Two days ago, Ed Sheeran posted a cryptic Twitter message, hinting at a soon-to-be announced collaboration with Pokémon GO. I’ll be honest: I’m not the biggest Ed Sheeran fan, but the hashtag #PokemonGOxEdSheeran made me laugh. So, like any self-respecting journalist, I emailed my contact at Niantic to see if he’d spill the beans (under embargo, of course).
He replied, “I’m afraid I can’t share anything just yet about the Tweet, but will be sure to include you once we can!”
Sure enough, today, Pokémon GO announced its collaboration with Ed Sheeran. Apparently, there’s going to be an Ed Sheeran performance in-app, which we’ll learn more details about on November 22, when the event starts. For now, we know that his song “Overpass Graffiti” will play every night during the event, and there’ll be some Ed Sheeran apparel for your avatar. Pokémon GO’s celebration of… Ed Sheeran… runs through November 30, and during the event, players will encounter increased wild spawns of the water starter from the first five generations of Pokémon: Squirtle (with sunglasses!), Totodile, Mudkip, Oshawott and Froakie.
“Ed always chooses the Water-type Pokémon as his first partner when he starts a Pokémon RPG,” the app wrote in a blog post.
On Twitter, Pokémon GO elaborated that not only does Ed Sheeran always pick the water starter, but his favorite Pokémon is, indeed, Squirtle.
Okay, I interned at a music PR firm for a whole three months, so let me tell you. Ed Sheeran might want you to think he’s just like us, feeling fond nostalgia for simpler times when Game Boy Color was high tech, but this dude has a whole team of publicity professionals behind him, weighing the pros and cons of his every move. This is a guy whose song “Shape of You” is the most streamed song of all time. He has resources. So, is Squirtle really Ed Sheeran’s favorite Pokémon, or is that just a palatable fact to advertise? Squirtle is popular enough that average people can recognize it, but not as boring a pick as Pikachu. It makes sense. If you’re a PR professional and your client is revealing their favorite Pokémon, you don’t want them to say Cubone or something. Everyone knows Cubone is the most depressing Pokémon. But if they say Bouffalant, it’s like, why? Who cares?
Any serious Pokémon player knows that water types are over-powered, especially in the Kanto region. The first gym leader you face, Brock, specializes in rock-type Pokémon. Both Bulbasaur and Squirtle have super-effective moves against rock, but Charmander, a fire-type, is weak against Brock’s mighty level 14 Onix. You wanna know what’s even worse? Try battling Brock during your first-ever playthrough of Pokémon Yellow, using Pikachu’s thundershock against a rock snake. It sucks.
Like any good journalist waiting for an email about another story, I decided to investigate. Is Ed Sheeran’s favorite Pokémon really Squirtle? Or is this just a PR ploy?
If you were to search “ed sheeran pokemon” right now, you would find news articles from outlets with a more robust staff than TechCrunch, which published brief news hits this morning about this unlikely, wholesome collaboration. But I wanted to go deeper. Beyond this announcement, what do we know about Ed’s Pokémon fandom? So, I narrowed my search.
I discovered that two years ago, the British superstar visited a Japanese karaoke bar after the Rugby World Cup final. England lost to South Africa. Brutal. He was photographed wearing both Snorlax and Charizard onesies as he sang karaoke to his own songs, which is simultaneously cringe and a power move.
To date, it seemed Sheeran had only acknowledged the existence of Kanto region Pokémon, or, the basic ones. This past May, Ed Sheeran posted an Instagram photo next to a large Snorlax plush, staring fondly at it like an old friend. He is wearing socks.
The following month, in June, Ed spoke with Spanish streamer Ibai Llanos. Per reporting from Nintendo Hill, Sheeran shared three insights into his Nintendo fandom: his prized possession is a Nintendo 64 GoldenEye 007 cartridge, he met the creator of Pokémon (who also wrote him a letter!), and — wait for it — his favorite Pokémon is Squirtle.
So, unless if Sheeran’s probably-very-skilled PR team has been planning this for at least five months (not impossible, tbh!), we can probably say that Ed Sheeran’s favorite Pokémon is really Squirtle. But also, isn’t it fun to imagine if his favorite Pokémon was something super mundane, and Pokémon GO had to develop an entire event around it? Like Burmy, Nosepass or Zigzagoon.
Sheeran also confirmed in that interview that the first generation of Pokémon is his favorite. Which, I mean, yeah, Ed, we can tell. However, it does seem that he has at least engaged with Pokémon content released during the twenty-first century. In 2013, he posted a photo of a cat with a Pokémon card. And what Pokémon card was it? Turtwig, a fourth-generation starter Pokémon. A grass type.
Speaking of Turtwig, the Nintendo Switch generation 4 remakes Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl come out tomorrow, so rejoice!