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On Pokémon and eSports: Growth

Introduction

Hi, VGC scene! My name is Kevin “monk” Dong and I’ve been a member of the general eSports community for about 3-4 years, working in multiple capacities throughout this time including Writer, Editor, Player, Coach, Commentator, Translator, Website Admin, Player Manager, and Tournament Organizer. It’s a lot of hats, but I would say it’s fairly typical of an eSports career for someone who started when I did, back when “first generation eSports” were in their infancy. As of now, my role can best be summed up as a Project Manager for Team Liquid, meaning I mostly manage accounts for the prominent eSports team, with a focus on running tournaments and leagues, especially for StarCraft and Hearthstone.

Over the past year or so, I’ve become more and more interested in VGC and I feel I’m in a position to add something of value to the scene. Some of you may know me from my previous blog entry on NB before its unfortunate demise last month titled “On Entry Fees and eSports” in which I talked about how entry fees work in the general eSports scene. Since then, I’ve been searching for a place to air my thoughts and take on hot topics in VGC and I’m glad I’ve finally found a sounding board. Though I will insert my own opinion in this and future articles, I will also do my best to always express the general consensus of the eSports community at large.

Pokémon as an eSport

One of the most common questions I get asked by VGC players is “What does Pokémon need to do to rise to the level of an eSport?” When I first began researching the scene, some of the more obvious issues initially popped up:

  1. Viewership is a huge issue, especially when teams have to make economic decisions based on selling their brand to sponsors. That being said, plenty of teams, both big and small, have teams involving games that aren’t as popular.
  2. The game has too many RNG elements. Fortunately, however, Hearthstone exists, which proves that an eSport doesn’t have to be 100% skill-based.
  3. The general eSports community does not understand Pokémon as a competitive game. Many people in the scene grew up playing RBY and only understand the single-player aspect of the game. There’s generally low awareness of competitive VGC, which is related to low viewership.
  4. Teams are worried about diluting their brands with a more casual game. This is highly related to issue #3.

These were the initial four issues I identified. However, as I became more familiar with the community and tried to play some games, it became apparent to me that another less obvious issue that seems to permeate the scene.

  1. There are currently too many barriers to entry into the scene and in my opinion, the trajectory for growth currently looks grim.

Barriers to Growth

First, let’s get all the obvious barriers out of the way. Memorizing Pokémon, movesets, stats, etc… is a lot of work, but arguably not more than that of other eSports. Breeding/Soft Resetting is extremely tedious and “cheating” is almost encouraged, but this isn’t something that the community can really control at this point.

Something that the community can control, however, is the lack of organised information about the game. In every eSport, there is an abundance of information that can be found online in the form of constant guides and content. Perhaps most importantly, however, is eSports Wikipedias. Now, I know Bulbapedia and Serebii exists, but there is currently nowhere to find a one-stop shop for basic information about VGC Pokémon. As a newer player, I found it incredibly difficult to find basic information about movesets, Pokémon counters, and the metagame. Something such as Smogon analyses for the top 50 viable Pokémon in VGC would go a long way. I understand that there are many YouTubers who do frequent guides on their channels, but I find these guides far less effective.

  • They get outdated much faster than text guides as it’s impossible to edit them.
  • They serve as poor reference material when you just want to look something up.
  • They’re generally not as organised or complete as I would like.
  • They’re not linked from a central resource and thus much more difficult to find.

The Importance of Information

The topic of guides and team reports has also come up recently, specifically with regards to paid/free reports. My position on this issue is that while I’m all for players being paid for guides as it’s very common in eSports, I think the scene in its current condition needs a baseline of free reports. When I watch other eSports, I always want to emulate what the pros are doing and I often get inspired to play based on the new strategies I see in tournaments. Often this is very easy without any outside assistance, but other times, you’ll need replays or decklists. Fortunately, in other scenes, releasing replays isn’t uncommon and in Hearthstone, releasing decklists is completely standard. In VGC, tournaments only release the Pokémon players used and not EVs, natures, or moves. And although I understand the arguments for not releasing this information, I know I personally play less because I don’t have many championship teams to try out.

In addition to the lack of guides, the lack of any meaningful forums is another huge glaring issue for the scene. Most other eSports either use major fansite forums or Reddit as their primary method of public communication. And while Smogon forums do exist, they’re hardly ideal for sharing information and discussion due to their general inactivity. As a newer player, I felt at a dead-end when I had questions about the game and the lack of forums only perpetuated my belief that the scene wasn’t very active.
On a side note, the lack of forums is a huge detriment to any discussion about controversial topics in the scene. Currently, all arguments about VGC happen on Twitter, a platform that limits responses to 140 characters. This is, frankly, a joke. It’s impossible to clearly communicate ideas with such a limitation when you could literally write entire articles about them. In addition, it gives popular players an even greater voice than they would have in other scenes because conversations typically go:

  1. Popular player states an opinion on Twitter.
  2. It’s too difficult to refute this opinion with at 140 character limit.
  3. All of the players’ followers agree with him, so the perception is that the entire scene agrees with him.

Not only that, but an average person in the community basically has no way of bringing up issues or topics of discussion to the community at large. In contrast, well-thought out posts by no-name players can easily rise to #1 on Reddit on other eSports communities.

Broadcasts

Next, I want to talk about the state of Pokémon broadcasts. The biggest issue is that these events are extremely poorly advertised. As an outsider, in order to find out about an event/stream, I basically have to rely on checking the Twitters of popular VGC players. This requires me to:

  1. Have a Twitter.
  2. Follow popular VGC players.
  3. Check Twitter during these times.

There’s also a host of other minor issues that plague the streams, though a lot of these are not under the community’s control.

  • No chat enabled. I kind of understand why this is done, but for those of your familiar with Twitch, Twitch chat is almost half the fun of Twitch.
  • Long delays between matches. This is related to the Swiss system, but it’s overall a horrible viewer experience and especially deters newer viewers.
  • Commentators: This is something every eSports struggles with at the beginning, but there needs to be a higher standard for commentators that can communicate interesting aspects about the game well.

Concluding Thoughts

After we’ve identified all these issues, however, the next logical question is how the community can help solve these problems. I believe the single most important next step for the growth of VGC is a centralised hub for the community to gather around, a site with the following features:

  • News
  • Articles: Strategy, Team Reports, Editorials, Tournament Previews and Recaps
  • Smogon-type analyses of all the viable Pokémon in VGC
  • Links to all the content that can be found online elsewhere such as youtube channels.
  • An active forum for discussion that even the most popular players can use.
  • Links to Twitch streamers currently broadcasting Pokémon VGC
  • Calendar of upcoming events

I’ll end off with an example of such a site, teamliquid.net. Team Liquid started off as the hub of StarCraft I and remained a focal point when StarCraft II, the first modern eSports, came around. It has all the resources that the community could want and has adapted throughout the years to fulfil the needs of its community. Through its success, the Team Liquid brand has expanded to become one of the most prominent eSports teams in the world, but that’s another story altogether.

What are your thoughts on the opinions in this article? Let us know if you agree or disagree, and why that is the case in the comments section below.

39 comments


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  1. Interesting but you should also not forget that genned pokemon is a huge issue. Anyone interested in competitive pokemon as an esport to watch and enjoy will be deterred when they quickly realize that almost all of the top players cheat by using hacked pokemons. To an outsider this makes pokemon as an esport totally illegitimate

    • Although this isn’t the main topic of the article, I do briefly touch upon it. The grind it takes to breed and especially the need to gen is extremely detrimental to the growth of Pokemon as an esport. However, I think it’s more detrimental because it acts as a huge barrier to entry, not because outsiders will think VGC is illegitimate as an esport. Also, the focus of the article is mostly things that the community can control.

    • Alexander Mcfarlane

      He Had cheating in parentheses, that means genned

      • Yeah my bad. to be honest I had not read through the whole thing yet and looked at the main points. Seems to me that the pokemon company has to push the competitive scene much more if they want it to become big on the esports scene

        • This isn’t required but it helps quite a bit. Look at the rise of Smash as an Esport (yes, it is a corner case, I’m just using it as a not impossible situation).

    • In big tourneys of Esports organized by his owners like Riot or Blizzard ,no one use his own account (they use developer accounts with all unlocked) so thats clearly not the problem.

  2. The biggest barrier to growth is not at all the lack or decentralization of information. Instead, it’s the sheer impossibility of getting anything out of the official circuit when you aren’t doing extremely well in the most important tournament of the year, which for Europe happened only 2 weeks after the game’s release. It’s a dead year for most of us here. As long as there’s no meaningful grassroots stuff for us to play in, we’re just a lot of educated casuals. But, to not make this an ever-repeating whine about my own region’s fall, let’s also look at some facts related to Internet sites.

    First, we had exactly that central hub that you desire in the past, and it’s called Nugget Bridge. It only went to hell because those running it have real-life jobs. But I wonder, is it even in any way feasible to run a niche-interest website with a whole full-time staff without massive revenue from premium accounts or comparable stuff? (And premium features, most of the time, are very much against the idea of free information.)

    And as an example from the other side, I’d like you to take a look at Japan of 2015 as well as 2010 and before. This country had the most decentralized communities ever, yet it dominated the World Championships like no other. Obvious question, why not in the other years? Obvious answer: it was insanely hard for them to get into Worlds in the first place. When there’s only like 4 of them in the main event and scouting is a thing, a) the mass teams up against the few and b) it’s very well possible that the few who actually ended up there may not be poised to take it home for other reasons. That’s pure statistics, if you will.

    • I think you’re thinking of the problem from too much of a hardcore perspective. When I talk about growth, I just mean getting casual newer players to try the game. These players are just starting and aren’t thinking about playing in official circuits until much later down the road.

      A big part about being an eSport isn’t just the gameplay but the viewer experience of watching people play the game. I’m sure many of you here are sports fans. How many of you still actively play the game you follow in traditional sports? In first-generation eSports, the same is surprisingly true. A very large number of players enjoy watching eSports on Twitch, but don’t actually play the game themselves. However, just by watching, getting eyeballs on the screen, they’re support the game.

      I don’t believe the same can be said about VGC. For instance, how many of you know people who consume VGC content, watch regional streams, but don’t play the game at all?

      • No, these things are very much related. The Internet is a thing, but it’s not the only thing. There’s also local events and I know perfectly well what I’ve seen, what I’ve done and why it matters. I am a part and builder of this game’s community, so you have to trust me on that. Anyway, there was a time when we would normally get enough participants to play 5 rounds and top 8 cut at our Premier Challenges. One of the new faces from those times was the very Tobias K. that has dominated Europe for the last 3 years. But then various bad things happened, and now we sometimes struggle to even get 8 players. It’s super rare that we meet someone new and then it’s also not the greatest experience for them because they will catch more bad vibes about the circuit’s situation than education from top players, who for the most part are just staying away completely.

        Oh, you’d be surprised how many people evidently watch VGC but don’t play. YouTube/Reddit/whatever comment sections on big finals, YouTube hate videos made by a certain someone etc. Now what is your point here though? Do you want more to people to watch the game? Do you want more people already watching to play the game? (Suggestion: Do it yourself! Would save us a bunch of explaining circumstantial things that are obvious to players.) And how did we even get here? In your original post, you’re writing video content off as “decentralized information” (which I do agree with, I give you that), but now you’re directing our attention to that same video content?

        But you know, if we wanna talk about OFFICIAL video content…one of the most cited problems with that is, again, the situation in Europe. In the past not too long ago, about half of the Regionals had some kind of “fan-made” stream going. Please spare us about buzzwords like Production Value™ and all that stuff, yes, those were unpaid singulary persons, but the streams did their job to _show the important games_, and the commentators, since they usually came from the community, knew what they were talking about. That was the past (I wanted to keep this shorter…dang it!). Flash forward to the present. The present is: no more streams of Regionals. Dortmund was organized by Amigo, who had a streaming team readily available, but something that I don’t know (I wasn’t there) happened, so the stream didn’t happen. And moreso, it’s not just the stream that vanished into thin air but the on-site broadcasts of games as well. Same thing in Leipzig at freaking Dreamhack. Same thing at the plenty UK Regionals. It’s been a popular point of mockery that players are forced to shell out 40 bucks per event all while the powers that be are thinking something like: “Hmm yes, we wanna be E-Sports™, so we make people pay and apply only the usual top-heavy rewards. Streaming, however, isn’t necessary for us to go E-Sports™. Same goes for advertising.” I legitimately have no clue what kind of marketing that is.

        • I’m gonna drop in and talk as a casual player trying to jump into the scene. One of my best friends has been into Pokemon for a long time and convinced me to try competitive when I bought Sun and Moon. The things I’m talking about aren’t things that I’ve run into in the past. They’re problems I still have.

          Honestly, most of the things you’re talking about are not at all important to me. I mean, I understand that there’s an issue once you get really competitive about breaking out, and I get that the big streams are really important, but you want to know what some of my biggest issues were? Figuring out how to breed. Understanding what specifically made a team competitive. Being able to understand how damage calcs work, along with EVs and IVs and natures and how to most efficiently get the proper spread on a Pokemon I wanted in game. Knowing which 4 Pokemon on my team were the best to choose in response to a given opposing team of 6 on the opposing side.

          And most of this information is available out there, somewhere. But for a new player like me, it’s all *very* hard to compile in one location for convenient reference. Here’s an anecdote: I tried the other day to farm a Ditto with 4 perfect IV’s and struggled with the task. Turns out fighting 30 copies of your own pokemon in a row can be taxing if you don’t properly prepare for the task. I ended up using a lot of my potions and a few revives when I hit my 20th Ditto with false swipe and it used struggle, killing itself. Time, resources, patience, thrown down the drain. My friend told me later that I could easily get to 30 through a combination of recycle, trick, and a leppa berry. I didn’t know this before and had never seen it online. I haven’t gone back and tried again since.

          And all of this has very little to do with Dreamhack, or Regionals, because there are already plenty of streams out there that are already over my head. I’ve looked at the teams that did the best at San Jose five times now but I never figured out their EV spreads so even that information is somewhat useless to me. I need a lot of basic info in a single accessible location, just as Monk pointed out in his original post.

          I don’t know. My main point is that a lot of your issues to me seem to be bigger for people that are already invested in the scene somehow. My problem is that I want to get into it but figuring out what I need to do is actually really difficult, to the point that I have considered stopping altogether. Having a single location with the vast majority of this information would actually go a long way toward helping me and people like me out, I think.

  3. xolade, He did sort of mention genned Pokémon when he said “cheating” is almost encouraged. But that’s an argument no one will ever win. And the community needs to come up with ways to address the other issues he mentioned.
    For example, the one that really bothers me is the wait times in between matches. I get incredibly frustrated at a 5 minute commercial breaks during NFL games. Now, just imagine how I get during the 30-45 minute break in between Pokémon matches. Now, I’ve never been to a tournament (I’d like to in the future), but I’m sure not every match begins and ends at the same time. How hard would it be to jump over to another match when the featured one is over? I understand that the equipment for that wouldn’t be there for the smaller streams, but surely bigger regionals and worlds would have the ability the get the extra equipment.
    Now, as for RNG, I don’t think that’s a big concern, Magic the Gathering is a huge “eSport” with even bigger prize pools and prestige surrounding the game, and that has as much luck involved in the game as Pokémon.
    As far as content, there are a lot popular players that make videos on current trends and strategies, but I feel they’re geared more toward players that already have some knowledge about the game already. Someone needs to make a “Pokémon for Dummies” guide at some point I think and reach out to some really new players (like myself) and see what questions they have about the game.
    I love seeing strategies come to fruition, and Pokémon has a more of it than people think. This game has potential to grow into a pretty good eSport, it just needs help.

    • Like I mentioned in the article, Swiss is a huge culprit for the downtime on the streams. There are a lot of technical concerns with jumping into other games right away and it can be expensive, but it can definitely be done.

      Another notable omission from even the highest level Pokemon tournaments is the lack of B-roll. In other events, producers will film alternate footage before and event to play during transitions or downtime, making the production seem more professional and filling up time.

      Also, MtG is by definition not an eSport. =P

      • One thing on B-Roll and the mention of MtG, the SCG streams (and Pro Tour streams) of MtG always have decent B-Roll which needs to happen because the streamed games often do not go to time, due to their Swiss format (Outside of Top 8).

        The most interesting B-Roll to me is the “deck techs” and that would be an excellent thing to add to coverage as a way to fill time, it wouldn’t take much effort to show a team sheet with pokemon, EVs, moves, etc… and explain their roles on the team. This would give us up-to-date guides and something for everyone to try out, while they go out of date fast, it’s still an excellent benchmark for the coming weeks.

        The other thing MTG tournaments always have are 3 matches (at least) in the feature match area, so if one game finishes fast, they swap over to the other with a small delay (about 1-2 minutes), so a similar system could be used (although I don’t know how the games are streamed for pokemon, so I don’t know how feasible it is)

      • I know MTG isnt a eSport. I was using it as an example as it has a huge professional following where there’s even more prize money on the line, and there is a good balance of skill and luck involved it that game as well.

  4. Excellent article, Monk, i really appreciate your thoughts invested into this. I´d like to add that, another barrier that i think the game has to become an esports, is the lack of(compared to other big gaming companies) support from TPCi to actually make it more competitive. Yes, they host many tournaments, yes, they are adding more recognized competitive features into the game so new players can learn about IVs, EVs, etc., but we need more official streams/content in other countries around the globe, we need to atract major sponsorship brands as you said and other stuff, we need prize pools that actually attract people (which just recently is happening, fortunately) so i think we, as a community, should stand on our feet, no matter what, and let them know what we desire, what we deserve if we want to be a recognizable esport game. Thanks.

    • TPCI not supporting Pokemon as much as it could is certainly a big factor. However, you can take inspiration from another Nintendo property, SSBM, for an example of a game that succeeded as an eSport completely from grassroots support. In fact, Nintendo actually initially did more to harm than good by trying to shut down the Smash scene. See: http://www.polygon.com/2013/7/11/4513294/nintendo-were-trying-to-shut-down-evo-not-just-super-smash-bros-melee

      • Thanks for replying. Yes, i´m aware of the SB scene (mostly Melee, which just happens i´m watching Genesis 4 right now :p)and also i agree that it´s quite evident that Nintendo kinda tends to not let one of their title become an Esport, which can probably be also a strong factor about the current state of the competitive scene, but luckily, when talking about offical support, we don´t rely on them to organize tournaments, but TPCi, which i think is probably easier to deal with, since it mostly if not entirely focus on the brand itself, and with such good community (in general) we have , i´m fairly optimistic that it´s just a matter of time before we can see some sponsorships, large communities, regular streamers and start to deal with the big prizepools/entry fees that are still hurting us.

  5. One of the main problems that I’ve seen since I entered in the “VGC World” is the lack of differentiation between community and scene.

    It seems that you are only part of the community if you participate in tournaments. That is, for me, one of the biggest differences with other eSports. No one thinks about casual players who just want to play with their favorite Player Team and lose a few games.
    But it is these players who make a community grow. Who will follow the important games. Who will follow the pros on Twitter, on YT. Who will watch the streams and eventually subscribe.

    If you don’t think about these people, the community will never grow. That’s it.

    PS: Apologize for my bad english. It’s not my first lenguage

    • I completely agree with this statement. In all other games, there’s maybe 1% of the playerbase who take the game so seriously as to go to events and compete in tournaments. In VGC, it feels like that number is closer to 20%. As such, I feel that content creators in VGC gear their content towards theirs peers, people who understand the game at a higher level, which makes it not as accessible to newer players.

      This is kind of like a chicken and egg scenario. Do content creators gear their content to more advanced audiences because the VGC community tends to be less casual? Or do fewer casuals enter VGC because all the content is too advanced? I think both factors are definitely in play, but this vicious cycle is one of the things that’s keeping VGC from growing.

      In other eSports, there are many monetary incentives to gear content towards newer players. Articles that introduce the basics tend to get way more views than more complex in-depth articles. And streamers on Twitch have great incentives to capture a wider audience by explaining complex topics about their games in a clear concise way.

  6. Thanks for sharing your thoughts – as someone very interested in growing the competitive scene it’s very valuable to hear your perspective.

  7. Very interesting. I also think that the barrier to entry is they biggest problem. Besided breeding and soft resetting for IVs/natures/moves/abilities, EV training is such a huge waste of time. I almost wish that once you’ve beat the elite four and caught a certain pokemon you could pretty much customize it’s nature, IVs, EVS, and moves a la pokemon showdown. It’s especially absurd how difficult it is to get an exact EV/IV combination in game. Even more so if you’re going for a hidden power.

  8. I would love to see more content on this site as far as being competitive reference material. Something of a more beginner friendly version of Smogon’s strategy dex. As far as writing and stuff, I would be more than happy to contribute. Is there any way I could get in contact with whoever would have the authority to make this happen?

  9. The biggest problem for me is that people want it to be an eSport but there is no way Pokemon it its current state can be one. Coming from a competitive cs background I developed interest in certain eSports that have been part of the events I attended. Like Warcraft, Quake or Fifa back in the days. These games were easy to understand. The casters could generate hype because you actually see whats happening. It can hook you. Pokémon can’t. Its hard for a newcomer to realise what’s happening and why a play is good. Especially in fast paced metagames like last year, with battles being over after two turns, everyone going mega, origin, onehitting pokemon that resist stuff and what not. I totally agree on the rng part. The saddest thing is that there was this event at dreamhack leipzig and they had no screen set up to watch nor did they have commentators. No way to watch games other than on someone’s ds screen and then a judge would tell you to not get to close. What the fuck is that. It was a great opportunity to grow and they didn’t just not take it, they made sure that its bad experience…

    • WarCraft III is one of my favorite games of all time, but even I have to admit, that was one of the most difficult games to understand as a casual. Still, it was the biggest eSport in its heyday in the west in spite of its difficulty to understand. Hearthstone is also another example of a game that’s hard to understand from a newcomer and casters have had to deal with the same issues that Pokemon casters currently have. The result in the Hearthstone scene is a mix of hype when appropiate, jokes, and clear, concise analytical commentary.

  10. Great article Liquid Monk! First off thanks for taking the time to write for us.

    TPCI has become a meme to me.They are seriously a joke. Every year there seems to be some sort of screw up. No CP Bar, garbage format, lack of announcements for stipends, not allowing spectators at worlds last year, or failing to keep promises. “Oh we will look at Smeargle after spring regionals,” TPCI said. Results show Smeargle on top and then we were ignored. I could go on and on with other issues but I rather not since I would be here all day listing the problems out.

    The point is…for every step forward, they take two steps back. I hate being so negative but when you get disappointed year after year…it triggers you. VGC 2017 was suppose to be the biggest year of VGC ever. Instead they manage to screw most of us over by announcing this shitty circuit where it is easy for those who have $$$.

    • I totally agree with you Alex. TPCi is halting the growth instead of promoting it. Cutitng down CP payout on Premier challenges and DOUBLING the amount of CP needed to go to worlds? sheesh…

  11. I can really agree with this article, I’ve been trying to get into VGC for a while now and have been able to find little to no info on the subject. There are videos on Youtube that try to help with this but following them isn’t always effective when using the games practice modes (Battlespot as well as the Battle Tree, Maison, Etc).
    Players who have been in the community way longer and are way more informed can completely destroy and keep new players from entering the frontier because of the lack of information and strategy they have access too.
    The coverage over events is also not handled very well with the breaks being very long and at times either the video or audio will not be very good.
    In the actual game, the RNG components can be very frustrating and the breeding, egg moves, EV, and IV functions can be daunting. Also, unlike the competitions that were mentioned players must use their own raised teams and systems and that can often lead to cut-throat cheating (more than 510 EV total) and ruin the tournament.
    If a full on modification system was introduced that allowed players to edit/build their teams at the start of the tournament and then lock them from then on, maybe the issue could be solved. Although many people I’m sure would say that this type of system would ruin a big part of what Pokemon is. Companies like Blizzard and Riot have no issues with this as they don’t have that breeding equivalent feature, but I feel like moving forward this is something the Pokemon company could use. (Probably not)
    As far as the genning issues go, the community can actually be a turn down to newcomers from wanting to stick around. I myself actually tried to get into VGC once before now and because of the controversy surrounding the issue I actually stopped trying to get into it and kept away from it. Although this issue is all community, I feel like it could always be handled better and would probably open more people’s minds about getting into competitive play.

    Great article as well!

    • Uhhh I’m pretty sure no one has more than 510 ev’s fam. Perhaps you shouldn’t get your info from a certain furry.

      • It was allegedly an issue that occured at the San Jose Regional, there was a suspected player who had to be evaluated serveral times through the tournament because of this suspected issue. Apparently it’s a possible hack because of the ability to edit the digital game lock boxes while leaving the cartridge lock boxes perfectly fine and using that as a way to pass judge evaluation. No one was able to prove it as far as I know but some players were very much sure it happened to them on day one. In day two apparently that player was no longer at the venue. Again, I’m basing this off player talk, but the fact that that possibility or exploit exsist shows how Blizzards method of using there own systems and unlocked accounts could both “solve” the issue or set people’s minds at ease in order to avoid the issue all together.

  12. Great post Monk. I would add something I realized last month: when Sekiam, the winner of London’s Tournament, played on stream the organization told him he couldn’t wear his squad’s T-shirt, eMonkeyz, a spanish eSports multisquad which supports him.

    Would you invest on Pokemon if your players could not show your sponsors? For me it’s just a shame, and TPCi has shown they don’t want to promote tournaments and they allow cheating because if they had a good system no one would play their game at that level.

  13. I think the problem about having discussions on twitter can be fixed easily by switching to a VGC subreddit (actually, just found out the vgc subreddit /r/pokemonvgc exists)
    Then, just by having the “pros” start those discussions in that subreddit and tweeting a link to that subreddit can help break the bad habit of having twitter-only discussions.

  14. We did used to have a dedicated VGC forum that was used by top players and newbies alike. RIP Nugget Bridge forums.

  15. Hi Monk, I read ur article and im agree with ur thoughts. I was staff of an esports club, called Baskonia, during last Year, and i want to add another issue that Pokémon VGC have as an Esport.

    In Lol, SC, DOTA2, OW, HS… U can become “someone” by playing ladder and online tournamentes, there are a lot of online Qualifiers, events… but in Pokémon u Can’t. U need to travel a lot, pay fees, and waste a los of money, if u want become really competitive.

    I belive that be a pro shouldnt be aviable for all the people, but in this way, if u have no money u can’t show as good as u are in an official tournament. This + the policies of Pokémon about sponsored players, makes me feel, that pokémon will never becomen an esports.

    Ty if u read and sorry for my eng ^^

  16. This is a really good article that brings up a lot of good points that I agree with. As some one who lives in Hawaii but plays VGC competitively I am severely restricted by how far I am able to go in this game in a professional way. So to be involved in this game our small VGC community has to rely on grass roots tournaments and other events. This leads me to my main point that events like ICPA that used to be run through nugget bridge are really important to the games growth. For those that don’t know the International Collegiate Pokemon Association is a group of college students (over 100 last spring 2016) from numerous schools around the world who compete against each other in 5 man teams twice a month. It is split into two seasons fall and spring semesters with play offs in the early summer.

    This year long event was a great way for members from the community to interact and form relationships while keeping the player base open but smaller. Unknown players like me had the opportunity to go up against opponents like Firestorm and Starmetroid every other week. There was also an element of exclusivity to the event since in order to participate you had to be enrolled at a university. In the end it is a good balance between being open but also exclusive. It is really held back by its lack of coverage and relatively niche participation. But from a competitive and story telling stand point it can really shine. With better coverage we could see people following their favorite teams and players like an actual college sport. (granted to a lesser extent)

    It may not be the most ideal event but I think it has the opportunity to grow the community in a way that other more complex event cannot.

  17. An excellent article that articulates a lot of problems clearly. Personally i dont understand why TPCi doesnt want to grow the game. More views = more games sold/higher events attended =more $$$. Its that simple really. Perhaps they are afraid that if the game grows too much it may somehow lose its family friendly appeal or innocence. Why do you think the twitch chat is disabled? Because TPCi doesnt want little 10year old johnny and his parents to read the comments of a bunch of teens young adults etc. And get offended. TPCi treats us like children and cant allow anything that has the slightest chance of offending people.
    Higher quality commentators are a must. While i appreciate the effort that everyone makes to fill that needed role it’s difficult to watch when commentators are awkwardly searching for phrashes or miss important information. And as someone mentioned in the comments the audio and visual needs less hiccups and a B-roll would be an amazing addition. The videos that filled time at nats or worlds were decent examples. But going over battlespot statistics doesnt seem professional enough and isnt very entertaining visually.
    As far as cheating its almost inevitable with the game in its current form. Until TPCi decides to allow some sort of pokemon builder that is very CLEAR in its depiction of IVS and EVS people will cheat. Breeding needs to be seperated from the competitive scene. Plain and simple. Casuals and hardcore VGC players alike dont have the time or resources to CONSTANTLY be breeding and hatching hundreds of eggs.
    Advertising is a huge issue. TPCi could easily afford to run a commercial on TV advertising an upcoming event and that would pull in thousands of new viewers. Thats not worth it however until the tournaments themselves are more professional(commentators,illegal balls,x-2 cuts,long wait times).
    Lets also not forget that other companies like BLIZZARD etc. Have meaningful points of contact for the community.SUPPORT TICKETS ARE TRASH. We need to have our voices heard.
    All in all im not sure if Pokemon will grow as an eSport,and frankly i dont care. I enjoy playing and competeing just fine. I see the benefits to growth but why grow a game that isnt mature enough for that kind of exposure yet? Can you imagine the back-lash of an obviously cheated pokemon on stream when it has MILLIONS of viewers not just thousands?! Fix the tournaments, fix the streams and THEN we can worry about growth.

  18. I’m chiming in on the “entry barrier” argument. I love the game, i play every version and usually even breed a little to battle with friends that play too, but sooner or later i’ll go back to Pokemon Online, because i can actually try out stuff without dumping hours and hours before i can actually play.
    The grinding for a lineup is friggin boring. It’s tedious as heck. I mean right now the go to methods are abusing glitches/bugs on the Plaza to actually get somewhere – when you’re already trying to break the game at every possible step, can we not agree that we can skip the whole charade and should just be able to generate the pokemon team we want?

    For it to improve as an Esport all that wierd and tedious stuff has to go. People in the competitve scene should have an official tool to just create their teams and tinker around with stuff freely. I mean right now, you’ve to work for hours before you’re even able to play the game in the first place – maybe just to find out your team isn’t as good as you thought. And at that moment the vast majority of players that prevailed that long, will just get the fuck out.

    Another benefit of such a tool would be during tournaments. Participants could bring a list of the team they want to play with and admins then can set these up on monitored devices for the players and BAM – alot of potential cheating issues are out of the window too.
    Ontop of that if they’d actually use PC’s for it the whole broadcasting + commentating issue would be solved too.

  19. Great article monk, thanks for writing. I’ll just talk about my own stance and let me know what you think!

    Personally, I think that VGC has the capability and potential to become a big time esport. I mean, especially when people use mons that are underused or really cute to win, things get hype. And that actually hits home with me the most. I personally dove headfirst into VGC after playing a bit of VGC 2016, but I realized I wanted to become a serious competitor after watching Worlds 2014. That match defied everything that we expected out of a Pokemon match. People who didn’t play were enjoying the match and cheering at the hax and all those things and you could just tell that something really exciting was happening just because a cute little squirrel was going toe to toe with behemoths like Tyranitar and Charizard.

    The unfortunate thing about that match is that it was one of a kind, but it gives me hope that we can reach the esports level where we have crowds gathering to watch this game and cheering for their favorite players.

    The other thing I want to get your opinion on are the main pillars required for any esport: how the game works as a spectator sport and consistency.

    With regards to being a spectator sport, I can understand why its hard. What you see on the screen is exactly what you get, as opposed to a game like Melee where all the crazy nuanced neutral game can happen in the background with the big flashy combos coming out front for everyone to enjoy. This however, didn’t happen during Sejun’s world finals run as everyone was getting upset and happy over the hax and Sejun’s victories. I think that Sun and Moon did a good job of providing more information to the viewer, personally but overall I feel like the game is okay for new people to watch.

    Next is consistency, which is probably one of the hardest things to do in this game. Because of the luck built into the mechanics of the game itself, even the greatest players find themselves losing when they could’ve won. However, consistency does exist. Ray Rizzo with his famous 3 world championship streak comes to mind. Players like Wolfe Glick are also there, and Wolfe is one that consistently places well and imo is the most consistent player around. There is also Markus Stadter, another player who also does super well. The thing I think we need for the game to get big attention is for these players to get better to the point where they dominate anyone who stands in their way, so much so that competition begins to strike back harder. Take the 5 gods of melee. There’s such an awe factor that comes with those 5 players because they’re so above and beyond the rest of the player base. If that kind of consistency is possible (which I believe it should be), then that would make the game super exciting.

  20. I really liked the article. Nice work. Allow me to state my issues with the Competitive Pokemon Community. First, from what I’ve seen, the main competitors all have YouTube channels and not only do they compete in VGC and whatnot but they compete with each other. These channels are all growing slowly and the community within them war among each other. Top players will bicker of idiotic comments of other top players. They constantly argue among themselves resulting in new people wishing to get in the scene to back down because the whole community appears to be hostile. The top players don’t encourage the community to grow. Maybe that’s a problem within eSports, I wouldn’t know because I’m not too into it, but new players can’t get a voice, can’t be seen, and can’t do anything about it. I’ve created competitive teams before but they simply sit in my PC box, collecting dust. The best I can do is send them out on wifi battles with random strangers or post an ad in Amino. The organized events for competitive battling are all super hard to get into and, like I said, all the current players aren’t allowing growth. No growth equals death. Perhaps not everything I said was correct, as I said, I’m not too into the scene, but I’m speaking as an “educated casual”. The scene is messed up.

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