Pokémon developer Game Freak has had a tough time of it lately. The Japanese studio has faced a barrage of criticism online from players angry at certain aspects of the upcoming Pokémon Sword and Shield, with recent leaks exacerbating the issue.
Now, the hashtag "ThankYouGameFreak" is trending worldwide on Twitter - and people are using it to send positivity towards the embattled developer.
#ThankYouGameFreak for creating one of the very first video games I've ever played! Pokemon shaped my childhood and impacted me way more than any other series. I'm incredibly thankful for all the work you guys have done and all that you continue to do. ???? pic.twitter.com/wS2GOnglXy— Lemoncholic ??? (@Lemoncholic1) November 9, 2019
#ThankYouGameFreak for my fondest childhood memories. When I moved to a new neighborhood I had no new friends, but because I had my DS & Pokémon Platinum I had a way to talk to others & was able to make some of my closest friends still to this day, so I'll never forget that ? pic.twitter.com/WheKPs8hTt— Aero (@ActualAero) November 9, 2019
This week the Pokémon Company called off its Japanese launch event for Pokémon Sword and Shield, due to take next place in Tokyo next week. Junichi Masuda and Shigeru Ohmori, the series' veteran lead producer and its game director, were both due to make an appearance.
In a statement apologising for the event's cancellation, The Pokémon Company simply blamed "operational reasons".
Eurogamer's Chris Tapsell spoke with both Masuda and Ohmori last month in a joint interview which discussed the pressure of pleasing Pokémon fans.
Much of the discussion around Sword and Shield has centred on the fact it does not include the series' National Dex - AKA, every Pokémon ever made - for the first time.
The discourse around this has only heightened over the past week - as Pokémon Sword and Shield leaks from the game began to appear online. These details appeared to list the number of new species which will appear in the game, as well as which virtual creatures would not be returning this time round. The topic was labelled "#Dexit" by fans, a nod to Sword and Shield's UK-inspired setting.
"Of course, you know, you see these sort of negative comments and it does, as a developer, make you feel a bit down about certain things," Masuda told Eurogamer last month.
"But at the same time, you have to take criticism. For example with Pokémon Let's Go, early on there were a lot of comments that it was too easy, or it was kind of a bit too 'kid-focused' and that sort of thing. That sort of comment is something you see, and you take on board, and really try and base improvements in the next game on the feedback you received from the last one.
"So, with regards to the Pokédex issue in particular that you've mentioned, that was something that was a really hard decision internally, there were a lot of discussions about which direction we should take that in, and ultimately we felt that, for the overall game, focusing on creating the richest experience we could within that game, leaving the Pokédex as we did was the best solution overall."
Now, #ThankYouGameFreak is being used by thousands to tell positive stories about the developer's games. It was started by Pokémon YouTuber MysticUmbreon, who tweeted after seeing death threats targeted at Game Freak staff.
I wanted to see if I could start a #ThankYouGameFreak trend. #ThankYouGamefreak for creating the games that got me through all the tough times in my childhood. I know times are rough, but there are still fans that love what you do. Spread if you appreciate what Gamefreak does.— Mystic (@MysticUmbreon94) November 9, 2019
"I created this hashtag to try and combat all the hate Game Freak is getting," he said in the video, below.