While Inverse speculated that The Pokémon Company's special project for the June 24 presentation could be anything from a new Super Smash Bros. Ultimate character to a new mainline game, what was actually shown turned out to be much more unexpected. The game in question is Pokémon Unite, a MOBA that resembles League of Legends with Pokémon for Nintendo Switch and mobile.
Because The Pokémon Company called this project a "team battle" game and the presentation included a lot of jarring cuts, it may be a bit difficult to parse what Pokémon Unite is exactly. To help, we've rounded up everything we know about the game, including its developer and how the game plays.
Is Pokémon Unite a MOBA?
While The Pokémon Company and Tencent only refer to Pokémon Unite as a "team battle" game, looking at gameplay clearly indicates that this is a MOBA, a multiplayer online battle arena game. These are real-time strategy games in which teams of players compete against each other to capture or destroy specific points on a map while engaging in direct combat alongside AI-controlled enemies.
Games like League of Legends and DOTA 2 are the best points of comparison to learn more about this genre. Pokémon Unite falls into all of the same trappings as a MOBA. Teams of five will choose a Pokémon and then attempt to score the most points by gaining control over a playable area.
How do Pokémon Unite matches work?
Over the course of the match, you'll have to catch the wild Pokémon and fight the other players scattered across the map to level up your team and start racking up points. You get these points added to your team's total by standing uninterrupted for a brief period in one of the enemy's goals. The ultimate aim of each match is to score more points than the other team within the time limit. True to most MOBAS, there are several ways to achieve that.
This presents a pretty accessible premise for a MOBA that appears to rely less on players directly fighting each other to win, and more on direct progression and area control. You'll still want to fight other players to prevent them from claiming any points on your goals.
For combat, each Pokémon will have several recognizable moves as well as one powerful and special "Unite Move." The game won't feature type advantages like typical Pokémon games, so fights are more about strategy and tactics than pure advantages built into your team composition.
Which Pokémon are in Pokémon Unite?
When it comes to Pokémon players can directly control, this trailer confirms that Pikachu, Blastoise, Charizard, Venasaur, Clefable, Machamp, Gengar, Snorlax, Lucario, and Talonflame can all be used. As Pokemon Unite also features an evolution mechanic, it's safe to assume that Pichu, Raichu, Squirtle, Wartortle, Charmander, Charmeleon, Bulbasaur, Ivysaur, Cleffa, Clefairy, Machop, Machoke, Gastly, Haunter, Munchlax, Riolu, Fletchling, and Fletchinder all also made the cut.
Outside of those playable characters, Inverse also spotted Stuffle, Aipom, Toxicroak, Rotom, and Altaria during the gameplay segment of the showcase.
What platforms will Pokémon Unite be available for?
The June 24 reveal presentation confirms that Pokémon Unite will be a free-to-play game for both Nintendo Switch and mobile devices. While MOBAs are popular on PC as well, it doesn't seem like Pokémon will make that jump anytime soon. The game's user interface seems to be set up very well for a touch screen, so it will probably be most enjoyable on Switch in handheld mode.
An "in-app purchases available" disclaimer in the trailer also confirms that Pokémon Unite will have microtransactions. On the bright side, The Pokémon Company also confirmed that it will feature cross-play between the Nintendo Switch and mobile versions of the game, so you'll be able to play with friends easily.
Is Game Freak developing Pokémon Unite?
No. Game Freak, the studio behind most Pokémon games, is not developing Pokémon Unite. Instead, it's being developed through a collaboration between The Pokémon Company and Tencent, the massive Chinese conglomerate that's also behind MOBAs like League of Legends.
Specifically, a newer studio within Tencent called TiMi is handling the development of Pokémon Unite. Even though Tencent is a somewhat controversial company to many western gamers, one can't deny that its MOBA experience makes them a good fit for Pokémon Unite. This also means that Game Freak can solely focus on Sword and Shield's DLC and whatever new mainline Pokémon game is next.
When is the Pokemon Unite release date?
Unfortunately, no firm release window was given for Pokémon Unite during the June 24 special presentation. Towards the end of the showcase, The Pokémon Company CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara simply said, "We look forward to sharing more details in the future about when we plan to launch the game."
While no release window currently exists, it's definitely possible that this game could enter beta sometime this year. That said, a full launch across all platforms may not come until 2021 depending on how Pokémon Unite is received during its soft beta launch.
Pokemon Unite will come to Nintendo Switch, iOS, and Android.