Round Up: Pokémon World Championships 2023

Round Up: Pokémon World Championships 2023

World Championships Trophy
Image: Joe Merrick / Nintendo Life

After the Pokémon World Championships made its long-awaited return in London last year, it was announced that the 2023 Championships would be taking place at the Pacifico Yokohama in Japan.

This would be only the second time the tournament has been held outside of North America, making this truly a monumental announcement — somehow, even with Pokémon being huge in Japan, the Championship Series had never been held there. Many felt that this was truly going to be something special. The question is, did the 2023 World Championships live up to the hype?

In this feature, we’ll recap all the events and highlights of the World Championships in Yokohama in 2023.

What are the Pokémon World Championships?

The Pokémon World Championships have been going since 2004 when it started with the Trading Card Game (TCG). The series added the main line video games (VGC) in 2009, Pokkén Tournament in 2016 and Pokémon GO & UNITE in 2022.

To earn an invite to the World Championships, you are required to fare well at Regional, International and local competitions throughout the year. This year, the Championships returned to a three-day event with all four categories currently played on Friday & Saturday, and finals for GO, VGC and TCG taking place on Sunday.

It truly is a place where people can prove they are the best Pokémon trainers in the world.

What is there to do?

Outside the event

In previous years, outside of the main tournament, there was rarely that much to do outside of the event. This year, it feels like there was too much.

The Pokémon Company hosted many shows alongside the usual Pokémon Center Worlds Store, but all required a ticket to access and the tickets were acquired, much as everything in Japan, by a raffle system meaning a lot of people did end up disappointed and unable to enter them.

Image: Joe Merrick / Nintendo Life

There were two nighttime shows: Imagination! Into the Next was a dance show featuring a variety of Pokémon mascots; We Move!! featured the biggest amount of Pikachu and was followed by a drone show. Both of these can be found on the official YouTube channel if you wish to check them out.

The day before the World Championships, a special concert was held featuring orchestral renditions of Pokémon music, as well as music from the host countries of the World Championships.

There was also a Pikachu parade for everyone to watch every day of the tournament, with a full-ticketed Pokémon Parade rounding off the entire weekend on Monday.

Pokémon Matsuri Park was another ticketed feature. Much like the Worlds Square of the 2022 World Championships, you could play a variety of games in order to earn points to redeem for prizes. These ranged from hooking a Magikarp in a fishing game, feeding a Dondozo various Tatsugiri plush using a catapult and rolling a Voltorb through a maze. It also featured the traditional dances featuring Pikachu, Sprigatito, Fuecoco and Quaxly.

Finally, there was the Pokémon Trainer Cruise. Mimicking the S.S. Anne from Vermillion City, you could go on the boat and do a variety of things including battle and trade with other players in VGC and TCG in a variety of different lounges. You could even check the bins to find various items. There was a stamp rally to make sure you had seen everything and a lovely photo spot on the deck of the ship. It truly was a surreal experience

Outside of these events, the entirety of Yokohama had been taken over by Pokémon. In all the malls there were images of Pokémon cards, with big card art displays being held throughout the area. Buses and train stations were covered in the Pokémon World Championships imagery. There were several pop-up Pokémon Center stores across the malls as well and there were screenings of the Championships everywhere.

There was also PokéGenic imagery, various bits of artwork on walls featuring Pokémon for you to take photos with. It truly felt like Pokémon had taken over the city and it was just surreal to see huge lines of people just for these photos.

Inside the event

If you weren’t competing at the World Championships, it felt like there was a little less to do at the event itself.

There were the usual side tournaments for TCG, VGC and GO you could play in order to get points to redeem for items, including the Paradise Resort promo card, at the Prize Wall. There was also the GO Scavenger Hunt where you had to complete a variety of tasks Otherwise, it was just a lot of seating where you could watch the various matches in front of the gorgeous main stage.

Prize Wall
Image: Joe Merrick / Nintendo Life

Next to the main building, you could view the tournament livestreams in a special auditorium called the Pokémon Activity Zone, which included an area for battling and trading in the games. This is also where a lot of Pokémon spin-offs showcased themselves. There was a corner promoting Pokémon Masters EX, as well as an area to play the arcade game, Pokémon Mezastar.

The Pokémon TCG Play Lab also returned to teach players the TCG and — for the first time — you could look at the coming Pokémon Trading Card Game Classic set. Finally, you could look at the Pokémon Local Acts, a campaign in Japan where various prefectures have a Pokémon ambassador. You could even meet these ambassadors.

Lastly, a local Pokémon GO event was held for those who had a pass to enter the World Championships, which was a change compared to previous years where it was open to everyone. This allowed for more spawns of various Regional Pokémon and better shiny chances for getting Pikachu and the other Pokémon including Farfetch’d, Pansage, Pansear and Panpour. This was done through the various unique PokéStops and Gyms running

Pokémon Center

Pokémon Center Plush Wall
Image: Joe Merrick / Nintendo Life

The main Pokémon Center store at the Championships was the biggest they have ever done. Like many other events this year, entry was determined by lottery, but this time all spectators and competitors were guaranteed to get inside eventually.

There was a lot of room to move and two big merchandise lines: one featuring the Pokémon World Championships imagery and another focused around Yokohama featuring a sailor Pikachu and Lapras. The store included t-shirts, hoodies, chopsticks, Switch cases, magnets, pins and so much more. There was truly so much you could potentially get. We may have had to buy an extra suitcase to bring things all of these extra goodies home.

The tournament – All of the winners

Pokémon Worlds Main Stage
Image: Joe Merrick / Nintendo Life

Pokémon UNITE

Pokémon UNITE was the first final to air. This is only the second time the MOBA has featured at the World Championships, and the reigning champions Luminosity battled through and ended up being the victors without losing once.

The idea of a bracket reset for the finals meant nothing to them as they just dominated the other team and got a 3-0 victory. It truly was a sight to behold how they simply dominated and controlled the field, especially in the final match

Winners:

  • Luminosity

Pokémon GO

Like UNITE, Pokémon GO returned for only its second year at the World Championships. This year the finals ended up between ItsAXN and xxRubixMasterxx.

Some of the mainstays in competitive Pokémon GO teams returned — itsAXN ran a team of Noctowl, Shadow Alolan Sandslash, Purified Sableye, Lanturn, Medicham and Shadow Swampert against RubixMaster’s more traditional though slightly varied Registeel, Defense Forme Deoxys, Shadow Quagsire, Altaria, Umbreon and Azumarill.

With itsAXN having a lot of Championships experience under his belt, particularly in the Top 8 or higher, and this being RubixMaster’s second event where he has placed highly, the battle was tense. RubixMaster managed to hold his own and get one battle win but eventually, itsAXN took the final match to win and become the 2023 World Champion

Winner:

  • itsAXN

Pokémon TCG

This year was the first year of the Pokémon Scarlet & Violet series of the TCG; this added Pokémon ex back to the fold alongside the Paldea Pokémon. As a result, there was a lot of variety between the various decks. Mew VMAX, Origin Palkia V, and Gardevoir ex all showed up in a variety of strong decks.

The finals, however, came down to Vance Kelley and Tord Reklev. Tord, who is always one of the favourites to win, has racked up every single title other than World Champion under his belt; Vance, on the other hand, had several Top 16s. This was a match against two of the strongest TCG players.

After each of the players took one win, the third match was arguably one of the most tense Pokémon TCG match to ever take the World stage, with a to-and-fro between the two players, it eventually went to time and the final turns, but Tord couldn’t quite get the cards he needed leading Vance to take out Tord’s Pokémon deck and claim the title

  • Masters: Vance Kelley
  • Seniors: Gabriel Fernandez
  • Juniors: Shao Tong Yen

Pokémon VGC

With Pokémon Scarlet & Violet releasing late last year, this was the first year for the Gen IX Pokémon games at the World Championships. However, in a strange turn of events it is the first, and only, event of the season to utilise Regulation D rules. These rules allowed for you to use not only the Pokémon from Scarlet & Violet but Pokémon transferred in from previous games, including various Legendary mainstays such as Landorus, Cresselia and more.

The VGC part of the competition did have a few controversies, with a number of players being disqualified due to hacked Pokémon violating the rules and a router issue that caused all matches to disconnect during the Top Cut. This meant that many matches were restarted in a Sudden Death manner which angered a lot of players and arguably meant some who were on track to win their match ended up losing. Whether this scenario will be resolved for future competitions, to avoid Sudden Death and just repeat the match, is unclear but the community has definitely been outspoken about these issues. Where do you side with them?

In the finals, however, it turned out to be a Japanese sweep with the home turf taking all three of the titles. The Masters finals were very tense with Shohei Kimura facing off against Michael Kelsch, a player who only started playing the game at the start of the year proving that you don’t need to have years of experience to be a good player. Michael came in with a very unique team including Pokémon such as Farigiraf but the team unfortunately couldn’t overcome the raw power of Shohei’s team, and the support of his Amoonguss.

Winners

  • Masters: Shohei Kimura
  • Seniors: Tomoya Ogawa
  • Juniors: Sora Ebisawa

Next year — Returning to Hawaii in 2024

At the closing ceremony, there were a number of reveals, as there always are. Blaziken, Mimikyu and Meowscarada are coming to Pokémon UNITE; the introduction of Paradox Pokémon mechanics to the Pokémon TCG; and, a variety of competitive moves and the return of starter Pokémon in Pokémon Scarlet & Violet’s DLC. However, at the end of the ceremony, they announced the location of the 2024 Pokémon World Championships — Honolulu, Hawaii.

Having gone to Hawaii in 2010 and 2012, the World Championships will make a long-awaited return to the state in 2024. Though, due to the recent news, Tsunekazu Ishihara also confirmed a donation to help those displaced and hurt by the wildfires in Maui.

Was it the best World Championships?

It really depends. There was so much to do in Yokohama, but most events you could only attend by lottery, so if you attended, you’d more likely than not have one or none of the activities on your list, which is unfortunate. Sadly, this is a necessity considering how big Pokémon is in Japan, with millions going to Yokohama each year just for the Pikachu Outbreak alone prior to 2020.

It was quite overwhelming — while it felt like there was a lot to do at the event, there was also not enough to do at certain times. However, the level of play at the event was high, and the decor and theming was off the charts. It truly was amazing to be in attendance and to see so much love towards Pokémon.

The question is, can it be topped? We honestly don’t know. It’s hard to say if this level “city takeover” is feasible again, and they need to make sure more things are available for more people to do, but if this is a new standard being set then the next few years are certainly ones to watch for the Pokémon World Championships.


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