Unlike the handheld games, Pokémon GO doesn’t have to wait years in between new generations. Pokémon Red and Blue came out in 1996, and 22 years later, there have been seven generations. Pokémon GOcame out in July 2016, and not even two years later we’re almost done releasing Gen 3. That’s quite the pace.
The differences are obvious. Pokémon GO doesn’t have to create an entirely new game each time it releases a new generation, rather, it just has to put the new Pokémon in the existing framework of GO, and alterations to gameplay, raids, weather, etc. take place outside of the generational release timetable.
As such, even though we are still wrapping up Generation 3, the Ruby/Sapphire era, it’s not too early to start thinking about Generation 4, the Diamond/Pearl era, which will be here before we know it. Here’s the timetable of generational releases so far in GO:
July 2016: Gen 1 released
December 2016: Small Gen 2 group released (babies)
February 2017: Vast majority of Gen 2 released
October 2017: Small Gen 3 group released (ghosts)
December 2017: First large chunk of Gen 3 released
January 2017-Present: Ongoing Gen 3 release
So what does this mean?
It’s about 6-7 months between a gen launch and at least the first few Pokémon of a new gen being released. It’s about 7-9 months for the new generation to start being released en masse.
Gen 3 has been a bit different, however. Niantic has changed up their release schedule to make it much more staggered, extending the release for a longer period of time. Technically, Gen 3’s release has been going on since October, about four months ago.
It’s clear that Niantic is doing this to keep players engaged over a longer time frame. Yes, they could just dump in about 150 new Pokémon all at once, but clearly the better move is probably to spread them out over 3-4 months, interspersing their release with other activities. And what that also means is by the time this generation is finally done getting all its Pokémon out there, that Gen 4 may be almost here.
Using this calendar, it seems likely that Gen 4 will start at least teasing its Pokémon by May/June, with a full release June/July. I think the timing has been a bit off for generational release so far, as obviously, it’s not ideal to release a bunch of new Pokémon in your “get outside and play” AR game in the dead of winter in the northern hemisphere, which has now happened with both Gen 2 and 3. But Gen 4, because of this 6-9 month schedule, may finally see a release in the summer when the weather is warm. If not June/July then definitely by August/September before the weather turns. Living in Chicago, by far the biggest barrier to playing Pokémon GO is the weather, where it’s painfully un-fun a solid 6-7 months of the year, but a summer release of a new generation would be fantastic, and reminiscent of the original launch when everyone was happy to be outside playing.
Gen 4 will be smaller than Gen 3. It’s a sequel of sorts of Gen 3 the way Gen 2 was to Gen 1. There are just over 100 new Pokémon to be added, and it’s when we start getting into truly loopy Pokémon lore with the “creation trio” of Legendaries, Diagla, Palkia and Girantina that are pretty much Pokémon Gods for all intents and purposes. It’s a fun generation, albeit one a bit smaller than what we’ve just seen.
As I’ve said before, Pokémon GO is poised to probably release all seven current generations of Pokémon within its first 3-4 years on the market, which is a far cry from the 22 years of the handhelds. But by then, there might also be a Generation 8, released on the Switch, and wouldn’t that be something if GO and The Pokémon Company managed to coordinate a simultaneous release?
Lots to be excited about, and nothing more so than a potential summer Gen 4 release. Stay tuned.