Why the Pokémon TCG Has Fewer Types Than the Video Games
While the Pokémon video games feature 18 elemental types, the Trading Card Game only has 9 types of energy and 11 types of creatures. Here's why.
The Pokémon franchise is less a video game series and more a media empire. The most profitable franchise on earth, Pokémon has brought in a massive following through its anime, video games, and trading card game. All three of these have their own worlds, canon, and rules which have kept the franchise new and evolving.
An intriguing difference here is the absence of a large part of the video games from the Pokémon TCG. While the video games boast 18 types of moves and creatures, all of which have their own strengths and weaknesses in an epic game of rock-paper-scissors, the TCG only has 11 types of monsters, with nine types of energy for moves shared among them. This is due to the development of the game, as well as the intended audience.
Pokémon: The Trading Card Game Was Developed Externally
The Pokémon video games have consistently acted somewhat like a large indie game studio, the own franchise existing both separately from yet intricately linked to Nintendo. By exploring other media, the Pokémon franchise evolved, and a significant portion of this evolution was the creation of the now massively valuable TCG. Unlike other card games at the time, Pokemon: The Trading Card Game was built with children in mind, even if adults often ruin the fun, so heavy mathematics needed to be replaced by something.
The solution was simple: disposing of the complexities of the game and embracing the rock-paper-scissors aspect of the game. This was accomplished by including a larger number of types, namely the six types of Grass, Fire, Water, Lightning, Psychic, and Fighting. These types wrapped other typings into them to keep the game balanced and simple, with the Bug type being part of Grass, Ice being part of Water, Ground and Rock being part of Fighting, and so on.
How The Pokémon: TCG Evolved
As The Pokemon Company began developing more of the game internally, its balance was easier to work out, which was demonstrated with the introduction of new types. Darkness and Metal, the TCG’s version of Dark and Steel, were primarily intended to promote the types’ introduction in Pokémon Gold and Silver, as the energy cards were not introduced until years later.
This largely seems to be the result of The Pokémon Company having to go through other companies to develop and publish its cards. The game was fully internalized in 2003, and the next year saw the introduction of basic energies for the two types over half a decade after their introduction. This is as opposed to the Fairy-type, which immediately entered the game fully realized.
The odd portion of this, however, is that the other types were never reintroduced. The Rock type, for example, is still under the Fighting type umbrella. Simply put, these types are already unique and function fully, but the introduction of further typings would impede the Pokémon TCG‘s other functions. Just as the TCG at first eschewed mechanics to allow for more typings, now the game’s new gimmicks and mechanics disallow further typings in a game that is already somewhat well-balanced.
Ultimately, these changes were allowed to take place because of the amount of complexity that the shifting fanbase could handle, as well as the new mechanics introduced by the games. The history of publication, internal and external development, the availability of the online version and tie-ins to the video games have all played their parts in adding to the unique aspects of the history of Pokémon: The Trading Card Game.