When Nintendo announced that the first Direct presentation of 2020 would be focused on Pokémon, it was somewhat expected that there would be big news to come with it. But some fans might still have been thrown for a loop, as the company announced that Pokémon Sword and Shield are getting additional content through a paid Expansion Pass.
The reason this is somewhat surprising is the fact that Pokémon games have traditionally never received additional content in a significant form. The closest we've seen to this was the Delta Episode, a free update to Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. This time, though, the Expansion Pass is paid, but to justify that, it seems to be pretty significant.
Game Freak, the developer team behind the main series of Pokémon games, compared the Expansion Pass to games like Pokémon Platinum or Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. These titles are very closely based on preceding games released one or two years prior, and can be seen by some as expansion passes that cost the same as a full game. It seems likely that this Expansion Pass removes the need for a game of this kind.
As for what is exactly included in it, the content is divided into two packs, though it doesn't seem like you can buy them separately. The first pack is called Isle of Armor, and it adds a new area of the same name. The company says this area focuses on growth, and you'll find a dojo there where you'll undergo an apprenticeship.
This expansion also introduces a new legendary Pokémon called Kubfu, which will be given to you by the dojo master when you complete your training. This Pokémon can evolve into one of two different forms, and that evolution will be capable of Gigantamaxing. Additionally, this expansion will introduce the ability to Gigantamax the final forms of the three starter Pokémon. Finally, the expansion will add new tutor moves, Apricorns that can be turned into Poké Balls, and a new Exp. Charm item, which helps your Pokémon gain more experience.
The second part of the Expansion Pass is called The Crown Tundra, an area that's covered in ice, and the focus here is on exploration. In this region, players will find new places to explore, including the ability to go inside Pokémon Dens, which, up until now, have only been used for Max Raid Battles. This also introduces a new co-op multiplayer mode, with players teaming up to explore these areas.
Like the Isle of Armor, The Crown Tundra adds a new Legendary Pokémon, Calyrex, which is said to have ruled over the region in the past. Players may also find that many legendary Pokémon from previous games will be available in this region, including through Max Raid Battles.
In fact, both parts of the Expansion Pass add Pokémon from previous games that weren't available in the Pokémon Sword and Shield, with over 200 Pokémon making a return. If you're worried that you're being charged for pre-existing creatures, fret not, as the games will receive updates that allow these Pokémon to be traded, so even if you don't pay for the DLC, you'll be able to get them. Plus, when Pokémon Home is available, you'll be able to transfer over your old creatures, including the ones added in the Expansion Pass.
Finally, the Expansion Pass will add new customization options, including hair styles, clothing, and even new looks for the Rotom Bike. To see a detailed rundown of everything in the Expansion Pass, you'll want to watch the full Direct presentation.
The Pokémon Sword and Shield Expansion Pass is available to buy right now, at $29.99, but you won't get the content right away. The Isle of Armor DLC Pack will be released in the summer, and The Crown Tundra will be available in the fall. If you've been waiting for the aforementioned Pokémon Home service to launch, the company also briefly mentioned that it's expected to be available in February, though no more details were given.