This past weekend the Pokémon World Championships found a home at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. A Hoppip, Skiploom and Jumpluff away from the Disneyland Resort, a different lovable mouse was partying around the city. Pikachu just happened to bring competitors from all over the world to see who would be this year’s Pokémon Masters in Pokkén Tournament, the Pokémon Trading Card Game and in Pokémon Sun & Moon.

Pikachu might have brought a horde of Kangaskhan, Unown, Tauros and merchandise with him, too.

WELCOME TO THE POKÉMON LEAGUE

After last year’s World Championships in San Francisco, California, the competitive scene slate was wiped clean. Back then, points were reset to zero, Pokémon Sun & Moon was expected for release in mere months after the event, and Pokkén was still only available for the Wii U.

It’s amazing what a year can do, huh?

Over 900 competitors from across the world (40+ countries when you break it down) came together to claim fame, glory, prizes and one of the few coveted Pikachu trophies. Pokémon Sun & Moon was front and center, as well as some new tidbits about Pokémon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon. Ultra Beasts have thrown competitive battling for a loop and Alola’s island deities have become staples as well. The Pokémon Trading Card Game just had a new expansion added to its Sun & Moon line — called Burning Shadows — thus making it the first big tournament with these cards in play. As for Pokkén Tournament, while out on the Nintendo Switch next month under the new title of Pokkén Tournament DX, the Wii U version was the star on Saturday.

Limited to competitors, media, VIPs, and those fast enough to purchase spectator badges when they went on sale last month, the turnout for the event was a perfect mix of thousands of Pokémon fans to chat with — the space and number of people provided a good amount of room in Hall D to relax, battle and trade. The venue was divided up into multiple areas: dedicated trading card tables; side event spots; as well as a prize booth to trade in tickets for merchandise; a creativity/activity spot for young Trainers to color in various Pokémon from Black and White; Pokkén Tournament’s own stages and competitive battling setup; as well as demo units of Pokkén Tournament DX; a main stage for the finals with spectator seating; photo opportunities with Pikachu; some love for the Kanto region’s starters and Pikachu built out of Mega Construx pieces to promote the new toy line; and a Pokémon Center pop-up shop that was free to the public.

WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO HEAL YOUR POKÉMON FOR YOU?

The Pokémon Center pop-up shop was a great place for attendees to lighten their wallets. Filled to the brim with goodies, plenty of the merchandise that was available was pulled from the Pokémon Center site, yet the holy grail were the exclusive, event themed items. I go into more detail about all the offerings in the pop-up shop in a separate piece, which includes a whole gallery containing all the goodies that weren’t sold out on Friday.

UNOWN WORLDS

The surprise of the event — outside of new tidbits dropped for Pokémon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon, the Trading Card Game, Pokkén Tournament DX and more — was a little something for Pokémon GO. Increased spawn rates of Tauros and a sudden migration of Kangaskahn and Unown caused a sudden fervor in Anaheim. For just a few days it seemed as if it was July 2016 all over again, back when Pokémon GO was first released.

Thousands were making the trek to Anaheim from all over, causing traffic jams on the I-5 freeway. Slack groups, Discord servers and Facebook groups for Southern California groups focused on the game were lighting up with spawn times, locations and carpool plans. Families were walking around looking for a particular Unown, bringing their own furry buddies along for the hunt. The magic that had diminished from the game’s release was back, yet so were minor traffic accidents and people jaywalking for an Unown “W”. Despite that, listening to Trainers yell out “UNOWN OOOOOOOOOOOO” or hearing a kid cheer loudly followed by saying that “it’s the best day ever” brought back the community that has always been a pillar to the game.

 

THANK YOU FOR PLAYING

This was my first Pokémon World Championships event. I’ve been going to various conventions and events throughout California for over ten years and this definitely qualifies as a show that was done right. The event wasn’t oversold, so there was enough space, which impacted the entire experience in an extremely positive way. Some fans would be unhappy when finding out that it wasn’t open to the public (save for spectator badges that sold out). Luckily, the Pokémon Store was open for all, and when it was combined with the mini Pokémon GO event a good chunk of Pokémon fans from all over California, Arizona, Nevada and more were able to learn about the World Championships.

Next year’s competition is heading to Nashville, Tennessee and I’m already figuring out what local TCG league I can compete in to perhaps get an invite. As a massive Pokénerd, this event is the Comic-Con equivalent for Pokémon fans. If you can attend one and you love the Trading Card Game (from Wizards of the Coast era to today), the video game series in all forms, and everything else Pokémon related, I implore you to check out the next Pokémon World Championships.

Event gallery

Looking for more Pokégoodness? We’ve got you covered! Follow me on my visual tour throughout my weekend at the Pokémon World Championships in all the photos below.

 

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Written by Jennifer Burch

Illustrator, designer, writer and big Nintendo geek, you can find Jennifer with an N3DS within reach 24/7. As the oldest of three, she has survived many Mario Party, Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart sessions intact in addition to getting her brothers hooked on some really weird games. (Cubivore anyone?)

Jennifer Burch