On Monday 27 February 2023, also known as ‘Pokémon Day’ as it was the date that Pokémon Red and Pokémon Green debuted in Japan in 1996, Nintendo gave Pokémon fans a smörgåsbord of announcements.
Alongside a nostalgic new set of Pokémon cards and initial details about downloadable content (DLC) for the most recent mainline games—Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet—the long-anticipated Pokémon Sleep was finally given a release window. There was also news of a new and original television show, Pokémon Concierge, a stop-motion animated series in development with Netflix, which looks incredibly sweet.
Pokémon Sleep has been in the works for years. Nintendo regularly schedules live news broadcasts, named Nintendo Direct, and each time, the mobile game has been anticipated but never formally announced. Until now.
It was first announced back in 2019, when the president and CEO of The Pokémon Company, Tsunekazu Ishihara, explained: “The concept of this game is for players to look forward to waking up every morning.”
Effectively, it’s a sleep-tracking app that incorporates various Pokémon into the software. The mascot is obviously Snorlax, a rare first-generation Pokémon famous for its capacity to sleep. Each night, placing your phone by your pillow will track the length and quality of your sleep—as is expected from such sleep-tracking apps, which have been popular for years now.
With Pokémon Sleep though, the longer you sleep, the higher your score will be come morning. And a higher score means more Pokémon will gather around your Snorlax avatar. Each night, your sleeping pattern will be classified as dozing, snoozing, or slumbering—different sleep styles attract different Pokémon.
Compatibility with other apps and devices (Pokémon GO, for example) has yet to be explained. Will you be able to battle with these new friends, or simply snooze alongside them?
Certain Pokémon have specific and unique sleeping types—whatever that might mean—and over time, you can collect them. Gotta catch ‘em all, right? The game (if that’s even the right word for this slightly dystopian perspective) takes place on an as-yet-unnamed island, where the player is called on to help Professor Neroli carry out research into how Pokémon sleep.
It’s a confusing and convoluted premise, sure, but then again, Pokémon is a global phenomenon and has never aspired to logic or sense.
Is the aim to get children sleeping more, and having lie-ins, or to achieve a higher quality of sleep? It’s hard to tell at this stage. And, no doubt, keen (adult) gamers will be hacking and finding ways to cheat the system within weeks. Pokémon GO, which was partly intended to encourage children to spend more time outside and get exercise—quickly saw workarounds and unintended, sometimes disastrous, accidents. Although it’s unlikely anything similar could happen with a sleep app… I hope.
Nintendo also announced a new and wholly unnecessary piece of hardware, confusingly named Pokémon GO Plus +, that uses Bluetooth Low Energy technology to link to the app on your phone and offers more accurate sleep tracking.
It also provides the option of having Pikachu give you “cute prompts” when it’s time to wake up, or sing you lullabies. That sounds either frightening or absolutely adorable, I can’t quite decide.
Pokémon Sleep will be available on iOS and Android, with a worldwide release expected this summer. A specific date is yet to be confirmed. Pokémon GO Plus + releases on 21 July.