Put on your tin foil caps, Pokemon fans. Earlier this week, Game Freak posted a new job listing for a 3D-focused programmer to work on a new RPG for the Nintendo 3DS. No other details were given, but the popular speculation is that the job listing is probably to a new Pokemon game.
If the job listing IS for a Pokemon game, it throws a major wrench into speculation about the future direction of the Pokemon franchise. Last fall, Eurogamer reported on an alleged upcoming game called Pokemon Stars, a "sequel game" to Pokemon Sun and Moon that would be released on the Nintendo Switch and feature new Pokemon and game mechanics not seen in previous Pokemon games. As we noted, there's a lot of evidence that Pokemon Sun and Moon sets up a sequel game, given the number of empty lots, decreased usage of the 3DS's second screen, and hidden code found within Sun and Moon.
That rumor was bolstered by a job listing posted earlier this year, in which Game Freak went looking for a 3D modeler with experience on systems with capacities similar to the Nintendo Switch. The rumor indicated that Pokemon Stars would come out as early as this fall. When the Pokemon Company released a merchandise line with the catchphrase "look to the stars," Internet detectives immediately freaked out and assumed this was a sign Pokemon Stars was coming, all the while ignoring that one of the main Pokemon from Pokemon Sun and Moon was a celestial Pokemon made up actual stars.
However, a Nintendo Switch Pokemon game would be a major departure in how Game Freak works. The Pokemon series of games has never split up a "generation" of games between multiple consoles, even when a new console is available and on the market. For example, Game Freak didn't switch over to making games for the Nintendo 3DS until 2013's Pokemon X & Y, even though the Nintendo 3DS had been out on the market for over two years. Affordability is also a major factor as to how Game Freak operates, and they've openly stated concerns about the Nintendo Switch's $300 price tag.
The Pokemon Company (which manages the overall Pokemon franchise and is co-owned by Game Freak) is also not very subtly increasing the exposure of Pokemon from Pokemon Diamond and Pearl. This year's Pokemon movie, for instance, will feature main characters with Piplup and Lucario, two of Pokemon Diamond and Pearl's most popular Pokemon. Given that Game Freak has almost always released a remake of an older Pokemon game in every generation, it's pretty clear that a remake of Pokemon Diamond and Pearl is in the works.
For what it's worth, we've received at least one tip that a Diamond and Pearl game is the next release for the main Pokemon franchise. Take that rumor with a grain of salt, as we can't verify or corroborate it with anyone else within Nintendo, the Pokemon Company, or Game Freak.
So what does this new job listing mean for the Pokemon franchise? Frankly, we have no idea. Game Freak has other IPs that it could be developing for the Nintendo 3DS and there's no indication that this job listing is related to the Pokemon franchise.
If we had to take a guess - we'd think that it's a sign that Game Freak plans to stick with the Nintendo 3DS through 2018 before permanently making the move over to the Nintendo Switch in 2019, probably with a new generation of Pokemon game. There's no reason to doubt Eurogamer's report about Pokemon Stars, but we personally feel that a fall 2017 release is probably a bit aggressive (and increasingly unlikely given the lack of an announcement this month.) As long as the Nintendo Switch can somehow communicate with the Nintendo 3DS, Pokemon Stars is definitely a possibility in the intermediate future.