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Image: The Pokemon Company.

The “Pokémon” series now has its biggest mobile hit since “Pokémon Go,” thanks to the massive launch of “Pokémon Unite,” a game whose announcement last year was met with derision from hardcore fans.

Why it matters: “Unite” is far from an underdog. It’s a flex by some of the most powerful companies and brands in gaming.

  • It takes some of the world’s most popular fictional characters (Pokémon)...puts them in one of the world’s most popular video game genres (MOBA — lane-based competitive games involving competing squads of heroes, à la “League of Legends”)….in a game co-developed by one of the world’s most successful game studios in that genre (Tencent’s TiMi).

By the numbers: “Unite” has been downloaded more than 30 million times since its launch on mobile on Sept. 22, according to industry tracker Sensor Tower.

  • That’s better than TiMi’s big MOBA “Honor of Kings,” which launched in 2015. Sensor Tower says that game has surpassed $10 billion in player spending.
  • On its first day on phones, “Unite” claimed the No. 1 spot on most-downloaded app store lists in 62 countries, according to tracker App Annie.
  • This is all after the free-to-download game had already launched on Nintendo Switch in July.
Image: The Pokémon Company

Fan skepticism had struck early: When “Unite” was announced last year, many “Pokémon” fans grumbled, downvoting the game’s debut trailer 161,000 times, before the Pokémon Company deleted it and re-uploaded it.

  • The re-uploaded trailer was panned, too, with comments like: “Stop trying to make Unite happen. It's not going to happen.”
  • But it turns out the game is quite fun, as Axios Gaming’s Megan Farokhmanesh recently attested.

What they’re saying: “I do genuinely think it’s great, but I’d say people have a love-hate relationship with it,” says Kotaku editor-in-chief Patricia Hernandez, a former colleague of mine who is one of the smartest (and entertainingly strident) Pokémon experts out there.

  • Hernandez said some fans have struggled with the game, in part because the MOBA genre — which requires that players learn characters’ moves and understand how to function as a successful team — is very demanding.
  • But some also flinched at the aggressive monetization schemes in the game, which pushed players to pay to advance and were toned down for the mobile launch.
  • “The reality is that MOBAs are gruesome in terms of lows,” she noted. “But the highs!”

Go deeper

"Aeon Must Die!" stirs up controversy amid release

Image courtesy of Limestone Games

Beat 'em up "Aeon Must Die!"'s release on Thursday stirred up controversy around accusations from former employees that the game was created under toxic work conditions and ultimately stolen from its creators.

Driving the news: Former Limestone Games developers, now working under a new studio called Mishura Games, published a lengthy statement calling on Limestone and publisher Focus Entertainment to "complete their legal responsibilities."

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
2 hours ago - Health

FDA panel endorses shot of J&J booster for adults

Photo: Wolfgang Kumm/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Members of the Food and Drug Administration's vaccine expert panel on Friday unanimously endorsed a booster shot for adult recipients of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine at least two months after the initial dose.

Why it matters: The advisory committee raised concerns about a dearth of data to support their decision but ultimately decided to support an additional shot for those over 18.

Capitol Police officer indicted for obstructing Jan. 6 investigation

Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6. Photo: Brent Stirton/Getty Images

A U.S. Capitol Police officer has been indicted on obstruction of justice charges for allegedly helping hide evidence of a participant's involvement in the Jan. 6 riot.

Driving the news: Officer Michael A. Riley, 50, is accused of telling the unidentified participant, referred to as "Person 1," in the Jan. 6 riot to delete posts from Facebook, which showed them in the Capitol during the attack.