06 Sep 2021 5:51 PM +00:00

Is Pokémon Unite Pay to Win?

Is Pokémon Unite pay to win? Whether or not a pay to win mechanic exists is a massive point of contention for the F2P game. Skins, characters, avatar customizations, item upgrades, and more all use different coins and tokens that can, for the most part, be easily obtained just by playing the game. But does its microtransaction purchases mean Pokémon Unite is pay to win? Let us explain.

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If the fear of a Pokémon Unite pay to win mechanic hasn't scared you off already, you might want to check out our other guides before you take on a potential whale in your next match. Stats mean nothing without the right strategy. You can learn how to report and block players, how to cancel abilities, and even learn which of the growing Pokémon Unite Licenses you can unlock for free.

What Is Pay to Win?

Pay to win (sometimes abbreviated to P2W) is a term used to describe when a game allows players to spend real money to gain a competitive advantage over non-paying opponents. Most F2P games in this genre offer the ability to spend real money to buy premium currencies that are then used to obtain new characters, skins, and other cosmetics that don't affect the balance of the game.

In the case of a Pokémon Unite, pay to win is baked right in. Albeit sneakily. Real money can be used to buy Aeos Gems which can then be exchanged for the same currency used to upgrade the stats and passive bonuses of Held Items Pokémon take into battle, gaining a distinct early advantage over those who attempt to reach the same point by simply using currency earned through playing the game.

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The Held Item upgrade screen in Pokémon Unite.
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Is Pokémon Unite Pay To Win?

Rather than limit its microtransactions and premium currency to speed up the unlock process of non-competitive cosmetics, the offending Pokémon Unite pay to win mechanic does allow players to gain a district competitive advantage. It's one that can be obtained through regular play, but paying real money will speed up the process. The way this works is through Pokémon Unite Held Items.

Each Pokémon can have three Held Items equipped to it at once, which it brings into each match to gain passive abilities like faster movement speed, higher Physical or Special Attack, and passive health recovery. They also come with small core stat bonuses as well. These can all be obtained with currency earned through regular play, but the issue boils down to the ability to upgrade them with the Item Enhancer currency.

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Once a player reaches Trainer Level nine, they can start using Item Enhancers to level up their Held Items. These can be upgraded up to 30 times, increasing their core stat bonuses with each and their passive bonuses at level 10 and 20 respectively. The Pokémon Unite pay to win mechanic stems from how these Item Enhancers are obtained and how much of an advantage they give to those who upgrade Held Items faster than the non-paying public.

Currently, Item Enhancers can be obtained by raising your Trainer Level, completing Event objectives, exchanging tickets earned through regular play, and as rewards for the free tiers of the Pokémon Unite Battle Pass. This means there is no easily noticeable method to obtain Item Enhancers by using real-world currency.

A prompt allowing the player to buy the Item Enchancer with Aeos Gems, allowing the Pokémon Unite pay to win issue.
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Though the shop doesn't show it, you're able to buy Item Enhancers using paid Aeos Gems when you attempt to buy them without enough Aeos Tickets on hand. Aeos Gems can be exchanged for Aoes Tickets at a 1:1 ratio using this method, which can then be used to buy additional Item Enhancers, allowing you to increase the stat bonuses of Held Items far more quickly than a non-paying player.

As the amount needed to upgrade Held Items increases as its level goes up, so does the cost (or time commitment) needed to max one out and have it reach its full potential. This costs around £40/$40 worth of premium currency per Held Item or around £100/$100 for a full set when bonus Aeos Gems are accounted for.

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Why Do Some Say Pokémon Unite Pay to Win Is a Lie?

In any social media post that calls out the Pokémon Unite pay to win issue, there's always someone who defends it under the guise that it's merely misunderstood. Although it's true that any player can reach the same point as someone who buys Aeos Gems to upgrade their Held Items, that doesn't mean the Pokémon Unite pay to win mechanic doesn't exist. It does.

This is because the method allows players to pay to get ahead of a time commitment or grind while still being pairing against those who are trying to earn their Held Items levels through regular play. It's like having a bunch of pre-teens face highschool students in a football match. They're fundamentally imbalanced and thus don't create a fair playing field: something which competitive sport relies on to stay competitive.

Has Pokémon Unite Pay to Win Been Patched Yet?

As of September 6, the Pokémon Unite pay to win mechanic is still in the game. It's becoming less and less of an issue as F2P players slowly accumulate more Item Enhancers through gameplay, but the issue of premium players having a stat advantage remains in the game.