When Can You Play The Pokémon 'Sword' & 'Shield' Expansion Passes?

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Despite becoming the fastest-selling Switch games to date, Pokémon Sword and Shield’s release last November didn’t come without controversy. The games debuted with half the Pokémon available in its universe, meaning a lot of fan faves were cut. There’s thankfully a silver lining to all this though, as developer Game Freak held a surprise presentation last Friday where they announced an expansion pass for Sword and Shield. Among the two brand-new areas to explore, fans will also see the return of 200+ mons. So when can you play the Pokémon Sword and Shield expansion pass, and how will it interact with your current save file?

Available to pre-order now (£26.99), the pass will give players access to areas not yet discovered in the Galar region. Split into two parts, The Isle of Armor will available to play in June, with The Crown Tundra following this fall. If you only own one copy of either Sword or Shield, you’ll only need to purchase one pass to access both areas. But if you have both, you’ll have to obtain two passes to access the features.

There aren’t specific dates for when you can actually play them yet, but if you pre-order the pass through the Nintendo e-Store you’ll receive two codes for outfits modelled after Pikachu and Eevee. Once downloaded via the Mystery Gift option, you’ll be able to wear them in-game now.

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In preparation for the pass, Sword and Shield have received a minor update which has added a little card at the bottom of the in-game menu that re-directs to the e-Shop pre-order page. Players will also have the chance to meet the two new rivals introduced in the reveal and will be able to catch a Galarian Slowpoke. This new regional form doesn’t currently have an entry in the Pokédex, but as stated in the Direct the Isle of Armor and the Crown Tundra will have additional pages in the dex to complete, which will feature this Slowpoke.

Both areas introduced through the pass will contain 200+ returning Pokémon, including new regional variants like Slowpoke and its evolutions. With the Isle of Armor being a giant island and the Crown Tundra being, well, a tundra, the roaming Pokémon will follow the climate and geographical themes of the areas.

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Alongside that, players will be able to experience new characters and storylines, leading to the discovery of never-before-seen legendaries, alongside old fan favourites. The original bird trio of Articuno, Moltres, and Zapdos have also been given a regional variant, which is a first for the series.

In the meantime, the current update has made the frequency of Gigantamax Coalossal, Lapras, Flapple, and Appletun increase across Sword and Shield, so at least there’s more raid battling to do while waiting for the new content this summer.