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Tencent’s Pokémon Unite is like League of Legends with Pikachu for Nintendo Switch and smartphones

Tencent is converting another world-famous game franchise for smartphones.

Tencent’s mysterious Pokémon project has finally been revealed—and it looks like the Chinese giant is drawing inspiration from its most famous game.

“Pokémon Unite” is a new five-on-five team battle game coming to Nintendo Switch and smartphones. Players team up in multiplayer battles, each picking a Pokémon like Pikachu, Charmander, or Snorlax. Then they venture out into an arena to battle wild Pokémon and capture territory from the opposing team, while defending their own from attack.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because this game looks like a Pokémon take on a classic MOBA game like League of Legends, Dota 2, or Honour of Kings. And that shouldn’t be a surprise: Pokémon Unite is being created by Tencent’s TiMi Studios, the same developer that made Honour of Kings, arguably China’s biggest homegrown game.

Chinese game developers are increasingly being recognized for their expertise in creating mobile games. Some of the biggest names in gaming have partnered with companies like Tencent and NetEase, entrusting them with taking valuable brands like PUBG, Diablo, and now Pokémon and turning them into hits on mobile. Tencent’s Call of Duty Mobile—based on the hit PC and console franchise from American developer Activision—racked up over 250 million downloads in nine months.

Tencent has been hoping to transfer its success in the mobile market to consoles, and this game looks like it satisfies both sides: It’ll be released on both smartphones and the Nintendo Switch. It will also support cross-play, so players on either platform can play together.

“The Unite in Pokémon Unite represents the gameplay concept of players coming together with a shared goal,” said Steven Ma, senior vice president of Tencent, on a video presenting the game. “Through our shared pursuit of innovative gameplay and quality, Tencent and The Pokémon Company have united with the goal of creating a new game that can be enjoyed by all.”

Free to start, pay later

No release date was revealed for Pokémon Unite. The game will be free-to-start, a common model for mobile games where gamers are free to download and play the game—but certain elements are locked unless players pay. It’s unknown exactly what paid elements, if any, Pokémon Unite contains.

Pokémon Unite comes as The Pokémon Company continues to invest in smartphone gaming, in sharp contrast to one of its owners, Nintendo, which reportedly will pull back from smartphones to focus on consoles. Meanwhile, the last week has seen the release of two new Pokémon games for smartphones: Puzzle game Pokémon Café Mix and Pokémon Smile, an AR game that encourages children to brush their teeth.

This article was originally published by the South China Morning Post. Photo credit: Tencent/The Pokémon Company.