Pokemon Unite Tournament Mode Looks Great, But Where’s The Matchmaking Fix?

Trevenant may have missed the mark, but there are some exciting things in the latest Pokemon Unite patch. Charizard and Garchomp got major reworks, communication tools have been improved significantly, and some of the lesser-used Battle Items got much needed buffs. Perhaps the most exciting update in Patch is the introduction of Tournament Mode, a new custom game feature that will be used in the upcoming Pokemon Unite Championship Series at Worlds. Tournament Mode shows a commitment to both esports and the future of Unite, so it’s great to see this kind of official integration. At the same time, I can’t help but wonder why a competitive mode almost no one will use is more important than fixing ranked, which is currently ruining the game for everyone.

Pokemon Unite being featured at the Pokemon World Championships this year is a very big deal. The future of Unite depends on a robust and dedicated competitive scene, and getting featured on the main stage at Worlds is sure to bring more attention to the game. With the event taking place this August, Unite needed a better way to facilitate tournament games than the basic spectate feature, and that’s exactly what Tournament Mode does.

If you watched G4’s Pokemon Unite Invitational last weekend, the limitations of spectator mode were pretty clear. Spectators can join matches on a two-minute delay and follow individual Pokemon on either team. They can switch freely between players, but they’re unable to see the entire map at once. Scores are displayed at the top of the screen, but team colors always swap at the end of the match, making it very confusing to determine which team won when looking at the scoreboard. During the Invitational, the final score would sometimes get skipped entirely.

Tournament Mode fixes all of these problems and introduces some helpful features for organizers. All Unite Licenses, Battle Items, and Held Items are unlocked and max-leveled in this custom mode so games are always fair and balanced. Tournament Mode also has five Admin spots for organizers so that they can control the start of the match, pause the game in case of any network or broadcast issues, and control a free-moving camera for a nicer, more professional casting experience. This will no doubt make live events smoother and more enjoyable to watch, but it'sits a little hard to get excited about the future of Pokemon Unite esports when the present has so many unaddressed issues, namely, the abysmal matchmaking system that plagues ranked mode.

I had a lot to say about the matchmaking after reaching Master Rank several weeks ago, but in summary, Unite makes it too easy to climb and doesn’t restrict matchmaking to players of similar rank or, ideally, skill level. Even at the high end of Master Rank – where only the most skilled players ought to be – games are made up of players that don’t have any sense of even the most basic fundamentals of the game. Every game with a competitive mode has matchmaking issues that are difficult to overcome, but it feels like Unite makes no attempt at all to create fair and balanced games for anyone. This is the number one problem that the developers need to address, so it feels a bit insulting to see a fancy new tournament mode for esports athletes while the rest of us suffer through a sub-par experience.

With one week left in the current season, it isn’t surprising that there aren’t any big changes to the matchmaking in this update. That being said, the transition from Season 1 to Season 2 brought no updates to matchmaking, so I’m worried that Season 3 will come next week and we’ll all just start the same miserable grind over again without any end in sight. What we need is a Solo and Duo Queue that matches players together based on factors like rank, win rate, and average score. Unite needs an esports scene to grow, but it needs better matchmaking to survive.

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