The Pokémon Esports Scene Is Getting Over Some Rough Edges

Ever since the COVID epidemic, Pokémon esports have been in a strange state. With locals and regionals being scarce since late 2022 for VGC (Video Game Championship) players. However, for TCG (Trading Card Game) and Pokémon GO players, tournaments have been plentiful. 

Earlier on July 20th, The Pokemon Company announced that it would be canceling the Yokohama Open at the World Championships this year. The Open at each Worlds carries over points for those who couldn’t make it in the main tournament, to next year. The points, called CP or Championship Points are what is rewarded for winning tournaments. If you get enough of them, you can earn an invitation to Worlds! The Open is especially important because it can reward you with more than half the amount of CP you need for next year’s Worlds.

A Lack of Communication

Why did they cancel it? No explanation was given, and many players are rightfully annoyed after spending money on travel plans just a few weeks before Worlds kicks off on Friday the 11th of August. I interviewed two high ranking VGC players about the event being canceled, and their thoughts on it.

The first player I interviewed was Caleb “Cable” Ryor. He’s played VGC every year since he attended his first regional in Newark, NJ in 2010. New England VGC locals is where he considers his home.

Pokémon Esports player  Caleb "Cable" Ryor
Caleb “Cable” Ryor pictured at a Pokemon regional tournament

The second is Adrien “ColdingLight” Hurley, another one of the top ranking players in New England. They were both eager to share their thoughts on the state of Pokémon’s esports scene.

Pokemon Esports player  Adrien “ColdingLight” Hurley
Pokemon VGC player Adrien “ColdingLight” Hurley at Worlds London 2022

Pokémon Esports Players Are Rightfully Frustrated

Marco: “Are you frustrated with how TPCi has been handling tournaments this year? Why is that?”

Cable: “Not more than most years for the NA circuit, but there is no reason for why the Japanese and Korean circuits have to be such dreadful experiences. Nothing much to say on that matter that hasn’t already been said. The Japanese and Korean circuits use an in-game ladder tournament (Global Challenges) for their players to qualify for their National Championships. This year it was even more atrocious as there were a slew of errors with the tournament that caused them to have to run it again for players. This made them change the qualifications for their nationals and Worlds for  them and being an even bigger mess.”

Adrien: “It really sucks, I don’t understand what their game plan is at this point. Usually a game format ends when Worlds starts and the new format begins after worlds. This year was different for regionals, there was one I wanted to go to compared to the others. But for some reason they decided to only have TCG and GO at the Baltimore convention center.”

Marco: “What are your theories as to why there’s been so few locals? Do you think COVID has something to do with it?”

Cable: “No need to theorize really- they’re already coming back big in the TCG and VGC is typically a side thought for their decision making so ours will come back strong as well. They just played it very cautiously this past year as the whole returned to some semblance of normalcy post pandemic.”

Adrien: “When locals came back, the first month it was only TCG and GO players. We’ve had several regionals where TCG and GO players could participate but not VGC players. It wasn’t until after December where VGC players could play in regionals, and we didn’t have locals until this May. If it was about COVID you wouldn’t have the TCG players play first, because it’s the most physical. You have to cut the opponent’s deck, that’s something that is expected of you. VGC doesn’t have that, we maybe fist bump, say GG’s and that’s it. It doesn’t make sense.”

The Road to Worlds

Worlds London 2022 was a big hit!

Marco: “Would you say that this year has been harder to qualify for worlds? How much so?”

Cable: “As someone who attended 7 regionals and NAIC and narrowly missed their invite it would make sense for me to say that it was harder this year but I don’t believe so. We have had much harder to qualify years with locals but the big issue certainly was regionals being the main way of getting said points. The best balance is always going to be a mix of regionals and locals  performances with a chance at nationals.”

Adrien: “Absolutely! On January 6th-8th our very first regional came back to the San Diego convention center, we were finally able to play again. You don’t usually get the bulk of your CP from regionals, it’s from locals. That’s where most people get them from. Unless you’re placing well in regionals left and right, which very few people are doing. It’s primarily locals, that’s where people burn their weekends at. You win it, you get 30 points, you do it again, then again, until you cap.

We have some Global Challenges, and for whatever reason they decided to spike up the CP rewards for it. It’s a large leaderboard competition, where you play one game with people, closed teamsheets (which is miserable with terastallization being a polarizing mechanic). It’s harder to predict what they are doing, you make the wrong move and you lose because you planned around a different terastallization. Other tournaments give you open team sheets where you can see what their team composition is.”

Travel Plans in the Can

Marco: “Did you already make travel expenses hoping to participate in the Open?”

Cable: “Yes but I also booked my Worlds flights back in April and thought I would be able to obtain my invite this year. Even without it though I didn’t expect an Open at Worlds in Japan with how their circuit is and how the majority of players that would be playing in something like this wouldn’t even get any benefits from championship points. That said it really is unprofessional for them to announce it and then weeks prior to just take it away.”

Adrien: “I didn’t qualify for worlds and nor did I plan for it. I’ll be honest with you, the Open is why many people go to Worlds. It’s this large scale international numbers event that people enjoy. I know I almost won the DC Open way back when. Now that they’re deciding to cancel it for seemingly no reason about 3 weeks before worlds? That’s appalling, that’s never happened.”

More Rocky Roads for Pokémon esports

That’s not the only set of issues the Pokémon esports scene has. Many tournaments have been going over capacity, sending hundreds of people home who signed up for a regional tournament. For example, over 800+ people signed up for the Oceania regional, but it only had a 250 person cap! 

The Pokémon Company needs to step it up when it comes to their growing esports scene, or it’ll end up being severely stunted.


Games Journalist, Competitive Pokemon/VGC Player, Content Creator

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