Pokémon Sword and Shield have officially been out for a full year now, and the first mainline console titles in the series—if you don’t count Let’s Go! Pikachu and Eevee—have definitely left their mark.
As of Sept. 30, Nintendo reported that Sword and Shield have sold 19.02 million units. The titles are almost guaranteed to have surpassed that since the release of its second DLC, The Crown Tundra, on Oct. 22.
The eighth generation of Pokémon games marked the first time in the franchise’s more than 24-year history that the game used DLC to add additional content that wasn’t just a small event or giving away special Pokémon. Players got two additional areas to explore with both the Isle of Armor and Crown Tundra, along with smaller contained stories and more Pokémon to capture.
This was also one of the most controversial releases that Game Freak and The Pokémon Company have had, as to this day, the community is deeply divided regarding how the game was handled.
Many features, such as the online connectivity, graphical fidelity (mainly for backgrounds and textures), and removal of the National Pokédex by only having 400 of the then-available 890 Pokémon available to obtain in the games, including Galar-native Pokémon.
The lack of a robust online system still plagues the game and the NatDex fiasco caused a toxic movement on social media, widely referred to as Dexit, resulting in Game Freak and Nintendo employees being harassed by disappointed fans.
It also doesn’t help that a lot of cool features, such as walking around two improved versions of the original Wild Area from the base game with your favorite Pokémon following you and arguably the best way to experience Max Raid Battles, Dynamax Adventures, are locked behind the Expansion Pass.
Game Freak has done a lot to improve the franchise with Sword and Shield too, including dozens of incredible quality-of-life changes for players who battle competitively, such as easy access to EV and IV training and items that let you change your Pokémon’s ability, nature, and more. It has never been easier to get into competitive Pokémon than it is now.
A year into the game’s lifecycle, players can transfer compatible Pokémon over from the newest Pokémon storage service, Pokémon HOME, though there are still limitations on which Pokémon can be transferred into Sword and Shield from older gamers. Pokémon Go compatibility for the service just launched too, even though it has its own issues that Niantic and Game Freak have to deal with.
Despite its flaws, Sword and Shield have been a massive success and gave players, even the ones who disliked parts of the game, a glimpse at what Pokémon as a franchise can look like moving forward on the Switch. Hopefully for fans, the developers can fix some of the worst problems with the next entries and keep social media from being as big of a minefield for the fanbase again.