The long-awaited Pokemon TCG Live app's open beta launched today in Canada. The new upgraded version of Pokemon TCG Online provides players with a digital space to play the Pokemon Trading Card Game, either on their phone or desktop. The full app will launch later this year, but the beta provides Pokemon fans a first look at the future of the digital game. ComicBook.com had the chance to take a guided tour through the beta and dig into some of its new features and gameplay options.
Most notably, Pokemon TCG Live is an equivalent to Magic: Arena or Yu-Gi-Oh: Master Duel and not the old Pokemon Trading Card Game video game. There's no single-player storyline to complete, this is an app that allows you to play either casual or ranked Pokemon TCG games against other human players. Ranked mode allows players to advance up a ladder and earn new prizes (including avatar items and digital packs) while casual mode acts as a way to test new decks or strategies. Pokemon TCG Live features updated graphics from Pokemon TCG Online and a more intuitive system for playing individual games, but the system lacks any sort of fancy graphics that would make it stand out against its main competitors.
One other key difference between Pokemon TCG Live and Magic: Arena is that it is an entirely free-to-play app. Players cannot purchase card packs using real money. Instead, they earn additional packs by completing daily challenges, making progress on a Battle Pass, or by earning Ranks in Ranked Play. Players also don't have the option to trade cards with other players. Instead, they can craft the cards they need through an in-game crafting system that converts extra copies of cards from packs into currency. Players can also exchange digital codes from physical booster packs for cards, providing players with an additional way to collect packs for their collection. Notably, the digital card sets do include Full Art variants and Secret Rare cards, with a limit of four copies per card.
Initially, Pokemon TCG Live will support Ranked and Casual play for Standard mode (which comprises the last two years' worth of Pokemon cards) and Casual play for the Extended format that includes cards that date back to the Black & White era of the card game. The developers have noted that they will listen to feedback when developing new features for the game.
While Pokemon TCG Live provides some much needed updates to the digital Pokemon TCG experience, it feels significantly lighter than its major competitors. Of course, the core player base for the Pokemon Trading Card Game is significantly younger than Magic: The Gathering, but it's clear that The Pokemon Company sees this as a platform to support a form of play instead of the primary way to play moving forward.
The beta for Pokemon TCG Live is available now for Canadian residents. A full rollout for the game will be released at a later date.