On March 27 Pokemon Youtubers aDrive and Wolfey put up a video announcing the Champions Cup, their unofficial online Pokemon Sword and Shield tournament. There would be an entrance fee of $12 USD, a first place prize of $1500, and a player cap of 350. It all seemed set up to be a pretty small affair.
That was, until the actual day of registration arrived on March 29. Would-be competitors flocked to the sign-up in hordes, so much so that the registration site crashed within minutes. When the dust cleared and the site came back online, there were over 600 people charged and registered for the tournament.
Due to the overwhelming response, the tournament organizers decided to expand it even further. They increased the registration cap to 1504. With a player count like that, this small, fan-run endeavor became the biggest VGC tournament in Pokemon history.
The prize pool increased as well. First place will now receive $5000, the same amount Nintendo gives out for first place at their regional tournaments. The tournament structure was also revamped and split into four divisions. On the second day of play, the top eight from each division would face off in the finals.
With Nintendo canceling their 2020 competitive season in light of the coronavirus, this tournament couldn’t have come at a better time for fans. Adrive and Wolfey have stated that they hope to make The Champions Cup an eight week circuit in the future. From this initial response, that seems likely to happen.
This tournament is an exciting sign that interest in competitive Pokemon is increasing. Despite its massive player base, the official competitive Pokemon scene has remained relatively obscure since its inception in 2009. This is likely in part due to Nintendo’s hesitation to invest in the esports scenes around their games.
Hopefully, the positive responses to The Champion Cup will encourage Nintendo to change their current philosophy. Competitive Pokemon is incredibly fun and accessible, and I hope Nintendo is able to bring this aspect of one of their most popular IPs into the mainstream.
However, if The Champions Cup is any indication, maybe fans don’t need Nintendo’s support to create a thriving competitive scene.