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Pokémon Unite release date announced for iOS, Android – but you can pre-register now

Pokémon Unite
(Image credit: Pokémon)

The Pokémon Unite release date has been revealed: the free-to-play mobile battle arena (MOBA) set in Nintendo’s world of battling monsters is coming to smartphones on Wednesday, September 22.

Pokémon Unite launched on the Nintendo Switch in July, and the September release window for mobile was announced a while ago via the official Pokémon Unite Twitter account, but we didn’t have a date until now. The game will be coming to both iOS and Android on September 22.

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As the tweet notes, eager players can pre-register on the iOS App Store and Android Play Store to get some exclusive extras – and given how intense the microtransactions are in the game, any head-start is helpful. If there are enough pre-registrations, players will get to play as Pikachu and get a bonus costume (called Holowear) for free, per an official blog post.

The game will offer cross-play between Nintendo Switch and mobile players, and linking your Nintendo account between the console and smartphone versions will allow for cross-progression to carry over unlocked Pokémon, cosmetics, items, and currencies. 

Analysis: Pokémon finally joins the smartphone MOBA fight

It makes a lot of sense that the Pokémon juggernaut would venture into MOBAs next, especially on smartphones. Niantic’s AR game Pokémon Go has amassed two million downloads and continues to rake in revenue, making $52 million in July alone, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower. Why not open up another door to making Pokémillions?

Nintendo Switch players have already experienced the polish of Pokémon Unite, which shouldn’t be surprising: the game was created in partnership with Tencent’s TiMi Studio Group, which made the first-person shooter Call of Duty: Mobile and the MOBA Honor of Kings (along with its international version Arena of Valor), which has topped the mobile gaming revenue charts since they were released years ago (Honor of Kings made $231.2 million in July, per a Sensor Tower report). 

Thus, we’d expect players to flock to Pokémon Unite when it lands on smartphones on September 22 given it’s free and from such a huge franchise. There’s still the question of how they’ll feel about the microtransactions in the game, which has divided the fanbase and critics. 

While some players have shrugged off microtransactions as intractable for the mobile MOBA genre, others have pointed out that Pokémon Unite diverges from the norm in giving players an in-game advantage by spending real-world money, per Polygon, and a Reddit post by u/SpeedRacing1 laid out exactly how item upgrade costs start getting so prohibitive that players may feel the need to spend real money to remain competitive. 

A YouTube video with 1.7M views of Twitch streamer moistcr1tikal showed exactly how packing three pay-boosted items can let a player snowball into dominating other teams. Of course, moistcr1tikal exhibited skillful MOBA play anyway, aligning with pushback from media outlets like The Gamer that Pokemon Unite's microtransaction advantages would likely be limited to high-level competition, where skill is more important than items. Alternately, the Washington Post found that teamwork was more important than individuals supercharged with upgraded items – but a team of players with boosted equipment would have an indisputable advantage. 

Regardless, the free-to-play nature of the game will surely appeal to players young and old who have kept the long-running Pokémon franchise alive for Nintendo and its partners.

Via The Verge

David Lumb

David J Lumb is Mobile Editor, US for TechRadar, covering phones, tablets, and wearables. He still thinks the iPhone 4 is the best-looking smartphone ever made.