Pokemon Finally Has A MOBA, So Where’s The MMO?

Pokemon has been branching into other genres more than ever in recent years, tackling augmented reality, ‘open-world’, and even MOBAs, but Nintendo is still being skittish about MMOs. Massively multiplayer games are all the rage right now – just look at Final Fantasy 14’s log-in queues or New World’s short-lived yet monumental buzz. There’s a hankering for these collaborative worlds, a gap to be filled, and Pokemon is the perfect setting – so much so that there are over a dozen fan-made ones already out there whether it’s TemTem or Pokemon Revolution. Nintendo would be remiss not to at least try.

Pokemon is about trainers adventuring across the globe to complete their Pokedex while fighting other trainers to be the very best. There are gyms, whole regions to discover, and nefarious plots from crooked capitalist companies. It writes itself. Why fight NPC trainers when you could bump into other players? We’re told that kids get their own ‘mons and venture out into the larger world all the time, so why don’t we see more of it? Pokemon is a lively universe but the core games don’t reflect that, not like an MMO would.

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That shone more than ever in the fan-made ones. I used to play a lot of PokeMMO in secondary school, rushing home to boot up my crappy hand-me-down Dell desktop so I could load in and explore Kanto with my buds, catching ‘mons in the tall grass together. Pokemon’s always been something to share with others, a passion that’s communal – the trading cards, collecting version exclusives, and now things are even more collaborative in Go. It’s strange that Nintendo hasn’t tapped into that worldwide community feel with something a bit more complimentary.

Lavender Town from Pokémon Red and Blue

My best memories aren’t the single-player games. They’re not the times I caught legendaries in a dimly lit cave, one-shot trainer after trainer with an over levelled Infernape, or when I finally got my first Shiny. My best memories are the ones I spent with my friends – trading a Starly for a Gyarados, getting my ass handed to me in an MMO because I refused to get rid of Bidoof, or walking around Newcastle on my birthday with Feebas, catching ‘mons on my phone while my mate and I talked about the good old days.

I still cherish that literal coming together where you’re face-to-face, touching your DS’, but the wider global community is shuttered out because Nintendo’s approach is growingly analogue. It’s desperate to cling onto what multiplayer gaming was, often ignoring what it can be. Unite got that. It’s a MOBA that’s easier to get into and you can play it with anyone anywhere, bringing Pokemon fans from all over the world together to battle it out. There are no restrictions. With a leading global franchise that’s still rising in popularity, it only makes sense to give the fans a place to come together and celebrate that love.

dratini in pokemon unite aka dragonite level 1

Unite isn’t that. It’s a fun pastime that you’ll get annoyed with if you take it too seriously or bored of if you don’t. It’s essentially League of Legends with a neat Pokemon aesthetic. But the main games are the perfect template for an MMO – give them a multiplayer component, overhaul gyms to make them into ‘dungeons’ for raid parties, or add literal dungeons in the form of caves and ancient ruins. The potential is limitless and Legends: Arceus already shows what a semi-open Pokemon world is capable of offering.

Imagine wandering about each region with your best pals, trading and building up your parties, getting strong together. Forget NPC rivals and fake friends – you’ve got the real deal right there. It’s a less solitary experience, something with more longevity so you can get invested in the ‘dex just like with Go, and something that can continue to be built on, giving Pokemon fans a central hub for this wonderful virtual monster-catching hobby. A hub they can enjoy together.

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