Pokémon Sword & Shield Battle Stadium has been announced, and it will represent a major step up from the series' previous offerings when it comes to online ranked play for competitive battlers looking to hone their craft. The Pokémon franchise has a long-standing competitive community, often referred to as the VGC, that has regional and global tournaments to crown the very best Pokémon Trainers worldwide, often side-by-side with the Pokémon TCG.
Pokémon Sword & Shield online ranked play will not be the first time the series has offered its fans a chance to engage with other trainers online, of course. Many previous iterations of the franchise have featured online battling through various means, but they've often been bare bones excursions into multiplayer modes, with very little to go on outside of simply battling random opponents. Without serious ranking systems and the features that often come with them, the Pokémon series often made things a bit more difficult for enfranchised competitive trainers to find like-minded individuals without organizing something first. For many competitive games - spanning fighting titles like Tekken and card games like Hearthstone - ladder play and competitive matchmaking are fundamental offerings that entice players into getting more involved, so Pokémon's lack of attention to those features has always been somewhat puzzling.
That changes with Pokémon Sword & Shield online ranked play, however. According to a new blog post from The Pokémon Company, the Battle Stadium ranked mode will shore up the franchise's online play, making a huge leap from the Ratings Battles that characterized Pokémon Sun & Moon previously. Pokémon Sword & Shield Battle Stadium will use a five-tier ranking system that follows a clear-cut path: Beginner, Poké Ball, Great Ball, Ultra Ball, and finally Master Ball. Every time a player wins a Battle Stadium match, they receive rank points that contribute to their rating. Players will be matched with trainers of a similar rank, too, so battles will continue to get more challenging as trainers rank up.
Pokémon Sword & Shield online play will also host official competitions in-game, with certain competitions offering players the chance to compete in the Pokémon Sword & Shield World Championships if they do well. Both competitive and casual sides if Pokémon Sword & Shield Battle Stadium will support rental Pokémon, too, meaning players can try out different lineups to help figure out their position in the metagame. For a series as dynamic as Pokémon, which can often have multiple meta shifts in a season, the feature might be a godsend for competitive players looking for an edge.
Regardless of how it plays out in practice, though, Pokémon Sword & Shield Battle Stadium is already a significant upgrade for the series on paper. Simply offering many of the features that Pokémon Sword & Shield online ranked play will have is a major step up for the Pokémon franchise, and it shows that Nintendo is listening to fans who want to have more ways to engage online. With the Nintendo Switch online features sorely in need of some love as well, this could be a sign of things to come with regards to the gaming giant's online presence - something that will become even more vital in the next console generation, which will also have game streaming services like Stadia vying for consumer attention.
Source: The Pokémon Company