Pokémon Masters has big shoes to fill, as the last free-to-play Pokémon mobile game was Pokémon Go, a genuine pop cultural phenomenon (and is still hugely popular). This new title, meanwhile is a very different kettle of fish. You play as a nameless trainer to a Pikachu on the island of Pasio, which hosts the Pokémon Masters League. While there, you must travel around the map earning new badges, defeating rival trainers and their Pokémon and adding them to your team as Sync Pairs.
The game just launched on iOS and Android and it’s already sped out of the starting gate, with analytics company Sensor Tower claiming that it immediately became the No. 1 free game in App stores across 27 countries (including the key markets of US and Japan). But given that this is a free-to-play title, the real metric of success is how much money it’s actually making. Fortunately, (for The Pokémon Company, at least), it’s also No.1 for revenue in Japan, though the game is only the 12th highest earner in the US at present.
Pokémon Masters is developed by DeNa, who’s previously released a number of high profile F2P games based on top Nintendo titles: including Super Mario Run, Fire Emblem Heroes and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, with their next project being the hotly anticipated Mario Kart Tour. While their Animal Crossing mobile title wasn’t that great, the others are basically the best a Nintendo branded cash-gobbling F2P game could be.
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Fortunately, right now, Pokémon Masters doesn’t appear to be particularly greedy. The game’s happy to dole out currency and players aren’t reporting fights designed to nudge them towards microtransactions. In fact, the one thing that seems to encourage forking out on crystals to buy new trainers is to see the short stories in which we explore the relationship between Pokémon and trainer, which is actually kind of adorable.
I doubt Pokémon Masters is going to be another Pokémon Go-sized success, but if it carries on this in this vein, it should be well worth keeping up with.