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Everything you need to know about Pokémon Unite, Tencent's new MOBA

A Pokémon battle arena!?

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The Pokémon Company is working with Tencent to create a Pokémon MOBA for the series’ 25th anniversary!

This Pokémon game isn’t a turn-based RPG, however. It’s part of the MOBA strategy game subgenre that League of Legends normally dominates.

Because The Pokémon Company called this project a "team battle" game, the initial reveal in June 2020 included many jarring cuts, and it hasn’t been talked about much since 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.

But first: What are your favorite games and platforms of 2021, and what future releases are you most excited about? Take our poll!

When is the Pokémon Unite release date?

Around a year after its initial announcement, Tencent and The Pokémon Company gave a firm release window for the Nintendo Switch and mobile versions of Pokémon Unite. The MOBA will be released for Nintendo Switch in July 2021 and for mobile in September 2021.

This release follows a Closed Beta that was held on Android devices in Canada in March 2021.

Is there a trailer for Pokémon Unite?

A new trailer for Pokémon Unite was finally released alongside the release window announcement. It’s a cinematic trailer highlighting many of the Pokémon that players can use in the final game. Check it out below:

If you want to have a better idea of how the game plays, you can watch a trailer from last year. You can watch that below as well!

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, just with a unique Pokémon flair.

How do Pokémon Unite matches work?

Over the course of a match teams of five will choose a Pokémon and then attempt to score the most points by defeating Pokémon and then bringing their Aoes energy to their team’s goal zone. Each match's ultimate aim 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.

Pokémon do start each match at level 1, but can level up and even evolve by using Aoes energy. Players can also anticipate that the different stadiums they fight in will have different layouts and sometimes even modifications to the game’s rules.

Pokemon Unite is a multi-lane MOBA.The Pokemon Company

Which Pokémon are in Pokémon Unite?

When it comes to Pokémon players can directly control, Pokémon Unite will have 19 playable ones at launch. These are all split into five different classes: Attacker, Defender, Speedster, All-Rounder, and Supporter. Some are also more difficult to use than others, with difficulty levels ranging from novice to expert.

The following 19 Pokémon are confirmed for Pokémon Unite:

  1. Pikachu
  2. Charizard
  3. Snorlax
  4. Crustle
  5. Greninja
  6. Eldegoss
  7. Talonflame
  8. Lucario
  9. Venusaur
  10. Mr. Mime
  11. Slowbro
  12. Absol
  13. Machamp
  14. Wigglytuff
  15. Alolan Nintetales
  16. Cramorant
  17. Gengar
  18. Garchomp
  19. Cinderace.

The pre-evolutions and evolutions of these Pokémon can also be expected. As such, you might see Pichu, Raichu, Charmander, Charmeleon, Munchlax, Dwebble, Froakie, Frogadier, Gossifluer, Fletchling, Fletchinder, Riolu, Bulbasaur, Ivysaur, Mime Jr., Slowpoke, Machop, Machoke, Igglybuff, Jigglypuff, Alolan Vulpix, Gastly, Haunter, Gible, Gabite, Scorbunny, and Raboot during a match.

Inverse has also spotted Blastoise, Stuffle, Aipom, Clefable, Toxicroak, Rotom, and Altaria in promotional materials. It’s possible that some of these are just wild Pokémon or might be added to the game’s rost post-launch.

What platforms will Pokémon Unite be available for?

The June 24, 2020 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, 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. This does mean the game will feature microtransactions. Real money can be used to buy Aeos gems. In turn, these are used to get Unite licenses for new Pokémon as well as Pokémon held items and trainer cosmetic items.

These can also be purchased with the non-paid Aoes Coins and Aeos Tickets currency, though these will obviously be unlocked through gameplay at a slower rate.

Microtransactions will unlock new cosmetic items, Pokemon, and held items for players.The Pokemon Company

On the bright side, The Pokémon Company also confirmed that it would feature cross-play and cross-progression between the Nintendo Switch and mobile versions of the game, so you'll be able to play with friends easily.

It’s a one-time thing for this game, though, as Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa said, “It was decided that given the genre of the game and the anticipated player population, a cross-platform format was appropriate.”

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.

Pokemon Unite will be released for Nintendo Switch, iOS, and Android.

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