Pokémon Unite Just Massively Leveled The Playing Field Against ‘Pay To Win’

Pokémon Unite Just Massively Leveled The Playing Field Against ‘Pay To Win’
Image: TiMi Studio Group

Since release, it’s been difficult to talk about the merits of pocket monster MOBA Pokémon Unite. The fun factor was there, though largely obscured by TiMi Studio Group’s monetisation practices, which allow you to boost items with real-world money. But with Wednesday’s big new patch, Pokémon Unite is now way more generous to players who don’t want to pull out their wallets.

Previously, Pokémon could hold items that affected their in-game abilities, or confer a variety of stat buffs. There’s an item, for example, that increases your HP every time you land a goal. All items could be leveled to a 30th rank via an in-game currency that you could earn through normal playtime, without spending money. The problem was, once you hit around level 20, continuing to pump the items further became an enormous grind. Theoretically, you could indeed max out items without spending money, but the game doles out the currency so sparsely that it would likely take months just to top off a single item. Your Pokémon can carry three of these, and likely, you’re using more than one character to better suit the needs of your team comp. It was much, much easier to just buy your way out of those final 10 levels.

Now, as someone who has reached Master rank and is now around 250 hours in, I feel confident in saying that the small stat bonuses conferred by these items are no match whatsoever against a coordinated, objective-based team. Your ability to, say, stay alive 1% more than usual, as a random example, means jack shit if you’re not scoring, or if you’re up against a counter-pick that has specific tools to thoroughly demolish you. Still, I acknowledge that it’s shitty to have this type of monetisation exist at all.

Things are now different. With September’s space-themed patch, which includes a long list of balance tweaks and new customisation options, TiMi Studio Group has introduced an entirely new type of item, the Super Item Enhancer. These advanced Enhancers can be earned via an event that is extremely easy to obtain. You get one for level 10, 12, and 14 — and since I’m level 40, I logged in this morning automatically meeting the requirements to get the Enhancers. Anyone who has been playing regularly will likely experience the same thing.

And damn, are they powerful. A single coin will max out the level on any item of your choosing, which, yay! But the best part is, should the item you use it on already be midway through its levels, the new Enhancers will “refund” you the difference. So, for example, I used an Enhancer coin on an item that was level 25, which boosted it to 30, only to find I then had thousands of normal Enhancers left. Those were then promptly used for other things I needed to level. Now I’ve got multiple loadouts at their peak performance.

The new event menu for Super Enhancers in Pokémon Unite, which boost your items to level 30. (Screenshot: TiMi Studio Group / Kotaku) The new event menu for Super Enhancers in Pokémon Unite, which boost your items to level 30. (Screenshot: TiMi Studio Group / Kotaku)

So while you are only given three of these souped-up enhancers through the event, in practice, they might help you level more than three items. But at the very least, it’s enough to max out a loadout on your favourite Pokémon. So now, everyone gets maxed out items, not just the people who paid their way there.

Also new: There are now “Max Grade Trial Cards,” which allow you to temporarily crank whatever item you’d like to level 30. They last a week, and can be earned via an in-game event that is also incredibly simple. You just have to complete battles while holding an item. You were probably going to do that anyway, and the number of matches needed to get a handful of cards is fairly low. So whatever you didn’t get to permanently upgrade, you still get to enjoy at its full potential.

Another thing easing this tension is the addition of a wider variety of challenges, events, and the new season pass. And they’re generous, too! One event earlier in the year had items that, if completed, gave you like two item enhancers each. What the hell can you even do with that? But now, the incentives to keep playing are way more better. Skimming through them, I see a variety of challenges offering at least 150 item Enhancers each, or hundreds of tickets that can be converted into Enhancers. And they’re all fairly easy to obtain, if you play regularly. We’re talking like, “play as a support five times” level of ease here. You’re going to complete some of these challenges without actively trying to.

This is just the start of what’s about to be a massive shift for the Pokémon Unite community. At the end of the month, the first season officially ends. Those of us who punish ourselves by playing ranked will then be awarded thousands more tickets that can be used for Enhancers, among other things. That, too, will likely mean many people get to max out their items without spending a dime. Couple that with a new influx of mobile players who have crossplay, and the entire Pokémon Unite landscape now rests upon active tectonic plates.

When everyone has access to the same advantages, the frustration surrounding this cutesy MOBA is sure to ease up. And thank god for that; now I don’t have to perpetually justify my enjoyment of what is genuinely a great game under all those Enhancers, tickets, and gems. Plus, with TiMi Studio Group continuing to update the game and add more characters on a regular basis, the future of Pokémon Unite seems bright indeed.

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