The Pokémon Company’s surprise MOBA reveal was met with anger and disappointment from fans, many of whom expected a more traditional Pokémon game than Pokémon Unite. The company announced Pokémon Unite after a week of fan anticipation and guesswork, and this unfulfilled hype caused backlash against the unexpected reveal.
Following last week’s Pokémon Presents stream, The Pokémon Company teased yet another reveal on the way. The first Presents detailed a few miscellaneous Pokémon game-related news items, but it also confirmed a modern reimagining of the N64’s Pokémon Snap. After a surprise like that, speculation ran wild about what more The Pokémon Company could have to share.
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The new announcement ended up being Pokémon Unite, a free-to-start, League of Legends-style “team battle” game. Fans responded with tons of negative comments, and the Pokémon Presents video has gained more than 157,000 dislikes at the time of writing (compared to only 73,000 likes). Here’s why the reveal resulted in so much outrage.
Why Pokémon Unite’s Controversial Reveal Upset Fans
Many commenters point to the week-long wait for this reveal as a major source of the disappointment. The Pokémon Company’s teasing made it seem like it had a classic “just one more thing” to share, which is usually reserved for long-anticipated announcements, and the presentation’s reported length and apparent connection to multiple Pokémon franchises (via Twitter user Eclipse) only added to the excitement. Pokémon’s core audience – at least the ones paying enough attention to wake up early to watch a reveal like this – are mostly fans of the core game series, so a spin-off, team-based mobile game (albeit on Switch, as well) was not a welcome surprise. This is especially true for the many waiting for a Pokémon Diamond and Pearl remake reveal, which seems increasingly unlikely as time goes on.
But it’s more than the game Pokémon Unite isn’t: Fans don’t appear enthused with the game it is, either. MOBAs like League of Legends and DOTA 2 have huge followings in the esports sphere, but they’re notoriously intense and hard to grasp at first, making the genre one the gaming community seems to either love or totally ignore. Pokémon Unite will likely be a very distilled, beginner-friendly MOBA, but it’s still a far cry from the usual, single-player RPGs the franchise is known for. Its release on mobile doesn’t help, as many fans associate mobile gaming with poor quality and rampant microtransactions. Pokémon Unite’s “free-to-start” label indicates the latter could indeed apply.
There’s also the matter of Tencent’s involvement. Many gamers see the Chinese company as a negative force in the industry, as it’s known for buying up stock in major publishing companies, creating “clone” mobile games, and has been alleged to give user data to the Chinese government (via The Verge). TiMi Studios, the Tencent development team behind Call of Duty: Mobile, is collaborating with The Pokémon Company on Pokémon Unite, adding to the tension.
Between the hype-building wait period, the non-traditional genre, and the mobile platform, Pokémon Unite seemed doomed to cause fan uproar from the start. The lengthy presentation was necessary to show how the game played, but it’s still odd The Pokémon Company didn’t just extend last week’s Presents to include the MOBA, capping it off with the more universally exciting New Pokémon Snap reveal.
Pokémon Unite will release for Android, iOS, and Nintendo Switch on a not-yet-specified date.