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Thursday, July 22, 2021

Pay-to-Win or not, Avoid Pokémon UNITE!

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Don't even download it.

You may remember that Pokémon UNITE was announced a bit over a year ago. Its introduction was... not well-received, largely because of two factors: MOBAs (multiplayer online battle arenas) are a bad genre of games and their fans tend to be awful people, and it's developed by Tencent, an agent of the Chinese Communist Party. Since then, Chinese Communist Party apologists have been in full force trying to convince people that Pokémon UNITE is gonna be the best game and it's wonderful that The Pokémon Company is green-lighting and publishing it with Tencent. They've even written a guest-post on KoopaTV with that very angle.

Now it's out on the Nintendo Switch, and will be releasing to mobile devices in September with cross-platform play. You'll need an Internet connection to do anything on the game, but Nintendo Switch Online won't be required. It's free-to-start but with plenty of potential microtransactions that can get you started and progressing much faster than people who won't pay anything, which can get you to a statistical advantage. Yeah, there's in-game currency (which you can acquire at a slow pace), but there's also a lot of performance-enhancing items or held item upgrades you can get by buying the premium currency (Aeos Gems), along with being able to buy access to new characters. Very typical for the genre. This is on top of cosmetics, some of which actually have a performance effect on Pokémon.

There is a complicated thing that I don't understand (which is intentional design) where you use real money to buy currencies which can get gems to buy tickets which get the performance-enhancing items. All those steps is basically the same steps criminal organisations do when money laundering. The metagame will be shaped by people who are spending large amounts of money.

But even if you're going to defend Pokémon UNITE's anti-competitive game design and you think it's fine because you're desensitised to it, you shouldn't normalise being a total Tencent sucker.

Pokémon UNITE key art Cinderace Pikachu Tencent Nintendo Switch
If you don't want more Tencent logos in corners, don't download this game.

If you even so much as download Pokémon UNITE to your Switch, at a minimum, you'll be a statistic in a Tencent/The Pokémon Company press release that'll be like, “Pokémon UNITE is the fastest/best/whatever game of such-and-such category based on these downloads! Go us! Validation and social proof!”

I don't want to be another Chinese statistic. You shouldn't either. Chinese statistics tend to be deaths from things like the Chinese Communist Party Virus or the Great Leap Forward's famine. And, yes, I do think it's fair to make that comparison. The Virus and its origins, that Great Leap Forward, Tencent getting into a bunch of industries and acquiring companies and spreading its tentacles around... it all follows that same goal of attempted Chinese world domination.

And you should oppose it if you know what's good for you. You knew Pokémon UNITE was bad when it was announced a year ago. Nothing has changed. It's still bad now.

Also, apparently you can't delete a Pokémon UNITE account once you make one, so... don't make one. Or Tencent will have access to a zombie form of you FOREVER.

Try not to bash Ludwig in the comments section for saying mean things about a game he's never played and refuses to play, despite there being zero financial barrier to entry. ...He's trying to be consistent and principled with his position from mid-2020 that it seemed like most other people shared, according to like:dislike YouTube ratios. ...Except those ratios are no longer negative anymore.

Tencent does very bad things with your data, by the way.
There's clear evidence that Pokémon UNITE is being designed for Chinese sensibilities.
Progress report: Over nine million Switch owners have downloaded Pokémon UNITE. Oops.


  1. On Discord servers I am in, people reported the tutorial Pokémon is Charizard. Another reason not to download it.

    1. They're giving the people what they want right at the start.

      I wonder if Charizard is also popular in China.

  2. I know someone who imo qualifies as having an expert opinion of Pokemon games--he's not far from like, VGC Worlds level--and his reaction was basically "meh." So yeah, guess I won't be trying this either.

    1. Meh is a decent response.

      (I'd like to think my input is just as valuable as that other someone you know.)

  3. "you can't delete your account"

    Unless I'm thinking of this wrong, can't you just...

    Delete the game and go on with your life?

    1. The source says...
      "Currently, there is no confirmed way to delete an account. Once a Nintendo Account is linked to a user in a Nintendo Switch it is not possible to delete or disconnect the account, or reset the data.
      Deleting Save Data Does Not Work

      Deleting save data in Nintendo Switch does not affect the account in Pokemon UNITE. Attempting to delete the save data in hopes of starting a new account in Pokemon UNITE is not possible.

      Players need to create a new user in their Nintendo Switch, then link that user to another Nintendo Account."

      The way I see it is that Tencent will permanently have access to your Nintendo Switch data the moment you download the game.


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