This year’s Pokemon World Championships won’t be open to the public

As competitive game tournaments go, the Pokemon World Championships are kind of an oddball: they don’t quite fit into the fighting game community (FGC) or conventional esports like Dota 2‘s currently-running International, although this year’s Pokken Tournament prize pool may start to change that. Historically, they’ve been open to the public, but this year that’s not the case.

Due to limited venue capacity and overwhelming demand, the 2016 Pokemon World Championships will be closed to the general public in the interest of providing the best possible event experience to our qualified players and their families,” a representative from The Pokemon Company said in a statement released today on the franchise’s official website. “Only invited players and their families will be permitted to enter the venue this year, and everyone must have an official event badge.”

Though the post only cites increased public interest — due to the widespread success of Pokemon Go — lurking between the lines here is last year’s security incident, in which two would-be spree killers turned up at the championship venue with a car packed full of guns. Organizers were alerted to the two’s plans and they were arrested without any shots fired, and recently sentenced to two years in prison. But it’s not hard to imagine tournament organizers would feel especially nervous about a repeat at this year’s event, given Pokemon is presently enjoying mainstream media attention on a level it hasn’t seen since the 1990s.

Under the new rules, all invited competitors are guaranteed one badge, plus a guest badge for underage players accompanied by a parent or guardian. Organizers will try to make additional badges available for players’ family members, but stress that this will be on a “first come, first served” basis.

This is no doubt a last-minute headache for those who have already made travel plans, but there is a silver lining for anyone unable to attend: all the events will be livestreamed online, via the official Pokemon Championships website.

The 2016 Pokemon World Championships kicks off on August 19th and runs till the 22nd in San Francisco, California. Pokken Tournament, Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, and the Pokemon trading card game will all feature in their own tournaments — and you can bet there will be a lot of Pokemon Go players there as well.

Top image: Shoma Honami’s victory during the masters division grand final at last year’s World Championships.