Play! Pokémon, formerly known as Pokémon Organized Play (often abbreviated as POP), is a division of The Pokémon Company known for hosting the Pokémon World Championships, a competitive eSports tournament which features the Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG) and the Pokémon video game series (VG).
Play! Pokémon was formed in 2003 under the supervision of The Pokémon Company International (previously known as Pokémon USA) after Wizards of the Coast lost its license to the Trading Card Game. Since then, a new league, tournament, and prize system was created, together with a new 'Professor program'.
Unlike the Wizards of the Coast leagues, POP utilizes a hybrid system, in which one can earn points for playing the Trading Card Game and/or the Video Game. Leagues are held in safe public locations, such as game stores, community centers, or libraries, and are run by official League Leaders approved after a background check conducted by Pokémon. Individuals applying for a league who opt out of the background check are not allowed to own a league, but are still allowed to play in any league they choose.
The league cycle is divided into eight seasons, each of which lasts about five weeks and is typically represented by themes found in Pokémon (e.g. gym badges, starter Pokémon). Players earn prizes like physical Gym badges or seasonal promotional cards by completing rows in their Player score card, usually by participating in Trading Card Game or Video Game league events. There may be several weeks of a break in-between seasons, but most leagues continue to play to allow players to catch up on prizes they may have missed. League sessions typically last for two to four hours, and players usually meet once every week. At the end of a season, League Owners and League Leaders report all the participants who entered the league during the season to Pokémon.com through the Pokémon League Dashboard on the respective League Owner's profile.
The first time a trainer participates in a Play! Pokémon sanctioned league or tournament, they will receive a Pokémon Player ID (commonly referred to as a POP ID). Players are usually encouraged to register their POP ID online at Pokémon.com with their existing Pokémon Trainer Club account, or sign up for one. Any tournament results or league participation can be linked to the player's personal account.
Local tournaments are usually held every week by a local Tournament Organizer. Prizes vary depending on the number of competitors. Tournaments can be free to enter, however this is done at the discretion of the Tournament Organizer (often the store owner) and entry fees can be applied.
POP-sanctioned tournaments are either single elimination, Swiss, or Swiss followed by single elimination rounds. Some POP events use "Age Modified Swiss", (a variation of Swiss invented by POP) in which a player's age takes priority over the player's record when the organizer pairs players. In leagues with enough participation, the Tournament Organizer may apply age categories. Categories range from Junior (ages 12 and under), Senior (ages 13–15) and Master (ages 16 and over).
After sanctioned tournaments are completed, the Tournament Organizer uploads the results of each match to POP. The results of each match are used to calculate a player's rating. POP Ratings are based on the Elo rating system.
Prerelease Tournaments are Trading Card Game events in which players play with cards from a set that will not be released for several weeks. The typical entry fee is $20–35 and each player will be given six booster packs, a special promo, and a set of sleeves that are themed after the new set. Each player builds a 40-card deck using the cards opened out of the six packs (not including basic Energy cards, which are provided at the event). At the end of each prerelease, players receive two extra booster packs. Players may also have the option of playing in a Theme Deck challenge instead of the Prerelease event, where they play for a theme deck and 4 booster packs.
Premier Tournaments are meant for competition. There are six different types of Premier Tournaments (note that the following applies to the Canada and the United States only; other regions may have different prizes):
The Pokémon World Championships is an invite-only event where the best players of the season compete for scholarship money, prizes and the title of World Champion. The 2014 Pokémon World Championships were held in Washington, D.C. with the presence of more than 155 trainers from around the world.
|2004||Hayato Sato||Takuya Yoneda||Tsuguyoshi Yamato||Orlando, Florida|
|2005||Curran Hill||Stuart Benson||Jeremy Maron||San Diego, California|
|2006||Hiroki Yano||Miska Saari||Jason Klaczynski||Anaheim, California|
|2007||Jun Hasebe||Jeremy Scharff-Kim||Tom Roos||Waikoloa Village, Hawaii|
|2008||Tristan Robinson||Dylan Lefavour||Jason Klaczynski||Orlando, Florida|
|2009||Tsubasa Nakamura||Takuto Itagaki||Stephen Silvestro||San Diego, California|
|2010||Yuka Furusawa||Jacob Lesage||Yuta Komatsuda||Waikoloa Village, Hawaii|
|2011||Gustavo Wada||Christopher Kan||David Cohen||San Diego, California|
|2012||Shuto Itagaki||Chase Moloney||Igor Costa||Waikoloa Village, Hawaii|
|2013||Ondrej Kujal||Kaiwen Cabbabe||Jason Klaczynski||Vancouver, British Columbia|
|2014||Haruto Kobayashi||Trent Orndorff||Andrew Estrada||Washington, D.C.|
|2015||Rowan Stavenow||Patrick Martinez||Jacob Van Wagner||Boston, Massachusetts|
|2016||Shunto Sadahiro||Jesper Eriksen||Shintaro Ito||San Francisco, California|
|2017||Tobias Strømdahl||Zachary Bokhari||Diego Cassiraga||Anaheim, California|
|2018||Naohito Inoue||Magnus Pederson||Robin Schulz||Nashville, Tennessee|
|2019||Haruki Miyamoto||Kaya Lichtleitner||Henry Brand||Washington, D.C.|
In 2009, Play! Pokémon began to organize competitive tournaments for the Pokémon video game series alongside the Trading Card Game, which is collectively known as the Video Game Championships (VGC). Like the TCG Championships, players compete with other players in their own age divisions (i.e. Junior, Senior and Masters) in different Premier Tournaments, and the season culminates with the best players earning an invitation to play the Pokémon World Championships in August.
|2009||Jeremiah Fan||Kazuyuki Tsuji||N/A|
|2010||Shota Yamamoto||Ray Rizzo||N/A|
|2011||Brian Hough||Kamran Jahadi||Ray Rizzo|
|2012||Abram Burrows||Toler Webb||Ray Rizzo|
|2013||Brendan Zheng||Hayden McTavish||Arash Ommati|
|2014||Kota Yamamoto||Nikolai Zielinski||Se Jun Park|
|2015||Kotone Yasue||Mark McQuillan||Shoma Honami|
|2016||Cory Connor||Carson Confer||Wolfe Glick|
|2017||Nicholas Kan||Hong Juyoung||Ryota Otsubo|
|2018||Wonn Lee||James Evans||Paul Ruiz|
|2019||Pi Wu||Ko Tsukide||Naoto Mizobunchi|
A Tournament Organizer (TO) is someone who runs tournaments for their local community. Usually, he or she runs them within a weekly or monthly basis at a local store. However, a Premier Tournament Organizer (PTO) has the ability to run major tournaments and Prereleases as well in any major place at a particular time. Like Pokémon Professors, TOs and PTOs have to be 18 or older.
The professor program is a special program in which Pokémon Professors help promote the game in many ways; Professors do so by judging, volunteering, advertising and more importantly, promoting the spirit of the game. To become a Pokémon Professor, a player must take the Professor Exam in the Professor section of the Organized Play website. A player must be at least 18 years or older to become a Professor (previously 15 from 2003 until late 2005).
Whilst participation is open to any Pokémon player in the world able to attend, as of April 2019 only the following 56 territories are sanctioned to organize official Play! Pokémon events:
Whilst all above territories are eligible to organize both trading card game (TCG) and video game (VGC) events, only a select few territories have been allowed to actually handle VGC events in practice due to relatively stricter requirements for the VGC Pokémon Professor program in comparison.