This Pokémon Sword and Shield exploit is ruining online play for other gamers

Pokemon Sword and Shield screenshots
Pokemon Sword and Shield screenshots (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Pokémon Sword and Shield released on November 15.
  • Max Raid Battles are a new aspect of Sword and Shield that makes it so online players can battle and catch a Pokémon together in the Wild Area.
  • Gamers have found that they can exploit a game weakness by changing the date on their Switch. This, in turn, changes which Pokémon show up in the Max Raid Battles.
  • Players use this weakness to farm Watts, the Wild Area currency and find super-powerful Pokémon.
  • This leaves users who aren't using the cheat at a disadvantage and often kicks them out of the Max Raid Battle matchmaking process.
  • It's rumored that Game Freak is releasing an update soon that will make this exploit go away.

Pokémon Sword and Shield have only been out for a couple of weeks. The games brought with them several new experiences that hadn't been seen before in the Pokémon RPGs. One such experience comes with Max Raid Battles. This allows players to go online and battle a powerful Pokémon with others. Different Pokémon spawn each day, so you never quite know which one you'll come across when exploring the Wild Area section of Sword and Shield.

However, recently, it's become incredibly hard for some gamers to join a Max Raid Battle. The game will tell them that there was a connection issue or simply won't work. It turns out, this is often actually due to other players cheating the system. Basically, people exploiting the system will check a Pokémon den, the area where these Pokémon spawn from, and if they don't see something they like, they'll change the date on their Switch and look again. However, this makes it so that the people trying to join the Max Raid Battle lobbies just receive error codes and can't get into a raid.

What's more, players are using this exploit to gather Watts, the in-game currency found in the Wild Area. This makes it so these players can easily purchase rare items, goodies, and upgrades only available in the Wild Area. Game Freak hasn't confirmed anything, but it's rumored that an update is coming soon that will get rid of this exploit. Until then, online matchmaking for Max Raid Battles in Pokémon Sword and Shield is a bit of a nightmare. You're lucky if you can actually get through to the battle.

If you have friends who're also playing the games, you're in luck. Sword and Shield prioritize matchmaking you with your friends over matchmaking you with random players online. That means you're less likely to get kicked out of a Max Raid Battle if you attempt to do one with friends. We hope Game Freak fixes this problem soon, cause it's making it really frustrating to join Max Raid Battles at present.

Rebecca Spear
Gaming Editor

Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.