A week ago today, The Pokémon Company aired an 11 minute Pokémon Presents! in which several new games and features were introduced. The DLC Expansion Pass Isle of Armor was launched, three new Pokémon games were announced, and several new features for Pokémon GO were announced. This video was overwhelmingly well received, garnering over 100,000 likes to a paltry 6,700 dislikes. The highlights included a new Pokémon Snap game that had long time fans of the franchise crying tears of joy. The video ended with a promise of even more Pokémon news in one week. In case you missed it, you can watch last week's Pokémon Presents! here:
This week, fans were understandably excited for another Pokémon Presents! Many fans had high hopes for remakes of the Gen IV games Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, while others expected a Let's Go! remake of the Gen II games Pokémon Gold and Silver. Even those of us who didn't know what to expect figured there would be multiple games and features announced as this Pokémon Presents! would be another 11 minutes. Here's what we got instead:
We got a few seconds of acknowledgement about Pokémon Café Mix (which went live last night) following by the introduction of Pokémon Unite. Partnering with Tencent, the China based company behind League of Legends, The Pokémon Company will be producing a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) that will offer crossplatform play on the Switch, iOS, and Android. Much like Pokémon Café Mix, Pokémon Unite will be "free to start" — meaning it will contain mircrotransactions.
At the start of writing this article, today's Pokémon Presents! had a paltry 46,000 likes to 80,000 dislikes and by the time I finished it was 53,000 likes to 97,000 dislikes. Twitter is abuzz with fans deeply disappointed with this announcement. While League of Legends and MOBA games certainly have their fan bases, more fans seemed disappointed with the week of waiting for the announcement of a single game.
Personally, my disappointment started last night when Pokémon Café Mix went live. For the record, I actually enjoy Pokémon Café Mix and my youngest is playing it as we speak. It's a fun and unique puzzle game with adorable graphics. Had it launched solely on mobile, I probably wouldn't be writing this piece at all. However, like the upcoming Pokémon Unite, Café Mix is available on both the Nintendo Switch and on mobile devices.
The Switch is a great console. I was skeptical at launch that it would be able to fill the roles of both console and handheld, but it does that very well. It's mostly family friendly too. From its incredible durability to the plethora of kid friendly games, I'm generally comfortable handing a Switch to even the smallest of my nieces and nephews. Sure, there are a handful of rated M games available for purchase, but they're both easy to avoid and unlikely to appeal to small kids.
Pokémon Café Mix, however, is definitelty designed to appeal to kids. As a kid at heart, I love it, but I also recognize I'm not the target demo. So, when they announced that Pokémon Café Mix would be "free to start", I had my concerns. Last night, those concerns were justified. Within just a few minutes of playing Café Mix, I was offered this bit of mail: "The Special Pikachu Pack is now available."
For $4 USD, I was able to purchase Pikachu, along with some boosts and golden acorns.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to microtransactions in general. In fact, I have no problem regularly buying PokéCoins in Pokémon Go, as well as paid research and more. I've played tons of mobile games over the years and to be honest, I've probably spent more in microtransactions than I have on console games in recent years.
That's on my phone though. If I'm handing a phone to a kid, I'll have in app purchases disabled. There won't be credit card information saved to it at all.
I've never had to worry about that with the Switch. Plenty of games on Xbox and Playstation have microtransactions, but they're relatively new to the Switch, and personally, I think it takes away from the kid friendly nature of the console itself.
On the plus side, the microtransactions in Pokémon Café Mix are definitely not neccessary to play. Pikachu is cute, for sure, but having him hasn't made a difference to my gameplay. Pikachu and Charmander have the same recommendations, and Charmander was both free and easy to recruit.
The other packages include many useful boosts and golden acorns, the in game currency that you can earn just by beating levels. The boosts are also rewards for progressing in the game, so as near as I can tell, these microtransactions are mostly about saving time. It's even possible that Pikachu might become available for free later in the game.
However, there was also no need for this game or the upcoming Pokémon Unite to be on the Switch at all. Café Mix is available on iOS and Android and Pokémon Unite will be as well. More worrying than Café Mix, Pokémon Unite seems to be the type of game where microtransactions often become necessary to play competitively.
These "free to start" games run just fine on mobile devices where microtransactions and the "pay-to-play" model are the norm. Ideally, I'd like to see these "free to start" games exclusively on mobile, but if Nintendo is going to continue marketing these types of games on the Switch, I hope that the paid elements aren't necessary to really enjoy the games.
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Casian Holly has been writing about gaming at iMore since 2019, but their real passion is Pokémon. From the games to the anime, cards and toys, they eat, sleep, and breathe all things Pokémon. You can check out their many Pokémon Go and Pokémon Sword and Shield guides and coverage here on iMore.