The Pokémon TCG is a worldwide game. However, only a few countries have Organized Play and official tournaments. Since 2012, with South Africa joining the list of countries with official tournaments, the game has finally spread on all continents!
In the future, I believe that we will see more and more countries take part in this beautiful game and play at Worlds. I am very happy to see countries like Chile and Philippines getting tournaments recently, and I hope that new countries will get their chances in the future.
All the countries in blue on this map have Organized Play, with the darker the blue, the more the country has invites for the Worlds Championship through their National Championship.
In black you can see the countries that have only non-Premier tournaments listed on Pokémon.com. In gold it is Japan and Korea which are completely separate of the rest of the world. As you can see, for now it is mostly the Western countries that have a good Pokémon Organized Play.
I would love to see one day Russia, Spain, Thailand, and India playing at Worlds!
I see a lot of people complaining that they don’t have enough tournaments in their country, or simply that they don’t have any official Pokémon TCG tournaments. I think it is quite sad, and I understand that a lot of players would be motivated to try to do something, but sometimes they don’t know how to do it or they do it wrong.
Even though I am not a guru about how this works, I understand how to get the maximum chances to improve or get you country to become part of the Pokémon nations! Here are my 5 cents.
Step 1 – Contact the Distributor
If there is no Organized Play or you want more tournaments in your country, the first thing to do is to contact the local distributors. The company in charge of the sales in the country is usually the only entity that has the power to ask Pokémon Co. to get tournaments, leagues, etc…
You may send 10,000 e-mails to Pokémon; they will usually do nothing and maybe not even give you an answer. They simply do not have the power to bring tournaments to you.
Now who is the distributor in your country? Getting an answer to this question might not be that easy. If you know a place where they sell Pokémon boosters, you can ask them who is providing them the Pokémon TCG products, and you will very likely get your answer.
If you don’t know where the cards are sold in your country, it might become a little bit more challenging. You can try to find the distributor for Yu-Gi-Oh TCG products and Pokémon video games. It is not rare that the Pokémon TCG distributor is the same that one of this products.
Google is also your friend in this research, but if you still cannot find an answer, there is only solution left. You will have to write to Pokémon Co. and ask who might have the rights to sell the cards in your country. Sadly you may have to send and resend few times your questions in order to get a decent answer…
Once you’ve found the distributor, give them a phone call and ask about their feelings on starting an Organized Play. I know we are in the “internet age” and the first reflex is to send e-mails, but it is really hard to get the answers that way… At least with a phone call, you will get your answers quicker and will be able to explain your motivations easier.
There is a sad reality… most of distributors only care about money.
Step 2 – Start Leagues
Even if you were successful or not on the first step, you will have to prove that your city/country deserves official tournaments.
The only way is to start a league and gather the maximum players you can. You don’t need to hold the league every week actually, you only need to have a place where players come to play. The important thing is to be together and play! You will get more chances to bring Pokémon in your country if you have Pokémon friends that live in other cities and start also a league on their side.
Once you gathered your players, you don’t want to lose them too, otherwise it would be wasted time. A successful way to not lose your players is to create a forum or a Facebook group. That way, every time you decide to meet for a play, you will be able to dispatch the information more efficiently.
In order to be successful in gathering players there is only one way: good communication.
Imagine in the world the number of players that would love to take part to leagues and tournaments and they don’t because they don’t know? I can’t tell you how many years I only played with my little brother, simply because we didn’t know that tournaments exist. And in fact, there were already tournaments not far from home, and I would have participated…
So the first thing in my opinion to do when you start a new league is to create a website and a Facebook page!
Imagine now that you are a player from Thailand. You want to play the game, so the first thing that you will do is to type on Google “Pokémon Card Thailand” or “Pokémon Card Bangkok”. If you don’t find there any website talking about Pokémon Cards in Thailand, you may simply think that it does not exists in Thailand and give up.
So don’t forget to give a good name to your website or Facebook page, like “pokemonthailand.com” as an example… Then you will have better chances of getting new players to find out about your league.
Keep in mind that Pokémon Leagues are the most important thing in the development of a Pokémon nation. The more leagues that are held in the country, the more tournaments that can be organized. The more tournaments that are held, the bigger are the chances for players to continue to play and bring more players.
Once your league is running, you will be able to show to the distributor that you are serious about this Pokémon thing.
If they weren’t planning to ask for a Pokémon Organized Play, they might then seriously reconsider. After all, the distributor’s mission is to sell Pokémon cards. Players mean sales for them.
If the distributor was already ok with that project, seeing that you already have players will help them to ask official tournaments to the Pokémon Company.
If you have a website, it will show that you are really motivated to bring even more players. One argument you can use is that you already have a lot of players, and that if they help you to get official tournaments you will be able to get even more players in the future.
Step 3a – If You Succeeded
If your distributor got the approval to have official tournaments in the country, you achieved a big step in turning your country into a Pokémon nation! Hopefully you will then be able to attract people from all the country to participate to tournaments more easily.
Don’t forget to continue to motivate people to open their own leagues and do not lose contact with the players (Facebook still the best tool in my opinion to keep contact). Use you website or Facebook page to spread the news of tournaments and continue to develop the game in your region.
Step 3b – If You Failed
If the distributor or Pokémon are not willing to help you for now, don’t give up. The best advice I can give is to continue organizing your league and non-official tournaments. When you organize a tournament, try to be an impartial judge and give prizes to motivate the players.
There is nothing that can demotivate players more than a bad judge…
Prizes are essential to motivate the players, especially young players. If each player gives $6 for the participation, you will be able to give to all players at least one booster and to buy prizes for the winners.
What I Did in My City
To show you how a league is important, and how a good communication can have great effects I will now talk about me.
I live in Geneva, Switzerland which has around 450,000 inhabitants. Hopefully, we already had Organized Play in Switzerland. We were only 3 players and we dreamed a lot about a league in our city. Even I was able to hold one shot tournaments with not so bad attendance, thanks to players from neighbor cities, it was very difficult to develop a real player community in Geneva.
For the last 5 years the closest league was 50km from my city in Lausanne and it was too far for us.
I tried to find a place to run a league, but real estate in our city is among the most expensive in the world. No shop would host us for free or would be big enough to have a decent league. This year I finally found a new card shop, and I was finally able to open the first Pokémon league in Geneva. So I started to work hard in order to maintain and develop de Pokémon community.
Once I knew I could run a league, I started to put some advertising in the toys shops selling Pokémon cards.
The very first day when the league opened we were able to gather 10 players! This was 3 times more players than we used to have in the city. I was quite surprised and I thought that we would only reach this number by the end of the 2012-2013 season.
I soon found that in order to maintain this community of players, we would need something to improve the communications between players. So I created a forum, again using free tools.
The forum was not a big success to tell the truth. I noticed that when I was posting topics to motivate players to go to tournaments outside the city, they would not read them on time or not read at all. So I created two more things:
- A Facebook group with all the players of the league
- And also an e-mail distribution list
Every time there is a tournament not far from the city, I am able to inform the players and organize how to move together and also players can also ask to borrow cards. I have to admit that the Facebook group was the most efficient ways to keep the players informed. I am not big fan of this website, but this was the best way I found to spread information and keep the group united.
After only 3 months, the league reached 30 players and became the 2nd largest league of the country in terms of players. In the end of this month we will have a City Championship here, and there seems that this time we will have the highest attendance of the City Championships in the country this season.
Now the community in my city is self-developing and I hope that in the future we will have to largest community of players in our country.
I hope that you liked this article, which was my very first one. I believe that this might help you to develop significantly the Pokémon game in your country/city and I would like to wish you all good luck in developing your local Pokémon community!