Pokemon Unite

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Is Pokemon Unite: Pay to Win?

Abhimannu Das
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The release of Pokemon Unite has lead many to question if the game is a pay to win title. While the new free-to-play game created by TiMi Studios in partnership with Nintendo, has no upfront cost, there are purchasable bundles in Pokemon Unite. However, unlike Fortnite or League of Legends where most of these consist of cosmetics and skins that don't affect your performance or give you some advantage, Pokemon Unite allows real money to be spent not only on cosmetics, but also on item enhancing boosts, which gives players a significant advantage in each game. This has lead to a few including Reddit users SpeedRacing1, Not_Nathan_Drake and YouTuber Moistc1tikal calling the game pay to win.

Is Pokemon Unite pay to win?

What is a Pay to Win Game?

Although no official definition for Pay to win exists, we consider it as any system where a player can purchase something with real money to give you access to gameplay advantages, which can't be obtained with a trivial amount of effort through the gameplay itself.

Pokemon Unite consists of some of these elements

Each time you play a match, you control one Pokemon. As you defeat opponents and wild pokemon, your Pokemon levels up and evolves so as to earn points. Before battle though, you can also equip held items which gives your Pokemon special buffs like increased health regen, increased movement speed, etc.

You can upgrade these items using 'Item enhancers' which can boost the stats of these held items. These item enhancers are permanently available in your inventory and can give you a significant advantage over your teammates.

Item enhancers can only be purchased using Aeos Tickets and Aeos Coins, in-game currencies that you earn through battling and completing challenges. Coins are received as a reward for each game played, but you only obtain a minimal amount per game and there is a weekly limit on how many you can obtain.

If you don't have enough Aeos Tickets, the game will suggest you purchase item enhancers with Aeos Gems instead. These can be purchased directly with real-life money. So with a few dollars, you can make your Pokémon significantly more powerful than someone who doesn't spend money on the game.

This fits our definition of pay-to-win and hence we can consider Pokemon Unite as a pay-to-win game.

It’s worth noting, that most PC MOBAs like Dota 2, League of Legends or SMITE despite having some features that are locked behind a pay-wall, most of these are cosmetic in nature and do not necessarily have pay-to-win elements, at least not to the extent of Pokemon Unite.

Note: An earlier version of the article did not consider Pokemon Unite a pay-to-win article. But it has since been corrected after further investigation into the game's mechanics.

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Abhimannu is a part of the content team at AFK Gaming and a lifelong obsessive gamer. He currently covers esports titles like VALORANT, CS: GO, Call of Duty, Fortnite, PUBG and more.