Hello SixPrizes readers!
National Championships are over in most countries and the players that have earned their invite for the 2013 World Championship are probably asking themselves the same question:
“How much will it cost me to participate?”
There are a total of 32 countries that have the possibility to send players to Vancouver this August. Usually, the best players from each country get a “travel award” and do not have to worry with the financial aspect of participation, but that is not the case for most qualifiers and not all the national champions may have the chance to represent their country in Vancouver.
I had the idea to write this article after seeing a lot of Canadian players from Ontario and Quebec complaining that traveling to Worlds is too expensive and that it is unfair that Pokémon decided to cut their 2nd travel award.
In this article I will try to explain how in some countries it is difficult to send players to Worlds and why players that live in countries with at least 1 travel award should be happy.
Why Travel Awards
I think travel awards are great and very important for the game and I have two reasons for believing this.
First of all, it ensures that the best players can participate no matter their financial situation. It ensures that Worlds will really be about who is the best player in the world and it helps to keep a high standard in the competition. I like very much the idea of meritocracy, and I think that it is something that Americans (and so TPCi) have in their culture.
The second thing is that a World Championship involves countries from all over the globe. For that reason, it involves people with varying distances of travel to the championship and with disparities in purchasing power. If we want to keep player diversity at Worlds, the travel awards are essential. How could it truly be considered the “World” Championship if all the participants were North American?
Countries with Travel Awards
This year Pokémon will distribute a total of 29 travel awards for each age division. Here is the amount given out by country:
- United States: 4
- France: 2
- Germany: 2
- Italy: 2
- United Kingdom: 2
- Australia: 1
- Austria: 1
- Belgium/Luxembourg: 1
- Brazil: 1
- Canada: 1
- Czech Republic/Slovakia: 1
- Denmark: 1
- Finland: 1
- Hong Kong: 1
- Malaysia: 1
- Mexico: 1
- Netherlands: 1
- Norway: 1
- Portugal: 1
- Singapore: 1
- Sweden: 1
- Switzerland: 1
The countries that have no travel award are:
- New Zealand
- South Africa
It is interesting to note that Argentina has had solid performances at Worlds, a good player-base, and yet still does not have a travel award.
There are two countries that are in a special situation: Luxembourg and Slovakia. Luxembourg is lumped together with Belgium for Nationals, but as I could not find a single player from Luxembourg this year I didn’t even bother in gathering travel pricing for them (it is a rich country anyway).
Slovakia is grouped with Czech Republic. I found that a Slovak Senior managed to win the National Championship of Czech Republic/Slovakia, and even though I don’t think another Slovak got the invite I decided to gather the travel pricing data for them.
I do not know the situations in South Korea or Japan because their organized play is not under TPCi jurisdiction. I believe that they probably have travel awards for their best players.
Criteria for Comparison
In order to compare how difficult it is for someone from a country to pay their trip to Vancouver I created a few rules:
- The US dollar will be the currency to compare the airfare prices.
- I will compare the price of round trip flights for the same dates (from the 3rd of August to the 12th of August).
- I will take only the cheapest flights for the comparison and will use data gathered from kayak.com.
- I selected a major city for each country. In the case of the United States I took 4 different cities with a varying geographic locations.
- I will use the most recent World Bank GDP (PPP) data to compare the countries from the financial point of view.
You can find here the list of the cities that I selected:
Amsterdam, Berlin, Bratislava, Bruxelles, Buenos Aires, Copenhagen, Dallas, Geneva, Helsinki, Hong Kong, Honolulu, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Kuala Lumpur, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Malta, Manilla, Mexico City, New York, Oslo, Paris, Prague, Rio de Janeiro, Roma, Santiago de Chile, Seoul, Singapore, Stockholm, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto, Vienna, and Wellington.
The Flight Costs
After gathering the data from the online travel agency I learned the top 5 most expensive flights to Vancouver:
- Bratislava, Slovakia: $5,896
- Jakarta, Indonesia: $1,948
- Wellington, New Zealand: $1,862
- London, United Kingdom: $1,772
- Lisbon, Portugal: $1,747
The first thing we can notice is that 3 of the 5 countries are European and the two other are part of the Asia-Pacific zone.
The high cost of airfare from Bratislava surprised me a lot. Then after some research, the reason seems to be that there are not many international flights departing from there. I guess that if a Slovak player wants to come to Vancouver, he or she will probably try to catch a flight from Vienna, Austria ($1,667) or Budapest, Hungary ($1,356) depending on his geographic location in Slovakia.
Then we have Jakarta, Indonesia. Indonesia is among the countries with the lowest purchasing power in the Pokémon community, has no travel award, and by bad luck it is also the 2nd most expensive flight to reach Vancouver. Seeing this, I fear to not see a single Indonesian player at Worlds this year.
New Zealand is the 3rd most expensive flight and it is also a country without travel award. Traveling from London is, surprisingly, very expensive. Portugal is in the middle of a financial crisis and also has very expensive airfare to Vancouver.
And this will be less interesting, but here are the top 5 of the cheapest flights to Vancouver:
- Los Angeles, Unites States: $365
- New York, United States: $574
- Toronto, Canada: $597
- Honolulu, United States: $609
- Dallas, United States: $641
There is very little to say there. The price changes according more or less the geographic distance from the venue. Air Canada is an expensive company and that is why there is not much difference in the prices flying from New York or Toronto despite Toronto to Vancouver being a national flight. Vancouver seems to be an affordable travel destination for any city in North America.
Finances in the Pokémon World
I will list here the five countries with the highest GDP per capita according to the World Bank data using international dollars.
- Singapore: $60,688
- Norway: $60,392
- Switzerland: $51,227
- Hong Kong: $50,551
- United States: $48,112
And here are the five with the lowest GDP per capita:
- Philippines: $4,119
- Indonesia: $4,636
- South Africa: $10,960
- Brazil: $11,640
- Argentina: $12,023
What we can see from this data is that all the “richest” countries have travel awards. I think that this was something to expect. Pokémon cards are expensive, and so the game has more popularity in this kind of country. On the other hand, of the 5 “poorest” Pokémon countries, only Brazil has travel awards.
The Final Comparison
In order to compare how difficult it is to purchase a round trip to Vancouver, I will use the following formula:
Airfare / GDP per Capita * 100 = Comparative Value
The higher the value is, harder it is for players from this country to come to Vancouver for Worlds. The best reference value to use is New York as it is the closest to 1%. In other terms, if Sidney has the value of 3.47%, it will mean that an Australian will have roughly to work 3.47 times more than a New Yorker to come to Vancouver.
The higher the value, lower the chances to see someone from this country to travel to the World Championship if they do not have a paid trip.
|Country||City||Airfare||GDP per Capita||Comparative Value||Travel Awards per Age Division|
|Slovakia||Bratislava||$5,896||$24,095||24.47||Shared with Czech|
|Brazil||Rio de Janeiro||$1,218||$11,640||10.46||1|
|Hong Kong||Hong Kong||$1,497||$50,551||2.96||1|
|United States||New York||$574||$48,112||1.19||4|
|United States||Los Angeles||$365||$48,112||0.76||4|
At the top of the rankings we find, without any surprise, Indonesia and Philippines, which sadly have no travel award. I hope that at least the national champions will participate to the tournament.
Slovakia is 3rd due to the high cost of the flight from Bratislava, however I believe that if we take Vienna as the airport for Slovak players we would find them with similar numbers as Portugal.
South Africa, the only African country, is 4th. In South Africa there is a very big difference between the “lower” class and the medium class. We can find very poor people in the townships and on the other side a middle class with similar standards as in most of Western countries. I believe that almost all South Africans with an invite will be there in Canada, because they are probably part of the middle class.
Flying to Vancouver seems also very expensive for all South Americans, but if you have a look to my “Number of players qualified for Worlds by country” thread on the forum I would not be surprised to see a lot more South American players than usual.
Looking at the numbers, Canadians and Americans are again the most likely to afford the flight for this coming World Championship.
Pokémon is for some an expensive hobby. Playing at Worlds is probably one of the most amazing and worthwhile experiences for any Pokémon TCG fan.
I think that it would be fair to cut all the second travel awards and give a chance to the emerging countries. Do not call me communist, I just think that it would be a way to keep the diversity at Worlds and also a way to continue developing the game in these countries.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article and I wish you good luck getting to Vancouver!