The biggest Pokémon tournament of the year is going on right now and tons of players are getting disqualified for fielding hacked teams. The first Pokémon World Championship since Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s big launch, the stricter checks are apparently catching some pros off guard, and ending their dreams of becoming 2023’s very best Pokémon master early.
There are three main ways to get a team of six Pokémon to play with at this level of competition.. You can play a ton, breed them, and train them to perfection. You can trade with someone else who’s done that. Or you can use a homebrew program called PKHeX to edit your save data and get hacked versions of the exact team you want. The first two methods are fine. The third one is technically against the rules, even if the resulting Pokémon has the identical stats and moves as a legal one, but tons of people do it anyway to save time and don’t always get caught. Tournament organizers in Yokohama, Japan where this year’s World Championship takes place, don’t seem to be looking the other way, though.
“DQ’d at 2-0,” tweeted competitor Brady Smith on August 11. “Should have gotten my mons myself! Half my team was modified/genned.” He noted that he didn’t own a copy of Legends of Arceus to capture the Gen V ground flying-type Landorus, or a copy of Sword and Shield to get the black bear fighting-type Urshifu, leading him to try and get them from a “reputable trader.” One of the checks revealed the traded Pokémon to be hacks.
“I guess like the weirdest part in all of this is that they waited til the [World Championship] to start upping their game,” Smith wrote. “I wish it was consistent throughout all the season, but at least we now have this consistently established.” In a DM conversation with Kotaku he said he personally knew a few players whose Pokémon had hacked EVs and who weren’t caught. “We had warnings ahead of time this year that the hack check would be bad, but in our ears that just means, ‘Gen your Pokémon very carefully, modify existing Pokémon, don’t generate new ones,’” he said.
He’s seemingly not alone. Roberto Parente, who placed in the top 16 at last year’s World Championship, was also thrown out of the tournament on the first day. “Got disqualified from worlds last round on 4-2, I cannot stop crying,” he tweeted. “So many effort put in this season for literally nothing, canceling the open less than 1 month before worlds + this new hack check last minute way [it’s] no sense. We spend money for this, we need RESPECT.”
Francesco Pio Pero, who placed in the top eight at the Liverpool Regional Championships earlier this year, was also disqualified. It’s not yet clear if tournament organizers are using new methods to identify hacked Pokémon or simply following established procedures that other recent events weren’t previously following.
Either way, it’s a contentious issue within the game’s competitive community. While some view it as a scourge that’s undermining the integrity and spirit of Pokémon, others see hacking shortcuts as a necessary way to stay on top of new strategies and evolving metas without sacrificing hundreds of hours across multiple games. Pokémon YouTuber Verlisify falls into the former camp, and gleefully applauded the ousting of Smith and others from the tournament, arguing that players have had years to collect every resource, item, and Pokémon they need to make up elite teams, just as those who haven’t been disqualified from the tournament so far have presumably done.
Not everyone agrees. “As someone who’s been in the scene for the past 9 years, I’ll say that almost everyone gens, and that’s just how it is and that’s how it’s always been,” Smith told Kotaku. He believes the rule against it is “silly” and argues that most top competitors don’t care if their opponent took shortcuts with hacked Pokémon. Smith added that the base game itself has lost its magic, and ideally he’d like to see a tool like PKHeX make its way into the game proper. Some feel like it would help level the playing field.
“Cmon man, everyone has always got mon by pkhex and similar, why we should be disqualified now only because we’re playing in Japan,” Parente tweeted in response to a different online commenter. “Oh yes man, a part of Japanese players, every other player that didn’t get disqualified obtained their mons by paying someone or rushing the breed the night before after discovering about the new check method.”
At least one player managed to survive the second day even with a hacked Pokémon. Federico Camporesi, runner-up at the 2020 World Championship in the seniors division, had his Hisui region ground-type Ursaluna removed from play but was allowed to continue with the rest of his team. “I made Day 2 at Worlds 3-1 > 5-1 with 5 Mons I’m so happy,” he tweeted, adding that he now has time to acquire a legal Ursaluna before competition resumes tomorrow.
The Pokémon Company did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Update 8/11/2023 2:46 p.m. ET: Added comment from Smith.