Earlier today, I was talking to a fellow trainer at a Mewtwo raid in Pokémon GO(I threw 9 great curveballs with no catch, so great news there). He had been driving to the city for community day when he saw something exciting on his nearby screen: the silhouette of a Pokémon he didn’t have yet that looked sort of like the various and shifting Unown. He drove out of his way to go grab the thing: it would have made him late for community day, but a new Pokédex entry is a new Pokédex entry. When he found it, however, he was greeted by an intensely weird looking new creature labeled “???” that transformed into a Ditto on catch. He was intrigued, but certainly not happy.
Such was probably the experience of thousands of trainers around the world when they saw whatever this new thing is called: Paul Tassi has called it a Dittonut. Considering they all turn into Ditto, it is, on a technical level, a Ditto. But Ditto imitates other Pokémon, and so that means there is still some sort of new Pokémon or Pokémon form represented here. At first I thought it was a bug, but now I’m not so sure. For one thing, this would be an elaborate, multi-stage bug, and if that was the case Niantic would probably have caught it by now. There’s also shiny and non-shiny variants in the game code, which makes the idea of placeholder art less likely. By far the most convincing evidence for this being unintentional to some degree is that the Pokémon looks so weird that it’s hard to imagine it making it in there on purpose. It makes much-maligned Klefki look positively artful.
Still, something is cleary up with this. Global Marketing Lead for Pokémon GO Kento Suga tweeted out an image of the creature accompanied by a simple “???”. That doesn’t seem like the sort of thing you do for a technical error.
So I’m currently expecting this Dittonut mystery to continue for a little bit before coming to its conclusion, which I expect to be an official announcement of some kind. The overriding theory is that this has something to do with an upcoming Pokémon game, whether that’s Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee or the upcoming mainline Switch RPG. The former two games would make sense: they’re meant to be deeply integrated into Pokémon GO, and so announcing a new Pokemon in the mobile game before releasing it with the Switch games would make sense.
There is early precedent for revealing Pokémon outside of the mainline RPGs. Fans of the series and anime will remember Togepi, which was first revealed in the anime before making its way to the Game Boy games. It was an important move at the time, firmly establishing Pokémon’s identity as a crossmedia franchise.
Regardless, the creature’s in-game appearance followed by official acknowledgment makes it much less likely that this is placeholder art. It’s currently a real mystery, however, and there’s something fun about that: the game hasn’t seen one of these since people were hunting for Ditto and Mew long before their actual release, and the conclusion to that mystery was just that Niantic went ahead and released Ditto and Mew. This is an intentional question mark–three of them, I suppose–thrown out into the community, the sort of thing you see in other games but that Pokemon GO hasn’t really indulged in yet.
Expect more news on this soon: Niantic has promised more surprises on the way after the Mewtwo announcement, and this definitely counts. It was a big summer for Pokémon GO, and it looks like the developer is scheming up ways to keep that momentum going into fall.
In the meantime, rejoice if you’ve been looking for a Ditto, I suppose.