What began as a casual mobile game quickly transformed into a global phenomenon, as Pokémon GO embraced its esports potential through strategic development, community engagement, and the support of a dedicated player base, Pokémon GO has successfully transitioned into a competitive game that captivates both players and spectators alike.
Building on the momentum of community tournaments, Niantic took Pokémon GO esports to the next level by hosting global regional championships and major events such as the 2022 World Championships in London and the recent 2023 World Championships in Yokohama.
These tournaments attracted top trainers from around the world, creating a vibrant competitive scene with substantial prize pools, professional player sponsorships and live-streamed matches on the official PlayPokemon Twitch channel, Pokémon GO became a spectacle watched by millions of fans, both in-person and online.
With the 2023 World Championships in Yokohama come and gone, players experienced the highest level of Pokémon GO competitiveness to date.
In a previous article of ours titled “The Potential of Pokémon GO PvP Becoming an Esport“, We delved into the exciting possibilities of Pokémon GO and its competitive side growing to a fully-fledged Esport. Today, we revisit the topic to explore the remarkable evolution and growth of competitive battling dating back to the introduction of the GO Battle League, to now, players competing live on the official PlayPokemon Twitch channel in front of thousands of viewers, both online and on the viewer’s podium in person. Let’s take a closer look at how the landscape has transformed since our last discussion on this topic.
Going back to 2020 when we last touched on this topic, the biggest tournament back then was the 2019 Pokémon GO Invitational Tournament which featured big names such as Junichi Masuda (Director, Game Freak), Shigeki Morimoto (Game Designer, Game Freak), UnlistedLeaf, Strawburry17, Yamada, Poké AK and PogoKieng.
Evolving from that period in time, we now have large-scale regional tournaments all around the globe which gives players the opportunity to battle it out in professionally themed venues to have the chance to win prize money, merchandise, travel awards, and of course, glory!
These events showcase how far Pokémon GO has come from a competitive standpoint. From my personal experience, I have been fortunate enough to be able to participate in a few of these events including 2x Perth Regionals Championship, the Melbourne Oceania International Championship, the 2022 London World Championship, and the 2023 Yokohama World Championship. I was fortunate enough to take home the gold in the 2023 Perth Regional Championship which awarded me a slot in the 2023 World Championships in Yokohama and also a large travel award to cover flights, accommodation, and more. I was fortunate enough to place #9th in the World in this prestigious tournament and received a large cash sum for my efforts.
Considering that the official definition of an Esport is:
Esport, noun – A multiplayer video game played competitively for spectators, typically by professional gamers who compete to earn cash prizes.
I feel as if we are officially at the point where we can consider Pokémon GO to be an official Esport that will continue to grow from each event. We are witnessing history in the making.
Communities coming together all for the love of the game is a wonderful experience that I will continue to be a part of, watching firsthand the growth of Pokémon GO and how far it has come is an exciting reality that I am honoured to be a part of.
In our previous article on the topic, I teamed up with Norell and Zander from The Band Famous who have been an important part of the community since day one. The Band Famous created, hosted, and produced the first Pokémon GO ranked tournament for charity with an all-ages and all-inclusive event. Since then, we’ve been working behind the scenes together to talk more about the journey Pokémon GO has taken to become what it is now, our involvement with this development, and the future of Pokémon GO.
Back then, we brainstormed different ideas regarding Niantic and what they would have to implement in order to make Pokémon GO into an official Esport. Some of our ideas included suggestions such as; Shifting advertising from casual to competitive, having more official Niantic/Pokémon Company hosted events, Addressing current issues and working on them, Business perspectives, and Community efforts.
Some, if not all of our previous ideas seemed to be taken into consideration and we have seen visible growth from a competitive point of view which is the exact vision we had hoped for in our 2020 article. In these tough times, we are more than happy with the growth and will continue to support one another so that we can see potential and necessary change within the game which is needed to create a healthy experience for one another.
The recent decision for the Silph Road to shut down caused an overwhelming feeling of despair and bewilderment for the entire PvP community. It left players with the burning question “What now?“. The Silph Road played an extremely important role within Pokémon GO many believe that if it weren’t for the amazing team of dedicated people who helped form the Silph Road, Pokémon GO would not be the Esport it is today. We are truly grateful for everything they did and are beyond saddened by this decision.
We are hopeful that the future of Pokémon GO and its ever-growing potential can and will rebuild an even stronger bond than before. We have seen many dedicated players coming together including top influencers to discuss as a community where we should go from here. Since then, we have seen a few names poke their head out of the water to help carry on the legacy that Silph left.
Back to my guests, Norell and Zander have been hard at work creating an inspiring trailer for their documentary about the Pokémon GO Esports scene which features a lot of familiar faces, one who may stand out, is Matt from PvPoke.com who has arguably been the king of the community for some time now.
We have been privileged to have a one-on-one interview with Matt and what he thinks the future of Pokémon GO will look like and other important questions, which we will dive into.
So Matt, we are curious to hear, how do you feel about Silph closing? Particularly, by Silph closing, do you feel it will change Pokémon GO as an Esport as we know it?
Could you share a little of your experience competing in the various Pokémon GO tournaments you’ve participated in?
We know you competed in the Timeless Cup at Montebello, how was that experience?
What tournaments stand out to you in your memory most of all?
Are you competing in any more tournaments coming up?
What if any are some ways you feel that Pokémon GO has grown stronger as a community? Have there been any updated features for example that you as a developer feels goes that much further to providing an exceptional gaming and community experience?
One update that stands out in my mind was the initial and then permanent removal of the friendship and walking requirements for battling. With those changes, the Silph Arena was able to survive through remote tournaments during the pandemic, and PvP streaming boomed on Twitch as people stuck at home could enjoy battling without limitations. I don’t think we would have the Championship Series today if it wasn’t for Niantic implementing those changes. The recent Worlds-related event was also a great example of developer support for the ongoing competitions! It promoted the tournament itself and provided players access to PvP-relevant Pokemon. My fingers are crossed for more updates and PvP-themed events in the future.
Despite differences, despite some groups disbanding after a race, rather than sticking it through for the marathon, it is safe to say that Pokémon GO as a whole still unites more than it divides. It also is safe to say that Pokémon GO has also successfully chiselled itself into an actual Esport, as many of us predicted and believe would come to pass.
“We have been working on this documentary for some time, as we ourselves have shifted gears with the changes around us, having closed our independent venue in Los Angeles that we worked so hard to open – and we managed to produce and perform some incredible benefit events and festivals while we were there – to now living and producing off-grid on a mountain in remote Arizona, fully solar-powered by the sun.
The ways in which we are able to play the game have adapted as we are obviously much more rural now than urban Los Angeles’s Pokémon GO playground! Despite being more remote these days, we still play as we are able to, and any time we are travelling we are always taking advantage of the Pokémon GO hot spots! We also run a small animal rescue and sanctuary – providing care to many real-life “mons” – and we are having nostalgia whilst going over these memories, hours and hours of footage! We look forward to sharing this full-length documentary with you [we hope] later this year! It will be released and available as a PPV on our Patreon, which supports our music and our animal rescue sanctuary.”
We would just like to say a massive thank you to the whole PoGo community for sticking together despite hardships throughout the years. Together we have turned adversity into triumph and created a legacy of perseverance that will forever echo in time. As we each venture into new chapters of this game, let’s carry the spirit of this extraordinary community with us. Here’s to an exciting and bright future ahead.