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The Real Reason Pokemon's Announcement Is Causing An Uproar

Pokemon Unite was announced recently for Switch and mobile devices, and the trailer has certainly united a lot of people against it. This new Pokemon spin-off is a 5-on-5 MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) game in the vein of the hugely popular League of Legends, or the now-faltering Heroes of the Storm. It was advertised as being a different kind of Pokemon battle — one where five players each control one monster and work together to defeat their opponents.


The trailer showed off gameplay that looked like pretty standard MOBA fare, but featuring bright cartoonish colors and, of course, everyone's favorite Pocket Monsters duking it out. More importantly, it showed pretty much what you'd expect from a MOBA geared toward Pokemon fans.

So why is it Pokemon's most disliked video on YouTube?

For one thing, Pokemon Unite just wasn't what people wanted. The trending hashtag #LetsGoJohto spelled that out plainly enough — Johto being the region that the second generation of Pokemon games takes place in. To judge by their tweets, people went into the livestream expecting — some of them certain – they were about to see the next generation of Pokemon Let's Go games. There were even rumors about what they would be called. Many of these fans were sorely disappointed when they got a very different kind of spin off.


For all we know, it'll end up being a great game. The fact is, though, that Pokemon Unite isn't what people were asking for.

That's part of the issue, but it doesn't explain everything. Other Pokemon spin offs haven't drawn this level of ire from fans. Pokemon Stadium is remembered fondly, even Pokken Tournament ended up doing reasonably well for itself, and of course Pokemon Snap is a cult classic. What's so different about Pokemon Unite?

What's really got Pokefans' shorts in a twist is the group partnering with The Pokemon Company to develop Pokemon Unite: Tencent. Tencent is a Chinese gaming company that's gotten involved with a lot of different major game studios. Most notably, it owns 40% of Epic Games and is the sole owner of Riot Games, the developer of League of Legends. It has its fingers in a lot of gaming pies, and seems to always be looking for its next project.

So the new Pokemon MOBA is being created, in part, with the parent company behind one of the most successful MOBAs in the world. Why is that a bad thing?

Tencent is one of the largest companies in the world, and it's become something of a boogeyman in recent years. Many gamers point to its rapid expansion into various gaming markets. Others worry about the potential for censorship based on where Tencent is headquartered.


More than any kind of ethical stand, though, a quick scroll through the YouTube comments shows that people are worried about pay-to-win mechanics overtaking the experience. Pokemon Unite is being advertised as "free to start," another way of saying "free to play." It's a phrase that's synonymous with microtransactions. People are understandably concerned that what looks like a light, entertaining team battle game geared toward younger audiences will end up being a wallet-draining leech. As one commenter wrote, "This game is one of the ugliest things I have ever seen and it will milk money out of kids and parents."

Is it a fair assumption, though? It's hard to say. There's no denying that Tencent has its name attached to a lot of freemium games, and some of them get people to shell out some truly insane amounts of money. On the other hand, as mentioned before, Tencent is now the sole owner of Riot Games. League of Legends brought the cosmetics-only freemium model to the mainstream, making it so only items that have no impact on gameplay have to be bought with real money. Anything else may be bought that way, but can also be earned in-game. Admittedly, Riot was using that model before being bought out by Tencent, but no moves have been made to change it.


As of right now, there's no telling which free-to-start model Pokemon Unite plans to use. Hopefully fans' fears will prove baseless, and we won't have to empty our bank accounts to fill our rosters.