Pokemon Unite fans are already fed up with “pay-to-win” items

James Busby
Pokemon Unite P2W
The Pokemon Company

Pokemon Unite has received relatively positive reviews for its intuitive gameplay, but fans are concerned that the pay-to-win aspects of the game could ruin its longevity. 

Pokemon Unite is the latest game in the creature collecting franchise. This free-to-play Switch title has ditched the turn-based combat of the mainline series and instead opted for a MOBA battle system. It’s new ground for the flagship Nintendo brand, but fans have been enjoying the new spinoff title.

Like most MOBAs, Pokemon Unite features a healthy roster of creatures that have their own unique abilities. While mastering each ‘mon can drastically improve your KO potential and overall win rate in fights, many fans are worried about Unite’s Held Items. These items offer passive buffs to your Pokemon’s stats, giving them more DPS and survivability. 

While the stats upgrades may seem incremental at first, the added buffs can drastically impact your KO potential. This is particularly true when players spend money to maximize their potency. 

Item Enhancers Pokemon unite
Pokemon Unite
Pokemon Unite’s pay-to-win Item Enhancer system has angered fans.

“I want Unite to succeed as a fun and balanced game I can enjoy with friends, but that’s simply not realistic as things stand,” says wadi-ibiqa. “I’m sure it’ll still be popular and make a ton of pennies for Tencent, but the illusion of competitiveness will wear off quickly for anyone motivated to invest time in the game.”

As it currently stands, Pokemon Unite enables players to upgrade any Held Items with Item Enhancers. These can be purchased with real money and enable those willing to splash some cash an instant advantage over their free-to-play competitors. 

For example, the Muscle Band increases both attack damage and basic attack speed, while the Float Stone increases attack and movement speed. Maximizing the potency of any of the game’s Held Items doesn’t instantly guarantee you a win over your foes, but it does go a long way in making things unbalanced. 

Pokemon Unite Lucario Close Combat image
The Pokemon Company / TiMi Studios
Items that increase damage can greatly impact the game’s overall balance.

This is particularly concerning for those looking to dive into the game’s ranked mode, where players may be tempted to purchase upgrades to carve out an advantage. “Losing because you made a bad play is fair, and helps you improve at the game… losing because the other players spent this month’s rent on upgrades isn’t remotely fun,” continued wadi-ibiqa.

“Always having a doubt in your mind if you won because your Machamp top-lane destroyed his lane thanks to his promotion at work, or if you lost because the enemy Lucario’s dad gave him some pocket money isn’t fun at all.” 

This sentiment was also comically highlighted by MoistCr1TiKaL, where he recently roasted the game for its blatant pay-to-win practices. Not only did the streamer show how unfair Held Item upgrades made the game, but he also found that they trivialized fights that should have otherwise been fair. 

Pokemon Unite Battle Pass Season 1
The Pokemon Company / TiMi Studios / Twitter: @triforcemeg
Microtransactions should be reserved for in-game cosmetics.

So far, the response to Unite’s gameplay have been positive but players are concerned that the monetization aspect will drive away a lot of the community. “This game has so much potential,” says GreatMadWombat. “The number of actively supported, controller-friendly MOBAs is REALLY small. The number already attached to a strong IP? Much smaller. I’d love to see Unite’s P2W stuff stripped for long-term MOBA goodness purposes.”

Other commenters were also keen to note that microtransactions should purely revolve around in-game cosmetics. After all, the Pokemon franchise has plenty of iconic characters that could be used when selling trainer outfits and Pokemon costumes. 

Whether Tencent will adjust the current pay-to-win nature of the game or knuckle down on this area remains to be seen, but for now, it looks like Unite’s community will have to put up with the current unbalanced nature of Held Items.