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Pokémon Twitter is outraged over rising tournament entry fees

Pokémon Twitter is outraged over rising tournament entry fees

October 13, 2016

A few weeks ago, the Pokémon Championship Series announced a barrage of format changes for the upcoming year. The specific tweaks and changes are a complicated maze, but the gist is that players must now attend more events in order to qualify for the all-important World Championship. That’s fine, although the geographic disparateness of said events makes the ability to fund substantial travel more important than it was last year. For the most part, though, the community seems okay with the new regulations. The part top players find most upsetting is actually something The Pokémon Company isn’t regulating: entry fees. Most Pokémon events—including the Regionals that feed into the official World Championship—are run by third parties. To quote Pokémon’s official site: “Many Pokémon tournaments are free, but it is up to the discretion of the tournament organizer to determine costs.” Well, if the Arizona Regional is any indication, tournament organizers seem to have decided that $40 is the appropriate fee—and players are not happy. Tweeted top-tier player and 2016 Worlds commentator Aaron “Cybertron” Zheng on Wednesday: 

Competitive Pokémon is adolescent in multiple senses of the word. The scene is nascent, but there’s also the fact that the average competitive player is just plain young. Cybertron’s first major wins, which catapulted him into a prominent competitive Pokémon career, occurred in the 11-15 age bracket. A $40 entry fee means more to a 14-year-old than it does to an adult. Cybertron’s younger brother, who goes by Babbytron, is also a competitor: 

With Pokémon Sun and Moon on the horizon, and the competitive scene showing signs of growth, it seems like awful timing for a threat to expansion. Wolfe Glick, 2016 Pokémon World Champion, is outraged:  

 

Of course, if the tournament organizers weren’t making a profit, they wouldn’t have any reason to organize tournaments in the first place. It’s tempting to blame greedy TOs, and without data we can’t know for sure, but I suspect that these events cost significantly more than an uninformed observer might expect. It’s not just about renting out a space: there are numerous employees involved, materials to acquire and assemble, and just a heaping helping of logistical hoops to jump through.

A more likely culprit is the The Pokémon Company itself, which offloads the cost of facilitating events onto independent organizers and, by extension, the players that enter them. Remember that, from TPC’s perspective, the purpose of esports is marketing. They encourage competitive events because events promote their products. TPC could subsidize tournaments with more than just prize money, helping organizers turn a profit without high entry fees. But they’ve chosen not to do so. That’s why players like Wolfe are encouraging their followers to contact Pokémon support: they recognize that the real decision-makers here, the ones who have the power to make Pokémon esports a reality, are the executives at the company that sells the cartridges.

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