Pokémon Has a Cheating Problem, But There’s a Simple Fix

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The Pokémon World Championships were held over the weekend, and despite being a wonderful celebration of strategy and sportsmanship, there was plenty of controversy to go around. A huge number of top-tier players were disqualified at the competition in Yokohama for having hacked, edited, or generated Pokémon, and what ensued was a divided uproar from both sides of the debate.

Some have said that the disqualifications were harsh and unfair, especially since hack checks in previous events weren’t quite so thorough. Others have said that anyone competing in the highest level of competition should probably do the due diligence and ensure their teams were legitimate. No matter how you slice it though, competitive Pokémon has a cheating problem — but I think there’s a really easy fix.

Let’s break it down.

Why People Cheat In Pokémon

This is a complicated topic, but the argument comes down to two things: time, and cost. It takes time to create the perfect competitive Pokémon. EVs and high IVs – battle experience and innate strength, respectively – aren’t much of a time sink anymore, but grinding for Tera Shards can be a little bit time-consuming, and going for low IV strats can still take up a fair chunk of time.

The other aspect is cost. The Pokémon World Championships used Regulation D rules, which allowed not only all Pokémon that can be caught in Scarlet and Violet, but a few dozen Pokémon from previous games too. If you wanted access to any Pokémon to use in your competitive team, you’d need copies of Scarlet and Violet, Pokémon Sword and Shield, and Pokémon Legends: Arceus. All up, that’d cost about $300, which isn’t a great deal of money, but isn’t nothing either.

Neither of these are particularly great excuses for cheating, but they’re the reasons most people use to justify it. On a personal level, I understand the need for greater access to Pokémon in the competitive scene, but I also absolutely believe that disqualifications for having hacked Pokémon are fair and reasonable.

How People Cheat In Pokémon

The most common form of cheating in competitive Pokémon is through Pokémon hacking, or “genning”. This is when a Pokémon is either taken from a game and altered so its stats are perfect, or created entirely from scratch using a computer program and then transferred into the game using a modified Switch or 3DS, before being traded or transferred to the competitor’s save file.

There are some other ways too, though. Some players alter the games themselves to generate Pokémon with perfect stats, or use modified systems to create raids that provide Pokémon that just so happen to have exactly the stats they want. There’s a whole economy around these types of cheats, and if you hop on over to Twitch you’ll see a handful of accounts dedicated to creating automated raids that give out perfect, and often shiny, Pokémon.

The Solution to Pokémon Cheating

I actually think The Pokémon Company has a great opportunity to kill a few Pidgey with one Rock Throw, so to speak. What if there was a way to both eliminate the impetus for cheating altogether, make the competitive scene even more exciting and lively, lower the barrier to entry for competitive Pokémon, and let the main series games be a little more experimental? Well, there is a way to do all this, and to be honest, it already kind of exists.

My proposed solution is a fully-fledged battle simulator, dedicated solely to competitive Pokémon, detached from the main series games altogether. Think of it like Pokémon Stadium or Battle Revolution — an app or game dedicated to multiplayer battles, but with online support, and acting as a platform on which to build Pokémon as an esport.

As I said, it kind of already exists, albeit in an unofficial form. It’s called Pokémon Showdown, and it’s a battle simulator that allows you to quickly and easily build teams with exactly the stats, moves, abilities, items, and Tera types you want, then battle them against other players. It’s basic, sure, most of the Pokémon are 2D sprites and there are some weird bugs, but it’s actually used by most competitive Pokémon players already to test out teams before committing to building them in-game.

<p>Pokémon Showdown</p>

Pokémon Showdown

<p>Pokémon Showdown</p>

Pokémon Showdown

So imagine if The Pokémon Company took Pokémon Showdown, added pretty graphics and chucked it on the Switch, then used it for VGC. It would eliminate the need for cheating, because you could just build your Pokémon however you wanted. If you wanted to still encourage VGC players to play the main games, you could say that cosmetics – like shiny forms, nicknames, titles, and Poké Balls – can only be imported from main games, but for those who don’t care, they could just install the app, build a team, and get to competing.

This already removes the time issue, but it also removes the cost issue. You wouldn’t need to buy 5 different games to make a competitively viable team, they’d already be in the battle simulator. In one fell swoop, there’d be no reason, and even no way, to cheat anymore. And by having it be free, or even just one purchase, you lower the barrier of entry for anyone interested in trying out competitive play.

You know what else it would do? Let Pokémon bring back battle gimmicks from past generations. Since Pokémon Black and White, every new generation has brought with it a new way to battle. We had Triple and Rotation Battles, Sky and Inverse Battles, Mega Evolutions, Z-Moves, Z-Powers, Dynamax, and of course Terastalization.

Each of these gimmicks could be rotated in or out with each competitive season, keeping the meta ever-shifting and engaging players who would otherwise get bored of the same battle gimmick for years on end. One season could have Mega Evolutions, for example, while another could have Triple Battles. You could even mix and match — Rotation Battles and Dynamax, Z-Moves and Sky Battles, Inverse Battles and Terastalization. If you want to get fancier with it, you could do multiple battle gimmicks at once, letting players choose from Megas, Teras, Dynamax, or Z-Moves. Your team could have a Grass Tera Dusknoir, while your opponent’s team has a Gigantamax Gengar. The possibilities are endless.

Removing the competitive aspect from the main games and shifting it to its own app lets the main series be a little more experimental too. Pokémon Legends: Arceus had a huge change to the series’ battle system, massively overhauling how turn order works and allowing for stronger or faster moves. But it was never long for this world, because eventually competition had to come back, and the format just wasn’t built for competitive play. A battle sim means Game Freak could mess around with the battle system, try new things and maybe push forward a little bit, without massively affecting competitive play. And anything that works can be brought into the battle sim and incorporated properly.

There’s really no downside to this that I can see. And look, I’ll admit that I am a writer, not a developer, a marketing executive, or the president of the company making the highest grossing media franchise of all time. But as a player, a fan of competitive Pokémon, and somebody who’s sick of seeing these same arguments pop up every single time a tournament happens, I think it’s something worth considering.

The Pokémon Company, if you’re reading this, first of all please also read my argument for why the Pokémon anime needs an official sub. But secondly, please consider throwing a little bit of money at whoever can make this idea a reality. If it doesn’t work out, hey, you’re still making money hand over fist, and you can always go back to shoving competitive back into the main games.