Can Pokémon UNITE become an eSport?
As soon as the game was released, or even announced, there were many speculations as to whether or not Pokémon UNITE would have the potential to become an eSport.
Simply because MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) games generally are the most susceptible to grow into one. And of course, Pokémon fans are eager to see their favorite IP develop a game that would finally join the eSport rank.
A few weeks into the release, while there is no definite answer yet, we certainly have a much better idea of its actual potential.
What defines an eSport game?
Many have tried to define what it takes to be an eSport title as there is no clear definition. One thing is certain, no game launches as an eSport title.
Some say that the game simply has to rely on a competitive aspect, which can transpire in different ways. League of Legends, Call of Duty or Street Figther have now become prime examples of what eSports games are or can be as they clearly involve a team competitive aspect as the core feature of the game that isn’t affected by any monetization mechanics other than cosmetics. That said, it doesn’t prevent games that are normally aimed as a single player or speedrun core mechanic like Tetris or even Super Mario 64 to grow into an eSport later on based on how the community end up using them that can ultimately be exploited competitively.
In the end, all that to say that while some games are created with a predilection towards eSport, any game can ultimately grow into one based on a secondary or even completely external mechanic of the game.
What does this mean for Pokémon UNITE?
As mentioned earlier, clearly, Pokémon UNITE being a core MOBA game gives it a higher predilection towards eventually growing into an eSport title.
That being said, considering that the game includes an important monetization aspect that ultimately affects the players’ perfomance, it also means that it cannot be technically considered as one from launch as it will require time for all players to perform on equal levels.
However, UNITE is lucky to have both TiMi Studio and Tencent (League of Legends, Arena of Valor, PUBG Mobile, League of Legends: Wild Rift, etc.) behind it, as both are clearly strong eSports infrastructures; given the title a decent chance at ever growing into one itself.
Furthermore, while UNITE is not yet released on mobile devices (expected in September, 2021), both groups (TiMi Studio and Tencent) play important role in leading and supporting mobile games into eSports; giving an additional chance for UNITE.
What do eSports’ organizations have to say?
To be thorough, we reached out to a large variety of eSports related organizations (Teams, eSports Journals, eSports Analysts, etc.) and there seems to be a very clear consensus.
Why, you may ask.
Multiple reasons were stated. Either they didn’t believe that Pokémon UNITE could be sustainable on its own as a strong competitive game compared to other current MOBA titles availble; or that The Pokémon Company would actually allow for any time or financial investment to take place.
Most of the groups we reached out to gave us a clear and simple as to why this would be, and the concensus is that (as stated by Trent Murray, Senior Writer for the Sports Business Journal) “UNITE is an extremely shallow MOBA, it lacks the skill expression that drives Smash players to literally fight the publisher in order to keep playing competitively.”
And we must agree, that is something we strongly agree with. While UNITE is a VERY enjoyable game, for the time being and forseeable future, it remains that the game strongly lacks the depth (and even online competitive features and tools) that one can experience playing other MOBA or eSports games.
With all that being said, one thing remains: Pokémon UNITE is still in very eary stages. Much will change (or so we anticipate) in the game and outside the game (community, competition, etc.).
While it also remains unlikely for The Pokémon Company to push towards a sustainable and competitive model for Pokémon UNITE, keep in mind that some unaffiliated groups have opted to create tournaments of their own (UNITE Stadium and the Pokémon UNITE subreddit are two of them).
While this might be all that those in search of a competitive fix may get, keep in mind that Pokémon UNITE, in comparison to eSports titles, lacks depth.
As we stated earlier, the game remains a VERY enjoyable MOBA nonetheless.
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