During the latest Nintendo Direct Game Freak added a dark horse to the fray, revealing the zany and odd Pocket Card Jockey for the Nintendo 3DS. The game, which rolls solitaire, horse racing, RPG elements, and an animal simulator all into one bite-sized package, left many fans surprised and speechless at this new offering from the Pokemon developer. After picking their jaws up off the floor, players only could watch helplessly as Bill Trinen explained the more awkward breeding and caretaking mechanics, ending with a goofy line about how it “rides into the Nintendo eShop” in May.
The big question is, who is this game designed for? It looks like the Las Vegas nightmare of a geriatric woman hopped up on gambling, blackjack, and mobile games combined with the equestrian fantasies of an elementary school girl. Surprisingly, these elements actually combine in order to create a great looking game that appears to be easily accessible and incredibly deep. While the Jockey seeks to tap into the addictiveness and success of mobile games like Candy Crush, it also provides gameplay mechanics that will leave fans continuously coming back for more. With mobile games taking over the market, it actually is shocking that this game is not slated for a full western release onto the IOS and Android platforms, as it looks like it was designed to be enjoyed in small and brief sittings. Unlike some mobile games like Pokemon Shuffle, Pocket Card Jockey looks to be created with the fast-paced player in mind, needing a high level of focus in order to be successful in-game.
Since Pocket Card Jockey is limited to Nintendo 3DS devices, it will be interesting to see how well it actually sells in western markets. As it has been already released in Japan on both mobile and Nintendo platforms as Soliti Horse, it was obviously a large enough international success to necessitate an American port. It is hard to predict how the fan base will react to a game as odd as this, namely because its ridiculousness could be a huge draw, while the more sensitive aspects of horse breeding and caretaking could be a major turn off. Interestingly enough, this game could be unique enough to be a smash hit, being so different that it brings fans from a variety of backgrounds together. If Game Freak knows how to do one thing well, it is combining the best elements of collecting and competing into an easily accessible package. While Pocket Card Jockey is both outlandish and over-the-top, it occupies a niche and under-served portion of the western marketplace, providing the zaniness of the Japanese sensibility that is slowly catching on in American markets. Perhaps, like in Japan, it will make the leap from the 3DS to IOS/Android platforms, allowing fans to care for their horses in any situation. With Nintendo expanding their genre focus on the 3DS, it is surprising that this game is not marketed as a free-to-play title, as it could seemingly be very successful if offered as such. That being said, no price point has been announced yet, so it is still a definite possibility. One thing is for sure though: the sales of Pocket Card Jockey will be a great indicator of how the tastes of Nintendo’s western market is evolving, and its success could lead to an influx of zany Japanese titles in the future.