy wherein Game Freak lied to them about the reasoning behind Dexit. One massive list compiling everything wrong with the new games prior to launch received over 50,000 upvotes on Reddit. Hardcore fans even managed to get #GameFreakLied trending worldwide on Twitter, angrily turning on major community members who didn't back their cause.
Post-release, hardcore fans have proceeded to "review-bomb" Sword and Shield on Metacritic and whine about how critic reviews (which have been largely positive) are "just not fair," alongside their daily rant posts about a game the majority of them, presumably, are not even playing.
All of this is to say that if hardcore fans really are the core Pokemon fanbase, one would expect that the intensity and visibility of their outrage would lead to a decline in sales, if only a slight one. As CalculatingCorvid expressed in their post, 1 or 2 millions lost sales might be relatively small considering Pokemon's mass appeal, but it would certainly be noticeable to Game Freak.
Except CalculatingCorvid made a major miscalculation: They, like many other self-proclaimed "hardcore fans," trapped themselves in a bubble where they believed their sentiments were representative of the wider fandom.
If all 2 million r/Pokemon subscribers really didn't buy the new games, that would probably be a problem for Game Freak. But in reality, the number of hardcore fans who actually boycotted the game is likely much closer to the 50,000 who upvoted the big list of "problems"––and that's if we're being very generous with the assumption that everyone who upvoted really didn't buy the game. And while 1 or 2 million lost sales might be noticeable, 50,000 won't make a dent for such a major franchise.
Sure enough, the sales for Pokemon Sword and Shield have broken plenty of records for the Switch. Not only were Sword and Shield the fastest selling Switch games to-date, moving over 6 million copies in the first week alone (beating out Super Smash Bros. Ultimate), but they also accounted for the "highest-grossing launch of any Pokemon game."
"Hardcore fans" have chalked this up to any number of reasons, including casual players, uninformed consumers, and "dishonest" video game journalists. The truth is that "hardcore fan" isn't actually an accurate descriptor for the people outraged over Pokemon games.
More specifically, the vast majority of Pokemon fans, even the hardcore ones who breed for IVs, Masuda method shiny hunt, and reset every gift Pokemon a billion times for optimal natures (you'll know what all of those things entail if you're a hardcore Pokemon fan), don't have the time or energy to actually be angry about a video game. Well-adjusted people realize that their opinion, even about something they really truly love, is not objectively right or wrong, and they are not entitled to a product turning out the way they personally want it to. At the end of the day, even most hardcore fans play for enjoyment, and as soon as they no longer enjoy a game, they move onto something else that they do enjoy.
The Pokemon Company
To be clear, it's totally valid to be bummed about Dexit. Nobody wants their favorite Pokemon cut from a game. But there's a difference between being bummed and deciding not to buy the game, and ranting ad nauseum, filling the community with toxicity because you didn't get what you wanted.
In other words, there are the majority of Pokemon fans, both "casual" and "hardcore," who care deeply about the franchise but are also well-adjusted enough to take a decision they may or may not like in stride, and then there are "maladjusted fans" who dedicate unprecedented amounts of energy to yelling online about video games. These are the people who give "gamers" a bad rap, living up to negative stereotypes about video games being enjoyed by angry, toxic people who seem to spend more time complaining about a supposedly fun hobby than actually engaging in it.
The best thing about Pokemon Sword and Shield selling so well is that it proves that the opinions of these "maladjusted fans" are entirely irrelevant. As it turns out, they really are just a very vocal minority who constitute such a small portion of the fanbase that even with their mass boycott and their insistence upon spreading toxicity on any Pokemon-related post, they couldn't even put a dent in overall sales.
That's not to say that none of their complaints stem from legitimate feelings. Speaking personally, I share some of these feelings myself. But being angry about Pokemon ruins the entire point, which is to have fun. My choice is either to enjoy Sword and Shield as it is, or to play something else instead. It's high-time that more people realize that when a fan community seems filled with outrage and toxicity, it's not necessarily reflective of the whole. Sometimes when maladjusted fans run rampant, it just means that the majority of healthier fans with more important things to care about have simply chosen to disengage from the community.
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