EA was working on a Pokémon competitor

Chris Stead 14 September 2016

NEWS-CAROUSEL

Former EA developer and the founder of indie developer Nnooo, Nic Watt, has revealed an EA Pokémon competitor was in the works.

Currently, Nic Watt is the very successful founder and chief design officer of Australian indie developer and (more recently) publisher Nnooo. The studio has been plugging away on great little gems for a decade, including Pop, Blast ‘Em Bunnies, escapeVektor, Cubemen, Spirit Hunters and Orbitor. But prior to founding Nnooo in 2006 and diving down the indie route, Watt had racked up eight years of experience in this industry. This included a brief stint as creative director at Electronic Arts in London, working on the prototyping of new games.

During a session on the always interesting GameHugs podcast – from which we’ve previously learned that an X-Wing vs. TIE-Fighter HD remake almost happened, and also that Team Bondi’s The Whore of the Orient has been officially cancelled – Watt has revealed that the game he was prototyping prior to departing EA was meant to be go up against the mighty Pokémon series on handhelds. Furthermore, he revealed that Criterion (the studio behind the Burnout series) was frequently engaged to test out the ideas. Here is the full quote:

“Working with EA was a completely different experience [to working with a small studio] as we had the longest prototyping period I’ve had for any game I’ve worked on: it was amazing. EA wanted this game where the idea and it was going to be their Pokémon game. They didn’t have an RPG in the handheld space and they really wanted one. We did a lot of paper-based prototyping for the battle mechanics and even made a whole card game. Then we got the people from Criterion - who worked on Burnout and with the studio - in [to test it]. That’s the good thing when you have a company of 300 people, you can just ask “do you guys want to come in and play our game for the afternoon.” The team did find it hard because the prototyping was so long, and a lot of things got reset from time to time. But by the time I left, it still had not hit full production and I know that was really tough for a lot of people.”

We all know how well the Pokémon series has sold, so it easy to believe EA was exploring a competitor game in that genre space for the Nintendo DS. What happened to this game? We’re kind of interested to see what a Pokémon game road-tested by Criterion would look like…

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