Even if you don’t play competitive Pokémon, you may be familiar with the move Metronone, which sees a monster wave their fingers back and forth until they hit their enemy with a random attack from the wider compendium of moves. It’s a fun move in theory, but not a particularly effective one, because you can’t predict what your Pokémon will do and whether or not it will take advantage of your rival’s weakness. And yet, last weekend, a handful of top-tier competitive players all walked into the finals of an official Pokémon tournament equipped with Metronome. It was coordinated, meaning that as far as organizers were concerned, it was also cheating.
Why do such a thing? They were upset and wanted to send a message to the larger league. As one of the banned players explained in a Twitter post, there’s been increasing tension over how tournaments are run, their format, and whether or not they occur in person. Players feel that the current “best of one” format is not good for competition, because the outcome of a single match may not always reflect a better player in a game that has random elements. And there’s been grumbling about how much the league, which operates in Korea, loops younger players into the larger proceedings.
Competitors also cite alleged problems with online tournaments where players have intentionally disconnected to force a win, or worse, where connectivity issues have made it so that both contestants couldn’t compete and ended up being disqualified. Players say they don’t like how uncommunicative the league is about what’s going on in it, either. It’s a complicated situation which is broken down by one of the banned players, NashVGC, right here.
Why did these top Pokémon players get banned?
Frustrations reached a fever pitch in early June, however, when a player was allegedly banned from a tournament without being told why. Kotaku has reached out to The Pokémon Company inquiring about the situation. But players who were in the tourney got so upset that they got together and coordinated what happened next. Competitions ask players to send the Pokémon who make up their teams in advance, and that’s exactly what they did. Normally, as with any competitive game, you can expect to see some broad similarities in teams between different players, because they’re all anticipating the same “meta” tactics. But this was something different: the players all sent in teams with Pokémon that knew the same move. And that move was Metronome.
The next day, all four players received an email telling them they were disqualified from the proceedings. The broken rules cited were “An act of causing harm to other participants or giving an offensive image” and “Other actions that Nintendo Ltd. and TPC (and its subsidiaries) deem inappropriate.”
What’s worth noting is that not every Pokémon can know Metronome, and even if a monster is capable of learning it, the chances that four players could all raise (or rent) entire teams that know the same move in such a short period of time is extremely unlikely. Pokémon is a game where there are widely available tools that allow you to create monsters by dictating the stats without having to actually raise them in-game, however. Whatever the case, planning together with multiple contestants like this isn’t exactly kosher in a competitive environment.
NashVGC, one of the players who was banned for submitting a Metronome team, says that the entire ploy was an effort to raise “awareness” of the larger situation with the competitive circuit in Korea. In a tweet, they explain that “There are still people who do not know what’s happening. Once enough people realize the issue, we may be able to move on to a movement. Be it online or offline, we’ll have to demand TPC of fair circuits and respect for players.”
“I believe players deserve better,” Nash said in a YouTube comment.
And indeed, the world is taking note. Not only are top players in other regions offering support, but since this has transpired there’s even been a fan-led tournament with cash prizes where the only move anyone is allowed to use is Metronome.
Update 10:00 a.m. ET: We’ve clarified that hacking is a possibility, but not a certainty.