A new entrant has appeared in the top Nintendo Switch games: Pokemon Unite. The MOBA is the first of its kind on the Switch, and it’s also the first time that Pokemon has ventured into the genre. Plenty of people are downloading and enjoying it for free, but one major issue has already been raised by hardcore fans — Is Pokemon Unite a “pay-to-win” game?
Pokemon Unite’s Pay-To-Win Issue
Pokemon Unite gives you everything you need in order to begin. Yes, you can buy additional Pokemon with real-world money, and yes, you can go wild and buy items from the very start. But it’s also possible to unlock almost everything you’ll need early just by putting in the hours.
However, as the game progresses, you’ll notice that sometimes your enemies just hit harder, and for seemingly no reason. This is all due to boosted items. Pokemon can be equipped with Held Items which increase certain stats or provide in-game benefits. By spending a resource called Item Enhancers, you level these up, making them more powerful.
Recommended: Recon™ Controller – Wired, White
It’s entirely possible to boost your items without paying anything, but you’ll need to grind for it. Even after dozens of hours, you likely still won’t have enough in-game currency to buy every upgrade for a well-rounded set of characters. And when it comes to the Aeos Coins required to purchase new Pokemon from the shop, there’s also a cap as to how much you can earn weekly.
If you’re not ready to hop on the grind and want an advantage from the start, you can buy the currency you need in order to upgrade the items. Players can also purchase a Battle Pass to speed things up. This is what many call pay-to-win — by spending money, a player can be at an advantage against those who don’t pay or haven’t played enough to grind and max their items out.
Popular MOBAs like League of Legends typically encourage players to spend money on cosmetic items but steer clear of anything offering in-game advantages. Because of this, it’s a pretty big deal for Pokemon Unite to have a way for people to spend money and have an easier time winning.
Why the Pay-To-Win Problem is Significant
It’s important to note that the advantages players are getting by spending money aren’t just small — they’re game-changing, especially in a MOBA. Reddit user SpeedRacing1 did some math to show just how intense the pay-to-win aspect is.
Before understanding how the numbers work, it’s worth pointing out that the example below is for items that all focus on HP boosts. The Pokemon you play and items you use will change what stats you’re upgrading, but the idea is still the same.
The items used in SpeedRacing1’s example are the Rocky Helmet, Leftovers, and Buddy Barrier. Here’s the combined benefit of all three at the respective levels:
- At level 1, they provide 54 additional health
- At level 10, they provide 370 additional health
- At level 20, they provide 740 additional health
- At level 30, (Max Level) they provide 1080 health
If you were to max out three items to their full potential, then it would cost over $100. That’s only for one set of items, too. For example, if you maxed out the items above, it’d be great if you were playing a tank character like Snorlax. However, put them on an Alolan Ninetales and it’s basically pointless. Needless to say, it gets pretty expensive to build enough items to play around a random team.
While it’s not always immediately noticeable to players, these items can create a massive difference in the early game. You’ll definitely feel it when trying to chunk down an extra 1000 health the first few minutes of the game. After that point, the items can just let the player snowball and gain a headstart that’s almost impossible to catch.
Things Will Change as Time Goes By
It might seem a dire situation, but there are some specifics to be aware of. If someone has maxed-out items, there’s still no guarantee that the player is going to win. Maxed-out items make the biggest difference at higher skill levels and when there’s a good team composition — that’s not something easy to get when matchmaking with random players.
Additionally, more and more free-to-play players will start catching up as time goes by. It’s difficult to max out items right now because the game hasn’t been out long and there’s a cap on weekly rewards. However, as more weeks go by, more free rewards will be collected so more items can be upgraded. Considering the number of people upset with the idea of a pay-to-win feature, Nintendo might look to even the playing field at some point as well.
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Brittany has been a gaming enthusiast since before she could walk, and she was even given doctor’s orders for video games to help improve hand-eye coordination. She loves any and all games, especially those with great stories or that she can enjoy with friends. Check out her Twitter for what she’s up to @brittany_iline