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There’s nothing quite like seeing Cinderace, dressed head-to-toe in pirate garb, curb stomp a Pikachu clad in a snapback and hoodie. Pokémon UNITE’s combination of brand recognition and fun MOBA mechanics give it a promising future for players who want to bring their overpowered Gengar to a tournament.

Pokémon Unite launched on July 21 to a ton of fanfare, with MOBA fans and pro players from all sorts of other games jumping into TiMi Studio Group and The Pokémon Company’s colorful take on the genre. The combination of Pyre-like basketball dunks and clever adaptation of pocket monster leveling mechanics have made the game quite fun.

Pokémon Unite
Pokémon UNITE players have started developing team compositions | Provided by The Pokémon Company

“I’m literally watching ex-LCS pro absolutely dumpster and fountain camp a bunch of kids that were probably excited to play the new pokemon league game LMAO,” said Twitch streamer Peter Park of retired LCS player Danny “Shiphtur” Let’s Play in the new MOBA.

Pokémon UNITE competitive tournaments aplenty

Fans of the pocket monster franchise have been gathering in subreddits and Discord servers long before Pokémon UNITE launched this week. Organizers from various organizations have begun planning cash tournaments, including early one with a $500 prize pool. The biggest community is also hosting an event this weekend.

Masaaki Hoshino, a producer on the game, said that there would be no competitive focus right now, but UNITE could become an esport if the player base takes it in that direction according to a translated interview.

There should be little worry about Pokémon UNITE’s future in general, competitive or otherwise. Outside enjoyable gameplay, it has aggressive (and somewhat predatory) monetization like similar MOBAs and mobile titles. I don’t know how players will be able to resist buying a yellow suit for Mr. Mime or a pool floaty for Snorlax.

Pokémon Unite guides

Outside community-run tournaments, there’s little doubt that Tencent and The Pokémon Company will hold some sort of official tournament or series of events. It’s tough to predict what form that event will take giving those companies histories with other competitive scenes, but there will hopefully be something set up by the time Unite launches on mobile in September.


Aron Garst looks at esports from a different point of view by tackling the ways games are molded and broken by players around the world. He covers Call of Duty, Fortnite, Super Smash Bros, and everything else for Upcomer. You can read his previous work at WIRED, Rolling Stone, ESPN and elsewhere. Rise up red sea.


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