Like with the Pokemon Sword and Shield Expansion Pass, the Pokemon community once again has its panties in a wad about the recently unveiled details of Pokemon Home set to launch sometime this month. I’m definitely a lot more critical of these Home details than I was of the Expansion Pass details, but as was the case with the Expansion Pass, I think a lot of this criticism has been blown out of proportion. With that said, let’s take a look at what Nintendo has announced about Pokemon Home, what part of that announcement currently has the community foaming at the mouth, and whether or not that vitriol is warranted.
Let’s start with the main purpose of Pokemon Home – transferring Pokemon. We already knew some of the details about this from the Nintendo Direct that announced the Expansion Pass, but to recap, you’ll be able to one-way transfer Pokemon from the 3DS Pokemon Bank to Home, from Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee on Switch to Home, and – at some undisclosed point in the future – from Pokemon Go to Home. You’ll also, obviously, be able to transfer Pokemon freely between Sword/Shield and Home. I saw a bit of anger that you won’t be able to transfer Pokemon from Go to Home at launch, but considering that you can already transfer Pokemon from Go to Let’s Go, and you’ll be able to transfer from Let’s Go to Home at launch, that particular complaint seems like a moot point to me. Sure, there’s an annoying extra step involved, but it’s hardly a problem. One important thing to note is that Pokemon Bank and PokeTransporter, normally $5 per year, will be free for everyone to access for a month after Pokemon Home launches to give players who aren’t subscribed to those services an opportunity to transfer their Pokemon from 3DS and DS games over to Home without having to pay extra.
Let’s take a look at the trade options. This aspect got more complaints from my observations than the transferring, so it warrants some separate attention. There are several trade options that will be coming with Home my favorite of which is the Wonder Box. One of my biggest complaints about the Surprise Trade in Sword and Shield is the inability to have it running passively in the background. What I mean is that you have to have your Y Comm running the Surprise Trade until a partner is found and the trade is complete. You can’t do a Link Trade with someone else, you can’t do a Link Battle, you can’t join a raid, so on and so forth because those all use the Y Comm function. You also have to Surprise Trade one at a time. If you have a whole box full of breedjects you’re wanting to trade out randomly, you have to do it one painfully slow trade at a time. The Wonder Box, on the other hand, will let you put multiple Pokemon in the box that will be traded out to folks online as you do whatever you want – do raids in Sword and Shield, get humiliated in Smash, ruin someone’s day in Splatoon, watch step sibling porn, wash the dishes, mow the lawn – whatever you feel like. Home will be searching for partners and completing those random trades for you in the background.
Another trade option coming with Home – and one that, quite frankly, Game Freak has no excuse for excluding from Sword and Shield originally – is the GTS (Global Trade Service). This lets you put a Pokemon up for trade, specify exactly what you want in exchange, and the service will look for trade partners offering the Pokemon you’re seeking. What’s neat about this is that you can search for Pokemon you haven’t registered in your Home National Dex yet, a feature that will make filling in PokeDex gaps easier than ever before. This really should have been a standard day one feature in Sword and Shield, but since it wasn’t at least it’s coming for free with Home.
A third trade option that I personally think sounds cool but rather limited in its likely uses is Room Trade. According to Nintendo’s Pokemon Home web page, “Room Trade lets you create a room and trade Pokemon among the people who join.” Think of it like a big orgy but with Pokemon trading instead of medically dubious sex practices. You won’t know what Pokemon you’re getting until the trade is complete, so a potential fun use for this – and one I foresee myself trying to facilitate – is a sort of Pokemon Secret Santa with a group of friends. These rooms can hold up to 20 people, so it definitely has some potential for communities and friends. Anyone can trade in a Room Trade for free, but it is worth noting that only those with a subscription to the Premium Plan (I’ll explain that later) can create a room.
Friend Trade is the feature I’m looking forward to the most and one whose exclusion that I always thought was a missed opportunity in Pokemon Bank. With this, you can trade Pokemon you have in Home directly with other friends using Home. No need to juggle Pokemon from Home, to Sword or Shield to trade, and then back to Home like we had to do on 3DS. It’s mainly just a convenience, really, but it’s also nice in that you can work on a full dex without necessarily having all of the games you’d otherwise need. For example, Poipole isn’t supported in Sword and Shield, and I don’t have Ultra Sun or Ultra Moon. Normally, that would mean I have no way of getting that Pokemon whatsoever. Now, however, I can try to trade for one with a friend even though I have no game that supports it. It’s a minor thing, really, but it’s one of which I’m a huge fan.
My personal award for “Favorite Unexpected Feature” is the way they’re integrating the National Pokedex. Part of this feature’s inclusion, I’m sure, is the outcry over the National Dex’s exclusion in Sword and Shield. Regardless of reasons, though, I’m thrilled. When you deposit a Pokemon in Home, it’ll be registered to your National Dex. If that Pokemon has special forms – Gigantimax Meowth or Mega Glalie, for example – those forms will be registered as well. You’ll also be able to see the Pokedex entries from various games, too, which is a really cool little plus in my opinion as I really enjoy reading those with each new installment. In the mobile app for Home (I’ll talk about the differences between Home on mobile and Switch in a bit), the Pokedex data is a lot more detailed that will be a big help to folks planning competitive teams – abilities, learnsets, etc.
There are also minor but pretty neat miscellaneous features in Home. Pokemon Home will allow you to judge Pokemon you have in Home and check their IVs. Home’s mobile app also allows you to receive Mystery Gifts directly in Home. Some of these are going to be the Mystery Gifts you can receive in Sword and Shield, but some of these Mystery Gifts are also exclusive to Home, a great incentive to download the app ASAP. You also get a “room” of your own in Home that sort of serves as a miscellaneous data hub for you. You can check information about events, the games you’ve connected to home, make edits to your profile, and check challenges (like achievements). The mobile app also allows you to check your battle data in Sword and Shield and the rankings of Pokemon that are used in those battles. It’s worth noting, however, that, like transferring directly from Pokemon Go, the battle data won’t be available until sometime in the future. Lastly, like in Pokemon Bank, you can get “Pokemon Home Points” that can be redeemed for Battle Points in Sword and Shield.
So let’s look at the difference between Pokemon Home on Switch and the Pokemon Home app on mobile phones. Personally, I don’t see why they have exclusive features instead of making the non-transfer features universal across both, but since most of us have both a Switch and a smartphone, it’s not a big deal in my opinion. Transferring Pokemon to Home from Let’s Go and between Home and Sword/Shield as well as transferring BP to Sword and Shield are obviously going to be features exclusive to the Switch app. Both the Switch app and the mobile app can access the judge function and facilitate transfer from Pokemon Bank to Pokemon Home. Only the mobile app, however, can facilitate trade, receive Mystery Gifts, check battle data, and check news and upcoming events – all things that I can’t for the life of me figure out why the Switch app can’t do. I mean, it’s fine – as I said, most all of us who will be using Pokemon Home have both a Switch and a smartphone – but it just seems like a fairly queer design choice to me.
The most controversial part of Pokemon Home’s features is definitely the optional premium plan. A lot of folks thought – stupidly, in my opinion, given that Pokemon Bank had always had a $5 per year fee with no free option – that Pokemon Home was going to be a free companion app. I was assuming a $10 per year fee, a price point I feel would be MORE than reasonable. The actual price, while still fair in my opinion, is a fair bit steeper than I expected. While there are different payment plans as most subscription services these days have, the yearly fee is $16 – 60% more than I had been expecting. To be clear, I still think that’s reasonable, and you still get most of the key features if you use the free version, but I do think that price is a little steep. If you don’t want to go for the $16 yearly plan, you can get a three-month subscription for $5 or a one-month subscription for $3. What do you get from the paid tier, though? Well, most importantly, free users can’t transfer Pokemon from Pokemon Bank to Pokemon Home. That’s the part I can understand being upset about as that’s the thing I’m more looking forward to being able to do with Pokemon Home. The number of Pokemon you can store also gets a 10000% bump if you’re a paid subscriber – 6000 storage spots with the paid tier vs 30 with the free plan. The capacity for the Wonder Box and GTS also gets a 200% bump from three up to ten Pokemon at a time and from one to three Pokemon, respectively. Finally, as I previously mentioned, free users can participate in Room Trades, but only paid users can host Room Trades; and only paid users can access the judge function. For the most part, as you can see, paid users just get more of the access that free users get. The only major exception there is the Pokemon Bank transfer.
To be sure, some degree of disappointment and upset about the details of Pokemon Home is justified. I can absolutely understand being angry that transfer access to Pokemon Bank is locked behind the paid tier. Hopefully, they’ll have a trial window of some kind to allow free users to transfer during the month of free Bank and PokeTransporter access. The price point is certainly higher than I would have liked, and the fact that we’ve had to wait three months to get several features which really should have been a standard part of Sword and Shield is absolutely worth a certain degree of ire. The vitriol that I’ve seen on Twitter and Reddit, however – comparisons to EA, vampires, and pay-to-win mobile games – is ridiculous. Are the details of Home worth being upset about? Yeah, to an extent, absolutely. Is the price too high? In my opinion, yeah, a little. Is Nintendo flirting with that line between reasonable monetization and over-monetization? Potentially, yeah, this could be a step in that direction. I still hold, however, that such accusations are a bit pre-mature and that Pokemon Home, overall, is fairly priced given that *most* of the features are available for free. I definitely have my gripes, but I’d urge players and Pokemon fans to keep that anger in check to a reasonable degree and be patient enough to wait until the service actually launches and we see how it performs and is supported to make our final judgments. It may well be the Nintendo fanboy in me talking, but I can’t help but feel like this rage has been blown much too far out of proportion.