The new MOBA spin-off Pokemon Unite has received criticism from fans who say that a particular type of stat-boosting items is too much of a grind to upgrade through regular play, pushing players toward spending real money.
The point of contention is the Held Items, which lets you give passive boosts to your Pokemon in up to three equipment slots. At Trainer Level 9, those items become upgradeable through Aeos Tickets, which makes them significantly more powerful. Tickets are one of the currency types in Pokemon Unite, and they can be hard to come by through normal play. But you can convert Gems–the premium, real-money currency–to tickets, and extra tickets are one of the random pulls from a refreshing energy tank “gacha” mechanic. You can also buy boosts or extra energy tanks using Gems.
You can probably see where this is going.
One thread with more than 2,000 replies on the Nintendo Switch subreddit claims to be from a mobile game developer, outlining what they call “predatory” monetization schemes. They cite a slow pace of currency after the welcome events have run their course, and the three-step process of Gems to Tickets to stat-boosts which obscures the real-money value of the “pay to win” aspect.
Another thread on the Pokemon Unite subreddit does its own napkin math to sort out how many stat boosts you can afford by playing for free. It concludes that it would take roughly 78,000 tickets to fully upgrade three items, the max carrying capacity with all three slots unlocked. You only get about 28,000 tickets for free in the current reward tiers, so to be competitive with fully upgraded items you would still need roughly another 50,000 tickets.
You can get some as seasonal rewards, but the thread concludes it would take almost 500 days of normal play to grind out enough tickets for a fully upgraded trio of Held Items. Or, by converting one Gem to 10 Tickets, the user claims you would need to pay roughly $40 to upgrade a single item. (And of course, you may want more than three types of items upgraded if you want to play different types of character builds).
Other fans have suggested that while the stat boosts are grindy or expensive, the items aren’t likely to make a big impact on gameplay. The difference between a +1 item boost and +15 upgraded item boost seems big, they say, until you realize that that’s modifying a base character stat of 300. Still, in the heat of a close match, that edge could potentially make a difference.
It remains to be seen if future timed events give out more tickets or how promotions might alter the cost of upgrades, but it’s enough to give potential Pokemon Unite players pause. The game is free-to-play, but top-tier competitive play may require a long grind or a hefty investment. For more, check out how to claim your free Zeraora and how Pokemon Unite’s microtransactions work.
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