Pokken Tournament is an upcoming collaboration between Namco Bandai and The Pokémon Company. The game has been rumored since The Pokémon Company filed a trademark for it in 2013, but it wasn’t until the August 2014 unveiling of the game that people really started talking about it. The biggest topic of discussion has been whether or not the game will grace the Wii U console. At the moment, Pokken Tournament is only confirmed for an arcade release.
Considering it’s a Pokémon fighting game designed by the Tekken team at Namco Bandai, there’s no need to worry about whether or not Pokken Tournament will make a home console debut. Taking a look at Namco’s track record, every single Tekken video game debuted in arcades first, followed by a console release. In the past there was a lengthy period of time between the two releases, but the gaps shortened.
It’s also worth noting that Namco and Nintendo have a long and lucrative relationship. Namco helped considerably with the development of Super Smash Brothers for 3DS and Wii U, but before that, Nintendo, Namco and Sega partnered up to create the Triforce arcade system board. For those unfamiliar with the arcade hardware, it’s what powered the arcade version of F-Zero GX (known as F-Zero AX), as well as the Mario Kart arcade title.
Rest assured that Pokken Tournament will make its way to the Wii U. The question is when, and will the Wii U be the only platform? Given the fact that Super Smash Brothers made its handheld debut thanks in part to Namco’s assistance, it’s not out of the question to think a 3DS version of Pokken Tournament could also be in the works. We’ve only seen the arcade version of the game, and it stands to reason that arcades would be Namco’s first priority, which means that’s what you saw footage of first. It doesn’t mean there isn’t a 3DS version in development.
As far as when we can expect a Wii U (and potential 3DS) release of Pokken Tournament, that’s a bit harder to discern. We know the arcade release is set for sometime around the end of 2015, and that Nintendo’s end of fiscal year would be on March 31, 2016. So far, Nintendo’s fiscal 2015 includes Splatoon, Star Fox Wii U, The Legend of Zelda Wii U, Mario Maker and Mario Party 10 for the Wii U. That’s a big list of games expected to sell very well on the system. Add in the arcade release of Pokken Tournament and Nintendo doesn’t need another big game in the mix.
While it’s certainly possible to see Pokken Tournament hit the Wii U between the arcade release in late 2015 and the end of Nintendo’s fiscal year on March 31, 2016, that doesn’t leave a lot of room to work out the bugs. If we once again look at Namco’s recent history, Tekken 5, Tekken 6 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 all received arcade updates that essentially patched the games to near perfection. These updates occurred before the home console ports, and the console versions were based on the updated arcade variants.
As the first Pokémon fighting game developed by the team behind Tekken, it seems likely they would want to fine-tune the product. Looking at the recent Tekken arcade releases, that’s standard practice for Namco, but in order for that to happen, the game needs to be available in Japanese arcades long enough for players to find issues that need to be addressed.
When we add in the fact that Nintendo already has a solid list of games in fiscal 2015, there’s no need for Namco to rush Pokken Tournament to the Wii U before March 2016. With that said, it’s difficult to determine if a patched arcade release is necessary without knowing more about the game. We know it won’t be as intricate as the Tekken series, but it likely won’t be as simple as the Pokémon games either. The game will fall somewhere in the middle, and that middle ground will determine just how necessary a potential patch would be.
For the time being, we’ll guess that Pokken Tournament hits the Wii U sometime in the Summer or early Fall of 2016. Nintendo will want a boost to its 2016 fiscal year, and Namco will want time to fine-tune the product following the initial arcade release. Either way, we should know more about Pokken Tournament around E3 2015 and possibly as early as the 2015 Japan Aumement Expo arcade game showcase, which takes place in February.