Is Pokémon Unite Pay to Win?

What’s the verdict?

Image via Nintendo

Whenever a free-to-play game comes out, players are careful to jump straight into the deep end with it and play it all the time. Unfortunately, Free-to-play games sometimes have a bad reputation of becoming pay to win, which means players will consistently win and be better than others by speaking real-world money to unlock certain things. Pokémon Unite is one of those free-to-play games that players are cautious of upon its release. Is Pokémon Unite pay to win?

At the launch of Pokémon Unite, it almost feels that way. If you were to use real-world money in Pokémon Go, you’d be able to purchase Aeos Gems, Aeos Tickets, or Aeos Coins. You can use Aeos Coins and Aeos Tickets to unlock Pokémon licenses to use them in matches against other players, which means there will be players who immediately unlock certain Pokémon, or even all of them, while others who are free-to-play have to play through matches and earn enough Aeos Coins to unlock all of them. Another thing players have to do is unlock held items.

The held items will passively boost certain traits of your Pokémon and give them boosts of stats during a Pokémon Unite match so long as they meet certain parameters. For example, if your Pokémon is using the item Sp. Atk Specs, when they successfully score a goal, your Pokémon’s Special Attack increases, boosting their strength and making them harder to fight. You have to unlock this item in the Aeos Emporium, and you can choose to unlock them through Aeos Coins or Aeos Tickets.

You have to choose if you want to unlock more Pokémon or more held items. However, for those who spend enough real-world currency in exchange for Aeos Coins or Tickets, they’re going to have access to all of the items. In contrast, those who are strictly free-to-play have to play Pokémon Unite matches, complete daily challenges and focus on specific tasks to earn more of these two currencies.

Placing this all on the table, it does feel like Pokémon Unite does strongly favors players who are willing to spend real-world money on it. However, while it’s understandable that the developers of a free-to-play game do want players to spend money to some capacity, there should be more focus on cosmetics rather than buying items and unlocking new Pokémon to use.

For now, at the launch of Pokémon Unite on the Nintendo Switch, for players who are eager to grind and play the game, we highly recommend it. The matches are fun, fast-paced, and engaging in the five-versus-five arena with the enemy and wild Pokémon you have to defeat. But it does feel like it favors a player who can drop money to grab all of the items and Pokémon they need right from the start. We’d like to see this changed moving forward before the game releases to mobile devices.