The latest Pokémon game to hit the Nintendo Switch is Pokémon Unite, a free-to-play multiplayer game that reimagines Pokémon as a multiplayer online battle arena, or MOBA, for short. Like many free-to-play games, Pokémon Unite has in-app purchases and uses various currencies, some of which can be unlocked just by playing the game, while others must be purchased with real money. But how bad are the microtransactions, and is Pokémon Unite pay to win? Let's take a closer look at what Pokémon Unite has to offer with our Pokémon Unite microtransaction guide.
What currencies are in Pokémon Unite?
These are five major currencies in Pokémon Unite:
- Aeos Gems: Aeos Gems are Pokémon Unite's premium currency and can only be purchased in the Aeos gem purchase menu with real money.
- Aeos Coins: Aeos Coins can only be obtained through battles or as rewards for events and other sources. There is a weekly cap of 2100 coins per week.
- Aeos Tickets: Aeos Tickets can be obtained as ranked match rewards or through events and other sources.
- Fashion Tickets: Fashion Tickets are a second cosmetic currency that can only be used in the Fashion Ticket Exchange section of the Aeos Emporium. You can earn this currency through Energy Machine rolls or by completing events. Energy Machine rolls are unlocked once you reach Trainer Level 6.
- Holowear Tickets: Holowear Tickets can only be earned through Energy Machine rolls. Holowear tickets can only be spent in the Zirco Trading section of the store.
Is there a battle pass?
Yes, there is a battle pass in Pokémon Unite. Unlocked at Trainer Level 5, the Pokémon Unite battle pass is the fastest to unlock cosmetics for both your trainer and your Pokémon. Buying the battle pass costs 490 Aeos Gems or the equivalent of about $8. Buying the premium pass cost $16, but you'll unlock 10 battle pass levels at once upon purchase.
Most of the unlocks are cosmetic, but you can also earn currencies through the battle pass. You can also earn free unlocks by leveling up your battle pass without paying, but the unlocks are few and far between.
Is Pokémon Unite pay to win?
At first glance, Pokémon Unite isn't exactly free-to-play. Players earn about 30-50 Aeos Coins a match, and additional Pokémon can cost between 5000 to 10000 Aeos Coins, so the grind is significant. However, there are many ways to earn free currencies. You can also get free Unite cards through login bonuses and challenges, so a fair amount of content can be unlocked just by playing the game. Some Pokémon are better than others, but even if you don't spend any money, Pokémon Unite lets you temporarily try certain Pokémon in matches.
Now here's where the lines begin to get blurred. There is a weekly cap on how many Aeos Coins you can earn a week. It'll take at least three weeks to earn enough currency for one of the cheaper Pokémon, not counting daily login bonuses and other events. A grind, but not essentially pay-to-win.
Hold items can also be equipped to Pokémon that offer passive buffs to your Pokémon in battle. While their price tag is more reasonable, they will, by definition, make your Pokémon stronger, giving you a competitive edge. However, you can't buy them with real money, and you must get to at least Trainer Level 10 to fill all three item slots, so while you will be at a disadvantage compared to players who have played longer, you can't pay real money to boost your stats.
The line starts to blue when you consider Item Enhancers, items that can level up Hold items. While you can unlock them by other means, players who shell out cash for the Battle Pass will likely get more Item Enhancers than those who don't, further widening the skill gap. Even worse, you can use Aeos gems in place of Aeos Tickets to buy items and Item Enhancers. This is where you can buy your way to the top.
The grind in Pokémon Unite is pretty bad, and serious players might find that spending money on the game is inevitable, but the hold items can be boosted with your wallet, which is a big problem. It's not all bad though — while there are Pokémon who are better by default, it is possible to grind your way to unlocks. As the game's meta evolves, so will the usefulness of various Pokémon, so a top-tier choice may not be top tier forever. But the fact that you can buy Aeos Tickets with real-world money, means that the odds can shift against you if the other player invests some serious cash.
Play to win
Pokémon Unite is guilty of some egregious grinding, but the pay to win pitfalls are worse here than other free-to-play games on the Nintendo Switch. But if you have younger players playing Pokemon Unite, remember that you can set parental controls to limit their play time and access to payment options.