In 2019, a peculiar new game called Pokémon Sleep was introduced.It immediately prompted a lot of worries. Do you dream about Pokémon or something? Is there a way to dream that you’re playing Pokémon? Could Porygon make up Mareep? After years of silence, the gaming community began to wonder if Pokémon Sleep was something we had dreamt up together, a question that has yet to be answered. Except that final one, of course. They respond that they are picturing Mega Ampharos instead. Who doesn’t, right?
After being dormant for four years, Pokémon Sleep has finally awakened, and I was invited to a media event where I would get a hands-on experience of the game and spend the night at a hotel to try it out, all expenses paid. I struggled to make any sense of it. Is spending the night trying out the game really necessary? I emailed a question. “Yes,” the spokesperson for the media said. It was a pointless worry after some thought. Pokémon Sleep is the name of the game.
IGN’s Senior Features Editor Matt Kim heard about the invitation and encouraged me to accept it on the condition that I write about it in this travelogue format. Hey, a rare media event calls for a rare piece of writing. (Tweet your displeasure at me to @LawofTD if you’re frustrated that I’ve already written 300 words but haven’t gotten to the video game preview yet.)
As a precaution against being challenged to a duel, I packed an overnight bag full of clothes, toiletries, swimwear (in case there’s a pool), a flight suit (in case there’s another wind tunnel), and Pokémon Trading Card Game decks.
I took a moment before getting in my car to consider how out of the ordinary it was for me to drive to a hotel in Santa Monica, a mere 20 minutes from my house, in order to take part in a Pokémon Sleep-over. (Note that The Pokémon Company International footed the bill for everything.)
It’s hardly surprising that the host hotel would be pricey; after all, with the money I’ve given to The Pokémon Company in exchange for Pokémon cards, they could buy a small island. A PokéBall’s escape was discovered not far from the shore, on the bustling Ocean Avenue where we used to have our conversations. It turned out to be a “Hotel & & Bungalow,” although I must admit that I had no idea what a “bungalow” was. In my head, it immediately registered as a hammock.
Getting to the Pokémon Sleep Event
It’s 5:30 o’clock in the evening as I pull up to the posh Hotel & Bungalow. As I pass a shiny Tesla and a brand-new BMW, I can’t help but feel insecure in my own unwashed Honda Accord. A valet greeted me as I drew up to the curb, took my keys, and offered to unload my bags, but I insisted on helping myself. It was in my best interest to stop resisting his kind service and allow him do his job when he grabbed my suitcase with an iron grip as I was locking the trunk and offered to walk me to the front desk.
A stunning woman greets me as I check in. She tells me there’s a pool and several excellent dining options here, but alas, no wind tunnel, and I immediately regret packing the flight suit. There are two more guests signing in, one of them is wearing a black sweatshirt featuring a white Pikachu on the back. Now that I am among my people, I can finally relax.
At 5:45 p.m., I use the cold wood keycard to enter my room and find a spacious bedroom with a king-sized bed and a welcome basket on the desk. There are no shady hammocks to be found. Frustrating.
When I open it, I find a cute little sleeping Snorlax stuffed animal, a Pikachu holiday blanket, a Pikachu toiletry bag, and a Kanto Gym Badge backpack. Whatever it is that a Pokémon Trainer needs in order to dream about capturing Pokémon, I suppose.
I feel an instant connection to the little Snorlax, and its adorable arrogance brings tears to my eyes.
A sample of the game’s educational potential is provided via two notecards carrying the Pokémon Sleep emblem. Having seen the trailer for Pokémon Sleep when it was released earlier that day, I felt very knowledgeable about the situation. After arriving at my destination, I unload my bag, answer a few work emails, and even find time for thirty minutes of dread scrolling in the next hour, all while feeling supremely superior to everyone else.
At 6:45 o’clock, I make my way downstairs to the event space, where I’ll be seeing my PR contact Erich for the first time in person. He greets me warmly, hands me a black cardboard box containing a mobile phone, and asks me in a completely non-threatening manner if I brought any Pokémon decks. See? Always have a plan B! He says he wants to face me with a Gardevoir deck, so I mentally prepare by packing my deck with counters for that Pokémon and acting as if they were always there. The Pokémon Sleep conversation is about to begin, so our battle will have to wait.
It’s 7:00 p.m. as I enter the room and notice the many sleeping Pokémon adorning the walls. Naturally, there are many of Snorlax here. While waiting for everyone else to finish checking in, I catch up with old coworkers and make new friends over drinks and snacks. My drink accidentally spills all over my tee. Notifications are ignored.
At 7:35 PM, we are greeted by a member of the Pokémon PR team who is dressed as a giant inflatable Snorlax. There are squeals of delight coming from all directions. To take a picture, I quiet down and get in line.
How to Play Pokémon Sleep
At 7:43 PM, everyone gathers in the lobby to hear, at long last and after much anticipation spanning years, the true nature of Pokémon Sleep. App Product Marketing Manager Yuri Horie of The Pokémon Company International will be making the big announcement, while Pokémon Sleep Director Kaname Kosugi will be accompanying them via Zoom.
She explains how Pokémon Sleep is not like other Pokémon games and how the art style is completely different. (I’d say it has the feel of a children’s novel.) The release date for the video game is set for the late summer of 2023. (Wow, that was fast!)
The player aids Professor Neroil in his investigation of Snorlax’s peculiar ability to emit Drowsy Power, which causes Pokémon congregating around it to get drowsy. (A quick Google search reveals that “neroil” is the name of the oil extracted from orange blossoms for use in perfumes and cuisine, and is supposedly one of the hidden ingredients in Coca-Cola.)
The player contributes by using the Pokémon Sleep app to keep track of their sleeping habits at night; the following morning, this data is put to use in the game. Evenings are dead for actual gameplay. You can set your phone or Pokémon GO Plus + down face down on the bed near your pillow and hit a button to tell the app you’re going to sleep. Yuri remembered that the device works best when placed on the bed next to you and not on a hard surface. In this mode, the accelerometer can detect and record your sleeping patterns. Also, remember to charge your phone before bed so that you’re not left without communication in the middle of the night.
When you wake up, you’ll find that Pokémon have gathered around Snorlax in various “Sleep Styles,” which you can then record in your own personal “Sleep Style Dex.” Your Sleep Type and the amount of Drowsy Power you generate determine which Pokémon arrive and how many. Add Snorlax’s Strength to your Sleep Score to get your Drowsy Power. Achieving a perfect 100 on the Sleep Score scale requires a minimum of 11 hours of sleep for children and an average of 8.5 hours of sleep for adults.
There are three distinct sleep patterns that can be identified based on how deeply you slept. There’s the dozing style, the snoozing style, and the slumbering style of sleeping. When you wake up, you’ll see a graph showing how long you slept in each pattern and how often you shifted positions. The deeper the sleep, the less you move around. Because the types of Pokémon you encounter shift based on your Sleep Style, you’ll be able to catch more and different Pokémon as your sleeping habits evolve.
You’ll also be given a chart detailing your nighttime noise levels after you wake up. You can play back a recording to hear your own voice and any other noises you may have created. (Watch out, sleep talkers!)
There are various tasks that can be completed during the day. You may get the new Pokémon to join your team and help you raise Snorlax by feeding them Poké Biscuits.
Every week, players will visit a new island in the game and receive a new Snorlax, each of which will have unique preferences for the many berries and cookable foods you can feed it during the day. There will be new Pokémon species on the island as well. The weekend is when the rare Pokémon show up.
You’ll be able to invite others to join and share your sleep data with them, but you’ll also have the option to keep certain facts private. (Which is great since the times I wake up and go to sleep are truly embarrassing.)
The game will score your sleep in two different ways. Your sleep duration will be ranked daily and your consistency will be rated over the course of a week.
The Pokémon GO Plus plus adds new features. Pikachu will cry himself to sleep every night. Pikachu will lull you to sleep with a song, too. (It’s eerily similar to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” but with the word “pika” swapped into every lyric. It’s adorable. Players with Pokémon GO Plus + will have access to a sixth Pokémon, a Pikachu wearing a nightcap, despite the fact that the maximum number of players in a Pokémon Sleep party is five. Also, completing the special Field Research mission in Pokémon GO will net you a Snorlax decked out in a nightcap.
At 8:15 p.m., with the talk over, the floor was opened up for issues, which I will lay out in a bulleted list for your convenience.
- Worst case scenario, I only ever sleep for 6.5 hours a night. Although you will not achieve a perfect Sleep Score of 100, the app is designed to encourage you to achieve the amount of sleep advised by your doctor. A high Sleep Consistency rating throughout the week can help compensate for a less-than-perfect Sleep Score on any given night.
- Can’t I just take a break? The app will record two separate nights’ sleep each day, each of which must be at least 90 minutes long. If you get enough shut-eye, you shouldn’t feel sleepy during the day.
- Do teams exist similarly to Pokémon GO? No. Naturally (4-Life)
- I was wondering whether there would be a top sleepers list. No.
- In creating this game, did you work with actual sleep scientists? Yes. Scientists who are experts in the field of sleep monitoring kept an eye on the game’s operations. There is no medical purpose served by Pokémon Sleep.
- Is there going to be a second generation of Pokémon? Yes. The initial release of the video game will feature 100 playable Pokémon, with future updates promising many more.
- What plans do you have for using our data? Detailed data will be collected, but it won’t be shared with anyone. This data can be used to learn things like when the average American goes to bed and wakes up. After a day, the recordings of your snoring will be deleted automatically.
- Can we expect to see Shiny and Legendary Pokémon? Playing is essential for understanding. (I saw this as a positive response, but I respect her discretion.)
The meeting concluded at 8:30 p.m., and we were sent home with a mobile phone to use to experience Pokémon Sleep for the first time.
But before that, at 9:00 p.m., Eric Switzer from The Gamer and I played Pokémon cards using the decks I brought in a best two out of three match. He used Arceus/Giratina and I flew Gardevoir. Even though I’m a Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG) addict who (not to brag) qualified to play on the world championship in 2015 (just don’t ask how I did), Eric set up an excellent battle, taking a close Game 2 and putting on a great deal of pressure on Game 3 prior to I was able to take the dub. This is especially impressive given that he was utilising a deck he had actually never ever played prior to.
Playing Pokémon Sleep
It was 10:45 p.m. when I finally got to try out Pokémon Sleep after being crowned the Undisputed Pokémon Sleep Press Event TCG Champion.
Nighttime Doom scrolling (11:00 PM – 2:30 AM).
At 2:30 in the morning, I was finally ready to let the weight of sleepiness carry me away to Honk Shoo Honk Shoo Land, so I charged my phone, opened the sleep app, and closed my eyes.
~ 4:00 am – My teeth grow arms and spears and join my leg in attacking me as I present my Othello paper in English class during high school. I try to shake them off, but that attracts the attention of the aliens in their flying dish, and they try to snatch me, but they instead snag the teeth and leave. (You could be dreaming.)
At 7 a.m., the pleasant chime of the Pokémon Sleep alarm jolts me up, and to my astonishment, I feel surprisingly alert. Usually I look like dead, and opening my eyes is a painful experience. I know it’s because I can’t wait to experience Pokémon Sleep for myself.
I check the app and find that I’ve accumulated 1,640,000 Drowsy Power, but I quickly forget about it when I notice that several additional Pokémon have fallen asleep next to my Snorlax. One each of Squirtle, Pichu, and Geodude.
Instinctively, I want to send a Pokémon into battle so I can False Swipe it to within a pixel of its life and then toss an Ultra Ball at its head to make it mine forever and ever, but the game forces me to settle for merely tapping each Pokémon to record its Sleep Style and add it to my Sleep Style Dex brochure. Sheltered Sleep describes my Squirtle, Peaceful Sleep my Pichu, and Biding Sleep (which informs me of the relocation Bide) my Geodude.
I have no idea what this means at the moment, but I feel a little excited every time I see more data being entered and more tasks being assigned. The old desire to round them all up is quickly making a comeback. I also learn that each Pokémon is given a star rating, the meaning of which I do not comprehend; yet, if my new Pokémon were either 1-star or 2-star, I could tell that this is yet another thing that would keep me coming back for more.
Since I caught a level-one Squirtle, I have to keep feeding it tasty Poké Biscuits (shaped like PokéBalls) until it evolves. Friendship Points are the building blocks of this tiering system. When you’ve collected enough of them, the Pokémon will join your team as an aid. Squirtle, like his new owner, is deemed to have a naughty disposition after joining my team. Natures have been a staple of Pokémon games for a long time, and they return in Pokémon Sleep to further distinguish each Pokémon.
I was shown a gallery of photographs of all the new Pokémon and told I could retain only one. I’m torn since I love all of my children, but Squirtle in his shell is just too cute to pass up (the others can probably go to the shredder).
I’ve been informed that I’ve reached Research Rank 2 and given access to some additional resources. A Dorito, what seems to be Incense, and a second Poké Biscuit.
I’m given a map and told to pick a new place for the day; in exchange, I get a fresh Snorlax. This one has a requested curries/stews ingredient list and a list of favourite fruit. Living in Los Angeles, where everyone is either vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-intolerant has prepared me well to cater to this Snorlax’s dietary needs.
Now that I’ve finished the first part of my day’s routine, I can tap my assistance Pokémon to have them drop berries, which I can then use to give to my Snorlax. I’ve noticed that the Pokémon are always lazily collecting berries; if you want more, you’ll need to come back and shake them. There’s also the option of turning those berries into more substantial and tastier dinners. I was hesitant to use the cooker because I can’t be trusted to boil water, let alone make a berry-based curry for a giant balloon bear beast, but thankfully there’s an Auto Cook button to take care of everything.
While the food is heating automatically, I read a tidbit on the “Slumbering” period of sleep, which is definitely crucial for enhancing and improving memory.
While the food is cooking automatically, a tidbit about the “Slumbering” phase of sleep appears at the screen’s bottom. This stage of sleep is crucial for consolidating and strengthening memories.
In order to fortify Snorlax, I cook up some Fancy Apple Curry, which has a Dish Strength of 1,404.
The gameplay loop starts to take shape at this point. Sleep, wake up, recruit more Pokémon, gather food, train your Snorlax to be stronger, and repeat. Your ability to gain Drowsy Power each night will improve in tandem with the level of your Snorlax, allowing you to reap greater rewards the following day. On Sunday, your Snorlax will be reset, and a new week will begin.
I keep exploring the app’s many options until I find the Shop. The regular Sleep Pass costs $9.99 per month or $49.99 for 6 months, while the Premium Sleep Pass costs an additional $2.99 per month. That’s right. There’s a Battle Pass for even Pokémon Go to Sleep!
Diamonds can be purchased with real money in a special section of the store. Diamonds are available for free after completing certain in-game activities, but, as is the case with many modern video games, it appears that you may use your credit card to get through the game quickly.
At 8:02 a.m., I freshen up, dress and head down the lift to join the other guests for breakfast. This morning’s spread includes eggs, bacon, potatoes, strawberries, a miniature cinnamon roll, and copious amounts of coffee.
While bragging about our new Pokémon to our friends, we mention that some of them would recognise the similarities between Larvitar, Swablu, and Ghastly. Your Sleep Profile clearly identifies which of the three Kanto starter Pokémon best represents you. Squirtle was the result of my Slumbering Sleep Style, while Charmander and Bulbasaur were the results of Snoring and Dozing, respectively.
To better understand the wide range of sleep habits out there, we took to the streets to compare notes. A Sleep Score of 61 indicates that someone slept for 6 hours and 43 minutes, resulting in 2.4 million Drowsy Power. Seven hours of sleep earned another person a Sleep Score of 64 and 2.5 million Drowsy Power. After revealing that I had slept for 4 hours and 30 minutes, earning a Sleep Score of 41 and 1.6 million Drowsy Power, I was met with a few puzzled looks, so I decided to take that time to fetch some more coffee. Obviously, I was going to need it, given my poor sleeping habits had been exposed by Pokémon Sleep. Drowsy Power at only $1.6 million? In other words, I’m funny.
It’s 9:00 a.m., and you’ve completed one full playthrough and need to give Erich back the smart device. He tells me the data is going to be scrubbed, and I give my Snorlax, Geodude, and Pikachu a moment of respect before releasing them back into the wild.
When Erich and I next hang out, he tells me he wants to battle Pokémon cards, and I tell him to bring it on. Right now I’m on top of one Eric; can you name another?
At 9:10 a.m., I have finished packing up my belongings and am on my way to the valet to retrieve my car. I discuss how we can now use Pokémon Go to track our steps and earn badges while brushing our teeth; why not add sleeping to the list? The game accomplishes its goals of entertaining players while educating them on the importance of regular, restful sleep. It showed me how much room there is for improvement in my sleeping routine, and it showed me that Pokémon’s attraction can be compared to that of a health app without sacrificing any of its fun. It makes sense that there isn’t any conflict or criminal organisations to foil, as these are the sorts of things that would set your heart racing rather than calm you down before bed. Obviously, this is only a first impression, and I’ll need to put in more than one evening with the game before I can develop a solid opinion, but thus far, I’m intrigued.
I get into my car and drive away from the fantastic hotel. The wooden keycard reminds me of what classy things used to look like, therefore I’ve kept it. I get in my car and go home so that I can jot down my thoughts on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play a new video game four years before its release.
I’m almost done, and then I’m going to bed.