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Is Pokemon Unite pay-to-win?

The latest entry into the Pokémon franchise, Pokémon Unite, has proved to be a hit; however, one of its biggest flaws has been its criticized “pay-to-win” model.
Is Pokemon Unite pay-to-win?

A short time has passed since the global launch of Pokémon Unite, a free MOBA for Nintendo Switch based on the Pokémon franchise, and yet this has proven to be a total success as it has managed to get millions of downloads and players immersed in this new experience, developed by TiMi Studio Group and The Pokémon Company.

However, its release hasn’t been exempt from some criticism, as many players have raised their concerns about Nintendo's aggressive microtransaction model within the game.

Pokemon Unite and its monetization strategies

Although it’s normal to find a paywall in many free-to-play titles like League of Legends or Fortnite, most of these consist of cosmetics and skins that don't affect your performance or give you some advantage (in most cases).

Pokémon Unite versus Fortnite in-game store
(Picture: Epic Games)

But this is definitely not the case for Pokémon Unite, as some of its players have focused their efforts to bring to light its predatory microtransaction system. One of them has been the Reddit user Not_Nathan_Drake, who posted a warning about the game by demonstrating its highly pay-to-win monetization system.

According to the Redditor, he has had a lot of experience on the subject by presenting himself as a free-to-play mobile game developer, specialized in finding the right balance between monetization and user fun.

Thus, after testing the game during several matches, he noticed Pokémon UNITE is extremely unbalanced in this regard by explaining the five most common monetization strategies, of which only a maximum of two should be applied, especially in MOBAs:

  • Cosmetics
  • Battle Pass Levels
  • Gacha Pull Increases
  • Character purchases
  • Actual gameplay boosting items

By applying the five points the Reddit user mentions at the same time, these can ruin the gaming experience drastically, while parents have to pay special attention to underage users since a game with such an aggressive monetization system, it's dangerous with so many microtransactions on hand.

Why is Pokémon Unite under a pay-to-win model?

This is mainly because the Pokémon Unite in-game store sells items that modify the percentage of damage, movement speed, the healing they grant, passive healing and more, so with a few dollars, you can make your Pokémon be more powerful, even if you just started playing.

Pokémon Unite items in-game store
(Picture: The Pokémon Company / Timi Studio Group)

If you enter to play Pokémon Unite, in the beginning, you will have a lot of fun, since you will receive some characters as a gift as part of the introduction and for the initial launch campaigns, but once that initiation is over, you will begin to notice its system of progression will get a bit tricky.

This is because to continue progressing within the game, such as unlocking one or two characters, improving your Held Items, or even getting new styles for your character and your Pokémon, you will mostly need in-game currencies such as the Aeos Coins and Aeos Tickets.

However, since the coins that are received as a reward for each game played are just a few, and there is a maximum limit of how many you can obtain per week, the only way to unlock more things is by using its premium currency, the Aeos Gems.

Pokémon Unite current Aeon Gems prices
(Picture: The Pokémon Company / Timi Studio Group)

So after a while, a point will come where you won’t be able to compete at the same level as others, unless you spend enough money to improve the stats of your Pokémon and items, which not many have the possibility to do at any time.

According to comments by Charles “Cr1TiKaL” White in one of his recent gameplays, raising any of the Held Items to level 20 has an average cost of $40 USD, so if you take into account there are 16 of these at the moment, you would have to spend $640 USD on raising them at their optimal level (not maximum, since even after reaching level 20, these continue to level up).

You can check out Cr1TiKaL's gameplay below, where he goes on to demonstrate the effect of Pokémon Unite's microtransaction model:

From our side, the only thing we can say is that while Pokémon Unite provides a great gaming experience, by combining a popular genre such as the MOBAs with such an iconic franchise, it seems sad Nintendo is trying to use the Pokémon brand to cover a game with a terribly brutal transaction system.

This without forgetting that in time, those players who want to play competitively and don’t have the resources to improve their arsenal will end up being relieved beyond their abilities due to its pay-to-win system.

Hopefully, when we get close to its mobile launch in September, this will change, or this promising project by TiMi and The Pokémon Company will be crushed by their poor decisions.

You can find more news, guides, announcements and updates in our section dedicated to the Pokémon franchise.