Pokémon is a big deal. If you are a parent in your thirties you probably already know this, and you are likely a fan yourself. With the arrival of Pokémon Go in 2016, Pokémon went through a huge revival and now kids all over the world are on the Pokétrain.
DeNA and the Pokémon Company have just released a mobile game called Pokémon Masters and it may just be your child's newest obsession. Let's talk about what that means and what you need to know about it before you let your little one play.
Become the PML Champion
Pokémon Masters is the latest Pokémon game to grace our phones. Collect your sync pairs and become the champion you know you can.
What is Pokémon Masters?
Pokémon Masters is a mobile game available for iOS and Android and centers around the world of Pokémon. The game takes place on the island of Pasio, which has been custom-built for the Pokémon Masters League (PML). Instead of one player having several Pokémon on their team, you now have three Trainers with one Pokémon each, called Sync Pairs.
The game takes your child through many story missions until they become the "Champion of the Pokémon League!" It also has plenty of side quests and a leveling up system to keep them engaged for hours.
Is it age-appropriate?
The app itself says the game is for "Everyone 10+" and that age bracket makes sense. There is reading involved in the game, multiple screen taps, and a bit of strategy needed to compete in the league, so anybody younger than 10 and your child may struggle to win any matches.
Happily, Pokémon Masters is extremely child-friendly. There is no bad language, no suggestive content, and very little in the way of violence. The only "violence" that could be mentioned is the combat between Pokémon but it's not graphic. If your child watches Disney movies, they will be fine with Pokémon Masters.
Does it work with other Pokémon Games?
Pokémon Masters is a closed system and only works within the confines of the game. There is no cross-play with different games though they may do special Sync Pairs when new movies or other video games are released. We are likely to see the new Gym Leaders in Pokémon Sword and Shield released as Sync Pairs for example.
We may even see some crossover with Pokémon GO but the games themselves are not connected. You won't need to buy another game for your child to enjoy this one, though I'm sure they want all the Pokémon games they can!
Will it cost you money?
It doesn't need to! Pokémon Masters is completely playable from start to finish without ever spending a single penny. However, like almost all mobile games these days there is a mechanism for your little one to rack up huge bills.
This is where you need to be careful. While the game itself is free to download there are in-app purchases. You can buy new Sync Pairs in the games store for real money converted into Paid Gems (PG) or with Free Gems (FG) earned in the game.
Unfortunately, the FG cost for one Sync Pair is three times that of the PG cost so your child will want to take the shortcut if they can. Without supervision, your child could potentially go off the rails and spend hundreds of dollars in just a few days.
DeNA seems to be aware of this and has set certain restrictions in place. For example; you cannot own more than 80,000 gems on your account at any one time meaning your child could only "accidentally" spend is $900. Yeah, I know that sounds scary, and it is, but the game also has notifications to let you and your child know if they have spent too much.
Here's how to turn on Spending Notifications:
- Tap your Poryphone in the bottom-left corner of the screen.
- Tap Settings.
- Tap the System Settings icon.
- Tap the Off button next to Spending Notifications to toggle them on
- You will be presented with a pop-up that will explain how Spending Notifications work. Tap OK to confirm.
This isn't going to stop the spending, though, the only way to do that is to remove temptation completely. By removing any payment options from your child's phone, or using a strong password if they are using your phone, you can stop them from using money at all.
If you do want to give your child a chance to use real money on Pokémon Masters we recommend using gift cards to add a balance to your child's phone. Both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store have gift cards that you can use to top up the phone. The advantage of this is the hard limit they provide. Once your child has spent that money there is no way to get any more no matter what they try. This really is the safest way to let your child purchase in the game.
Can strangers talk to your children?
No! While there is a large multiplayer component to the game there is no direct conversation between your child and the person they are playing with.
As a precaution, we always recommend that your child doesn't use any personal information when creating a character. When creating your Nintendo account it's best to use a new Gmail account or use one not connected to your child's school or personal life in any way.
When creating a nickname ask your child to use their imagination to create a name not connected to them, perhaps a name they think a world-famous Pokémon Trainer would have. Making your child anonymous online is always good practice if you can manage it.
Setting time limits
The game itself does not have a time limit or energy system to limit how long your child can play, so any time limits you feel are needed will have to be set by you.
This is good in one way; energy systems make kids want to spend money to keep playing, which is just gross. At least this way your child can enjoy the game for as long as you let them, without bugging you for "just a dollar to get more energy."
As mobile games go Pokémon Masters is one of the less frightening ones out there. The potential for your child to spend hundreds of dollars is there, of course, but with just a little care you can stop from that happening. The game even tries to help you with that issue, because as much as they want your money, they want your child to play the game for a long time. They make more money that way.
It has a co-op mode, but your child will never meet or even talk, to the other players they play with. Unlike Pokémon GO — a game designed for human interaction — Pokémon Masters can be played in complete anonymity at all times.
I enjoy Pokémon Masters and so does my 13-year-old. He's safe from harm, my wallet is safe from him, and we get to bond over our love of Pokémon. It's a great deal all around.
For the kids
Getting a play gift card is the safest way to give your child, or self, money on a phone. When it's gone, it's gone.
Keep the little ones safe
Use iTunes gift cards to limit the amount of spending your child can do in any given time. Safety first.
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