It’s actually happening: The Pokémon Company is finally giving the world a straightforward way to play the Pokémon trading card game digitally, online, and on your smartphone. Announced today, the new app is called Pokémon TCG Live and it couldn’t be coming at a better time with the Pokémon card game once again exploding in popularity.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “Wasn’t there already a Pokémon TCG app?” And yes, there is. It’s called the Pokémon TCG Online app and it does let you collect cards and battle people online, but it’s old, a mess, and was only supported on web browsers and tablets. Pokémon TCG Live is now set to replace it, bringing a digital version of the card game to smartphones in an “updated digital format.”
In addition to deck building and online battles, TCG Live will also include customizable avatars, daily quests, and other free-to-play live service elements like battle passes. Most importantly, like the original TCG Online app, players will still be able to upload the cards they get from real-life booster packs to their digital collection. The Pokémon Company doesn’t mention microtransactions specifically in today’s announcement, so we’ll have to wait to see exactly how the in-game economy shakes out, but for now it does sound like you can earn new cards and avatar accessories without spending money.
Today’s news comes as the trading card game celebrates its 25th anniversary and is in some ways more popular than ever. While the 2021 Pokémon World Championships were cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic, the last few years have seen new people flock to the scene as prices for the rarest cards skyrocket and packs for new sets fly off store shelves.
One of the nice things about an app, of course, is that people can enjoy the card game without ever having to get involved in the messy frenzy around physical card pack buying and speculation. TCG Online served a similar purpose, but was often a last resort for many given its clumsy interface and lack of availability on mobile. I tried it a couple of times. I wanted it to be great. It was not. Hopefully TCG Live does it right.
TCG Online will be sunset just prior to TCG Live’s official launch. The new app is set for a soft-launch Canada and global beta later this year, but doesn’t have a final release date yet. Players of the former will have a chance to transfer most of their stuff over to the latter when it comes out, per a full FAQ over on The Pokémon Company’s website.
Hopefully, during the interim it finds a way to get TCG Live on the Nintendo Switch. Because, I mean, come one now.