I can’t count the number of times I’ve been in the thick of a Pokémon Unite match, feeling good about my team’s chances of winning, only for the timer to countdown to zero and reveal that we actually got wrecked. According to makers TiMi Studio Group, that’s by design.
Pokémon Unite is like a lot of other MOBAs in a lot of other ways, but one thing that stands out is the lack of a scoreboard. Despite being like a sport where the team with the most points wins, Unite never actually tallies the points either side has until one the match is over. The game does drop hints about who’s ahead and who’s behind via audio clips, but they’re vague. Toward the end of a match, when Zapdos can turn the entire turn of battle, those swings can be violent and occur in quick succession. So why not just tell players exactly how much they’re winning or losing by?
“The matches last 10 minutes and players have the possibility of making a comeback, so we wanted people to play without giving up to the very end,” Masaaki Hoshino, Pokémon Unite’s producer, told Kotaku in an email when asked about why the scoreboard is kept hidden. That’s certainly true to the ethos behind Pokémon as well, even if it can lead to some confusion on the battlefield about whether it’s safe to play defensive or teams need to go aggro to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. In either case, the design philosophy appears to be working. Pokémon Unite players don’t always surrender, despite having the option to.
While the game might not be getting a proper scoreboard anytime soon, that doesn’t mean it won’t continue evolving in other ways. After launching in July on Switch, and coming to mobile last month, TiMi released a player survey last month hinting at the possibility of new modes and even a walkable player lobby in the future.
One of the biggest questions remains how Unite’s economy will continue to change. Last week, the game’s most significant update-to-date came in the form of the Halloween Festival, bringing with it AU$53 holowear costumes in addition to a host of free content and gameplay tweaks. Prior to that, a big update in September all-but-kneecapped the game’s pay-to-win mechanics.
“We are constantly listening to our fans,” Hoshino told Kotaku. “As part of that, we have implemented held item enhancer tickets and trial tickets [in a September update] to make the process of picking held items a more-enjoyable and rewarding experience for players.”
Unite’s inaugural season is set to wrap up sometime late in November. In the meantime, The Pokémon Company’s free-to-play MOBA has already reached over 25 million downloads.