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Pokémon TCG Live is broken and should never have left beta

I wish the Pokémon TCG Live wasn’t as broken as it currently is, but it’s impossible to ignore the glaring issues with Pokémon’s new mobile trading card game.

Pokemon TCG Live broken: Daz's PTCGL avatar, a white femme character with pink hair wearing a pink tshirt and pink sun visor, doing a peace sign and smiling. A teardrop emoji has been pasted to look like they are crying, and there are three sad face emojis around the image

On Monday, the Pokémon TCG community lost a valued member – the Pokémon Trading Card Game Online. PTCGO was officially sunset on June 5, coinciding with the new Pokémon TCG Live app’s full global release prompting players to move all of their Pokémon TCG Live decks over. There’s just one problem. The Pokémon TCG Live is broken and isn’t ready to leave beta testing.

I’ve been an avid fan of the Pokémon TCG since I was a child, starting as a collector and later on teaching myself to play with my younger sister. It’s now one of my favorite hobbies – I watch Pokémon TCG content creators every day, I have an extensive collection of cards, and I compete at my local game store and larger international tournaments. The idea of being able to play Pokémon TCG on my phone in a fresh, updated client excited me for the longest time before I actually experienced PTCGL for myself.

Because PTCGO was previously only available on PC, that’s how I first started playing the new tabletop simulator. The combination of convenience and an avalanche of bugs locking me out of the client on my desktop and my laptop led me to try the game out on mobile. Sadly, the issues I faced on PC are just as present, if not more so, on mobile.

One of my major issues with PTCGL on mobile is that you are forced to play vertically. This confuses me to no end. The Pokémon TCG’s board state is wide – you have a five-card bench alongside spots for your prize cards, deck, and discard pile. Horizontal space is much more valuable than vertical space, so why can’t I change the app’s orientation to suit this? 

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Vertical gameplay in digital TCGs and CCGs might be trendy in 2023 due to the success of Marvel Snap, but other long-standing titles like Hearthstone and Legends of Runeterra, as well as the digital versions of Yu-Gi-Oh and Magic: The Gathering, all play horizontally. This vertical layout squashes all of your cards into a tiny space, especially if you play on a phone rather than a tablet, making it incredibly hard to see what you’ve got in play. This affects checking the cards in your hand, discard pile, and deck too.

Some people I’ve spoken to at locals don’t mind this layout, so I could just be complaining about nothing. But no one can deny the sheer number and range of bugs that players keep encountering. The Pokémon community has been reporting these bugs since the beginning of the global beta, but the Pokémon Company has fixed next to none of them in the game’s official release. These range from annoying visual and audio errors to game-breaking bugs that affect the meta’s most competitive decks, like Kevin Clemente’s example in Gardevoir ex. For a lot of Pokémon TCG players who compete in person, PTCGL serves as a place to test the upcoming meta and practice for tournaments remotely. These bugs make that near-impossible, alienating a large portion of the app’s intended audience.

I don’t have the time to attend locals every week and I don’t have the money to buy all the cards for a deck unless I know I enjoy playing it, so deck testing on PTCGL is essential for me. In the game’s current state, it feels horrible and leaves me not wanting to play. Surely players actively cutting down on how much they play your game is enough of a reason to fix it?

Pokemon TCG Live broken: A screenshot of Kevin Clemente's tweet discussing PTCGL bugs in his Gardevoir ex deck, pasted on a mango background

Just yesterday, TrustYourPilot on Twitter, who was previously one of PTCGL’s biggest defenders, pointed out that for iOS users, “The Pokémon Company now recommends playing Pokémon TCG Live on an iPhone 11 or newer.” Yet another “feature” that alienates parts of the player base, especially younger players who might only have access to a second-hand device. He goes on to point out that “players are reporting the overheating & battery issues on iPhone 11 / 12 / 13 / 14”, whereas “Legends of Runeterra works perfectly on [his] iPhone 7.”

The Pokémon TCG Live was in beta testing for over a year, constantly taking feedback from players about what to improve. None of the features players love and miss from PTCGO are there, and the game that we’re left with barely functions. I’m holding out hope that things are going to get better, but if I’d known that wishing for a mobile Pokémon TCG client meant getting stuck with this, I would have held my tongue.

If you’re looking for a different CCG to try out, head over to our handy guides to Marvel Snap decks, Marvel Snap bundles, and the Marvel Snap season pass. You can also check out our sister site Wargamer for more Pokémon TCG content, including their most valued Pokémon cards guide.