Traditionally, Pokémon games immerse us in a fun fantasy world with little emphasis on real-world institutions like the economy. Sure, we know that we get money from trainers to spend on goodies like Poké Balls and healing items. But we’ve never had to consider broader questions about where the money comes from and who holds the wealth. However, it seems this blissful ignorance of the economy may meet its end when Pokémon Sword and Shield release.
The Pokémon Company has revealed numerous details about the upcoming games that highlight the economics of the Galar region. It all started with a simple tweet on June 5, which stated that people and Pokémon work alongside one another. At the time, it was a seemingly unimportant detail. However, this was the first of many hints that economics will play a big role in Sword and Shield.
Another economic aspect of these games is the monetization of Pokémon battles. Gym battles in particular have become an entertainment spectacle in Sword and Shield. Trainers who take on the gym challenge will find themselves in huge arenas surrounded by cheering fans. These Gym battles are even televised in the Galar region.
More details emerge
Newer details highlight the role of capitalism in the Galar region even more. Corporations help to fund Gyms by offering sponsorships. Businesses market themselves on banners in grandiose arenas. Individual trainers sport advertisements on their outfits as well. It’s no surprise that Champion Leon has several company logos on his cape. As the most popular trainer in the region, he is surely a big money-maker.
Now that the Gym Challenge is a lucrative business venture, it seems that it has become more exclusive. Recent announcements confirm that not everyone can take on the Gyms in this region. Instead, only those who receive an endorsement from a notable trainer are allowed to participate. Luckily for us, Leon should be happy to endorse us and our rival (Leon’s little brother), Hop.
The Champion Cup is the final new feature that points to this capitalistic twist on the classic Pokémon formula. Trainers in Galar do not challenge the Elite Four and sitting Champion for a chance to become the new Champion. Instead, they must qualify for, compete in, and win a tournament. Much like Gym Battles, the Champion Cup turns Pokémon battling into a large-scale money-making venture.
Exemplary Trainers throughout the region are allowed to participate in the Champion Cup tournament. Completing the Gym Challenge is one way to qualify for this competition. #PokemonSwordShield pic.twitter.com/mfG90J3oXS
— Pokémon (@Pokemon) July 8, 2019
Pokémon Sword and Shield: economy and the plot
The details above point to the fact that Galar’s economy is surely an important aspect of Pokémon Sword and Shield. Going forward, we will speculate what role this economy could actually play on the plot of the games. My theory is that the main antagonist will be at the center of this hyper-capitalistic society.
The greed-driven villain is far from an original trope. Still, it is one that Pokémon games have not really explored before. A greedy antagonist craving more wealth is the most obvious pick for our enemy in Pokémon Sword and Shield. Now we’ll take a look at two potential candidates for Sword and Shield’s main villain.
Many of the Pokémon battle events in the Galar region are managed by a committee, led by Chairman Rose.
— Pokémon (@Pokemon) July 8, 2019
Chairman Rose is the most obvious of my two picks. He is the head of a committee that manages all of the biggest events in the Galar region. Rose introduced Dynamaxing into Gym Battles and made the Galar Pokémon League famous around the world.
As the mastermind behind the business side of the Pokémon League, it is easy to imagine that this guy loves money. We will have to wait and see how exactly his greed may play into the plot of the games. But as a successful businessman, it’s easy to imagine that he has plenty of grunts ready to follow his every command. We also know that Oleana handles the day-to-day operations of his company, suggesting that Chairman Rose may be involved in something else we are unaware of.
Leon seems like a less obvious choice for the main antagonist of Pokémon Sword and Shield. After all, everyone in Galar loves him, and he is our rival’s big brother. Still, some things about him are a tad suspicious.
We learned that Leon was the Champion of the Galar region as soon as he was introduced. Traditionally, Pokémon games do not spoil who the Champion is before the games come out. Perhaps this is because there is more we have yet to learn about Leon. Granted, we may only know that he is Champion because he is related to another important character, Hop. Nevertheless, it is interesting to consider that he may have a more sinister role in the plot.
It is also interesting to note that Leon receives a lot of sponsorships, as mentioned previously. Therefore, we can speculate that he is a money-loving individual as well. Beyond this, we can only predict that Pokémon Sword and Shield will make Leon the villain as a twist ending. This is because, despite the hints we’ve covered, Leon is currently portrayed as a likeable individual, not an obvious bad guy.
Capitalism in Pokémon Sword and Shield
Regardless of how these details affect the plot, it is clear that Galar has a robust economy, the likes of which the Pokémon world has never seen. Fans can only wait to find out just how deeply this economy affects Pokémon Sword and Shield.
Will we experience inflation as more people make money off of the Pokémon League? It’s unlikely. Will Galar eliminate free healthcare and force us to pay to use Pokémon Centers? Probably not (I certainly hope not). But whatever the impact, we can be sure that Pokémon Sword and Shield will make us think about economics a little more than we would probably like.