Pokemon TCG Pocket looks ace, but it can learn a few things from Marvel Snap

Two phones displaying Pokemon Trading Card Game Pocket
(Image credit: The Pokemon Company)

One of the most exciting announcements - for me, at least - during February's Pokemon Presents stream was the Pokemon Trading Card Game Pocket reveal. Despite being a somewhat lapsed Pokemon TCG Live player for a number of reasons, the idea of a Pokemon TCG with faster matches, optimized for digital play rather than physical cards, has me buzzing.

I'm an OG with Pokemon cards, having been collecting and battling on and off with what is arguably one of the best card games for around 20 years, give or take. But Pokemon TCG Online - now Pokemon TCG Live - never gripped me like other digital card games have, such as Hearthstone in its heyday, and now Marvel Snap. There are seemingly thousands upon thousands of cards available, and so many different mechanics in play such as EX, GX, VMAX, Rapid and Single Strike, Ancient and Future cards. Despite originally being a simple game, Pokemon TCG is now frustratingly complex. 

Pokemon Pocket can fix this, and is arriving at the right time to introduce a whole new generation of Pokemon fans to the trading card game. It just needs to take some lessons from Marvel Snap, the current champion of on-the-go card games. Details about Pokemon Pocket are scarce at the moment, but taking some liberty with the idea of it being a more streamlined version would imply a reworking of the core mechanics, leading to quicker matches.

Marvel Snap has this down to a T. Standard matches take anywhere between two to four minutes at most, with just six turns and both players playing simultaneously. While both games operate very differently when it comes to their win conditions, Pokemon Pocket needs to focus solely on the actual battling - and the Pokemon themselves - to speed things up. 

Pokemon TCG Live cards on a plain background

(Image credit: The Pokemon Company)

Marvel Snap may have significantly more characters to choose from - over 80,000 believe it or not - but since each character only appears once, albeit with different artwork variants, there are only 257 cards available. Thanks to the inclusion of energy and trainer cards in the Pokemon TCG and how quickly cards can be acquired through packs compared to Snap's much slower acquisition method, naturally Pokemon Pocket will have more, but it must aim for a fraction of its current 13,000+ cards in the full TCG to remain accessible, balanced, and streamlined.

Having fewer cards overall also means the impact and satisfaction of getting a strong - or rare, if Pokemon Pocket retains the current rarity system - card is greater too. Even though the card acquisition rate slows down tremendously once you've completed Series 3 in Marvel Snap, that takes a long time, and finally unlocking the card you need to complete a specific archetype is a fantastic feeling. Snap is also very free-to-play friendly, with plenty of gold and credits earned through missions, Collector's Reserves, and Spotlight Caches. Having a complete collection also feels achievable with a smaller card pool, so dedicated players don't feel like they're missing out on anything vital.

Marvel Snap variant cards for Cosmo

(Image credit: Second Dinner)

The mirror to Marvel Snap's many artwork variants for each card is quite obviously the immersive cards in Pokemon Pocket, and while we can only see the one example so far for Pikachu, it's these gorgeous, colorful, scene-setting cards that will inspire full collections. These must be worked for, akin to grinding boosters for a specific card in Snap and finally achieving a gold or ink split, for that sense of reward. Fingers crossed there'll be plenty of these immersive cards too, as if there are only a small fraction of the cards available where this features, owning one feels less unique. There's nothing better than owning and playing something stunning you know not many other players even have.

Despite Marvel Snap being a hit right out of the gate, it has had a rocky 18 months or so, with plenty for players to complain about. For better or for worse, patches and card buffs and nerfs happen on a very regular basis, and these don't always fix the issues at hand. Longtime players will remember how long it took Second Dinner to fix the Shuri meta and more recently, the Adam Warlock "buff" is a very questionable one. Creatures Inc., the Pokemon Pocket developer, shouldn't shy away from regular updates to balance though, as they now have that freedom whereas when the cards mimic their physical counterparts, that's much less viable.

The one aspect that could set Pokemon Pocket apart is that Marvel Snap is a CCG (collectible card game), whereas Pocket is retaining its TCG element. This means trading with other players is going to be a key feature - although the trailer clarifies it may not be available on launch - when it comes to obtaining the specific cards you want. How this will manifest is to be seen, but I'm almost certain it won't be as simple as the good ol' days of swapping cards with your friends in the playground. Pocket will include in-game transactions, that much we know, and if players could get all the cards they need simply by trading them with other players, that's a huge monetary avenue down the drain for The Pokemon Company

A selection of Marvel Snap cards

(Image credit: Second Dinner)

Instead, it's likely we'll see limits on how many trades you can do in a given timeframe, or potentially only specific cards - the more common ones - will be trade-eligible. They may also take the route of FIFA (now EA FC) Ultimate Team, where lots of cards have "untradeable" markers on them depending on how they were acquired. In the football game, these are usually cards earned through rewards and simply playing the game, whereas tradeable cards are ones bought with real money and opened through packs.

So, I'm elated to see what Pokemon Trading Card Game Pocket will look like when it launches later in 2024… but there are lots of ways it could misstep. One of Marvel Snap's most praised elements is how quick the matches are, so if Pocket can emulate this while still having enough depth to be an engaging, competitive game, they're onto a winner.

For recommendations on what to play IRL, check out our guides to the best board games and the best tabletop RPGs.

Ford James

Give me a game and I will write every "how to" I possibly can or die trying. When I'm not knee-deep in a game to write guides on, you'll find me hurtling round the track in F1, flinging balls on my phone in Pokemon Go, pretending to know what I'm doing in Football Manager, or clicking on heads in Valorant.