August 4, 2020

Surprise! It’s PokeTimes!

Okay, okay! I concede. You’re right. Surprise Trade is not the GTS. And PokeTimes are not the Daisuki Club. So we’ll dub this article on the cutesy gift Pokémon distributed by PokeTimes a bonus feature. Clefairy and Chansey shall be honorary Daisuki. Is that fine?

So, let’s start from the beginning. Who or what is PokeTimes? In a nutshell, it appears to be TPC’s official Japan Twitter presence. The account variously self-refers as PokeTimes (ポケタイムス) and Pokémon Information Bureau (ポケモン情報局). Get your branding sorted out, TPC. In any case, per its bio PokeTimes provides “information that makes Pokémon more fun, such as the latest information and topics of interest.” The 958.000+ Tweets sent out in just two years certainly bear witness to the vigour with which it carries out its dissemination mission. In an alternate universe, the Daisuki Club might’ve been tasked with this – public outreach used to be right up their alley.1 But the Club isn’t what it used to be: even the short-lived Daisuki Club mobile app has bitten the dust (Serebii here). Nana & Slowpoke must feel saddened. I digress.

As TPC’s Twitter mouthpiece, PokeTimes did not (and do not) usually run distributions. Quizzes, sure. Wordplay, all the time. Brainteasers, plenty of them. In organising a fan Poke-swap event, however, Clefairy was a first, and PokeTimes tackled the challenge adroitly.

PokeTimes Clefairy, May 1 2020, 6-8PM JST
This truly is the age of fast-moving web 3.0. Here was to be no high-visibility, grand announcement plastered across the Pokemon.jp mainpage for all to see. Instead, a seven day’s notice was served on the overcrowded PokeTimes Twitter feed.

On April 24 2020 at 6PM Japan Standard Time (JST), PokeTimes announced that a Surprise Trade exchange would begin in precisely one week at 6PM on May 1, and conclude a maximum two hours’ thereafter. This timeslot appears to have been chosen with care, for it coincided with Japanese primetime (6-8PM local). The tweet’s only accompanying materials were links to Japanese articles explaining the basics of Surprise Trade; would-be participants were encouraged to respond with #ポケタイムス交換会. Clearly, then, the event was intended for Japanese audiences only, even as Surprise Trade itself does not respect language barriers or national boundaries.2

This out-of-character distribution event that, by virtue of its propagation method favoured dedicated followers, naturally raises the question: what was the occasion? As a possible way to keep Sword & Shield in the spotlight pending the then-upcoming release of the first DLC, the initiative was somewhat inassuming and inward-looking, and moreover overshadowed by that purpose-built sequence of four Galarian WiFi events spanning May 22 to June 16 (a day before Isle of Armor DLC release). Was it staged, then, to put Surprise Trade in a better light after initially being borderline broken and abused by jerks to distribute game-breaking malicious code snippets? Or perhaps, with COVID-19 lockdown in full swing, did dejected TPC employees make a spur-of-the-moment, home office Zoom-meeting decision to slap together a distribution and raise everybody’s spirits? All of these factors may have informed the initiative to some degree. But the immediate reason seems to have been PokeTimes’ second Twitterversary. Having joined the platform in April 24, 2018, PokeTimes celebrated a second year of supplanting the Daisuki Club as the approachable public face of Pokémon. Hurrah!

Right. So, to celebrate its Twitter success, PokeTimes prepared 60 Clefairy, precisely two PC boxes’ worth, for trade with 60 strangers. The fluffballs themselves were deceptively unremarkable. Sufficiently unremarkable, in fact, that any fortuitous but unaware recipient inside Japan not glued to the Pokémon Twitter feed and therefore unaware a special distribution was happening may have dismissed PokeTimes Clefairy as an ordinary Clefairy and binned it. (I swear that sentence makes grammatical sense.) This applied doubly to any accidental international participants illiterate in Japanese. Besides OTN ポケタイムス (PokeTimes, in Japanese), nothing surface-level suggests that this Clefairy was a special event Pokémon. And nothing on a deeper level appears unique, either, though we don’t know for certain – all our information is culled from PokeTimes official distribution images, plus enthusiastic Twitter photos tweeted back by winners. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Surveying the Clefairy themselves, two observations stand out. First, all 60 were likely bred at the Nursery, not caught in the wild or generated by wondercard. User-submitted evidence suggests PokeTimes Clefairy could be either male or female, had random natures and a random five flawless IVs. This particular combination of attributes in turn indicates an, eh, Destiny Knot breeding programme.3 Did PokeTimes sneakily use two perfect parents? Tut-tut! Clefairy’s universal egg-move movesets of Present / Heal Pulse / Wish / Aromatherapy are a nice touch, and reinforce the idea of Nursery hatches – or at a minimum, Pokémon generated to look like Nursery hatches. The move Present, of course, is rather appropriate for an anniversary giveaway!

Second, all 60 of them are in identical spots on their growth curves. Clefairy is Lv.34 with a flat 33.000 experience on every single recipient picture. Aren’t those strange numbers? It suggests that, after hatching 60 Cleffa or Clefairy (if bred with Ditto), PokeTimes candied them up to Lv.34 by using one XL and one M Candy on each. Experience Candies, you will know, are novel Gen 8 items that offer a convenient way to dump EXP into Pokémon in a controlled manner.

Since we live in the age of livestreaming, we might reasonably hope for real-time footage of the event. It doesn’t appear that PokeTimes captured the trading process on camera. Such a missed opportunity! How about participants? A Spanish streamer by the name of MelkorPxP caught and broadcast the event. Which sounds fabulous, but video playback reveals two hours of simply cycling around the Wild Area checking Surprise Trade every few minutes to deposit a new Pokémon when appropriate. Yeah. Not exactly riveting TV. Besides that, this fellow streamed, and Japanese upstart YouTuber “じゆっきー” captured enough event participation footage for a compilation video (and a tweet). And frankly, that’s about it. Which is not a great deal for a no barriers to entry, officially-sanctioned primetime event announced seven days in advance.

We’ll have to turn to Twitter for a taste of the action. It’s here that overjoyed winners came forward and replied back on the PokeTimes hashtag. Fourteen out of 60 total recipients made themselves known – not at all a bad hit ratio, particularly considering (m)any Clefairy lost in translation. Now, the catch is that Surprise Trades don’t leave viewable logs; as such, there isn’t a single dedicated tool that Twitterers could use to verify for themselves (and prove to the outside world) that their PokeTimes Clefairy was authentic.4 What’s left is for us (and them) is to triangulate.

All fourteen winners posted their source material well within the event window as the PokeWorld at large was still waking up to this surprise initiative. (To illustrate: a ProjectPokemon thread wasn’t put up until days later.)5 These winners were by and large ordinary users with a modest Twitter presence; some were throwaway and/or lurker accounts that sprang to life solely to share tidings of the lucky Clefairy. Only one dedicated Pokémon channel was among them (@tetupoke704). All fourteen winners uploaded images of their Clefairy, and all are congruent, with no discrepancies in important markers like TID/OTN, current level, experience gain, of movesets whatsoever.6 Lastly, two astute Twitterers captured and shared Nintendo Switch screenshots of the PokeTimes puffball arriving on their game, showing, juxtaposed, both their outbound Pokémon and Clefairy. This is crucial, for once the event concluded, PokeTimes published PC Box screenshots showcasing their “haul”.

Bearing all this in mind, could (any of) the fourteen Clefairy have been faked off the original event image? Theoretically, yes, but it’s highly improbable. I am therefore a believer, and I’ll be operating on the assumption that the below Twitterers, all of whom meet the time criterion and came forward during event window, are honest. So! Lucky winner handles (# followers at the time of the event in parenthesis):

@tetupoke704 (カラスコ(ヌメダース)) (373)
@mememe_dolly (121)
@pureheartnj (しょんぴ) (72)
@karakara_yp (からし) (72)
@playgames_yuga (ユウガ) (70)
@5gkaamond (40)
@gZz0XCZB1Q73kpc (39)
@nyakamra (なかむら) (26)
@qqpg2r4d (いっしー@色運皆無) (15)
@mijinko_001 (11)
@FUN_ml (6)
@switch__chii (ゲーム用) (0)
@bamirun_ice (0)
@hehehoGX (?)

Congratulations to all!

Fun fact: if you the inspect the PokeTimes “haul” image carefully, you’ll find @gZz0’s Eevee and @mememe_dolly’s Nickit among the sixty! Oh, you want a victors collage? Fine. Here’s a victors collage.


Will we see more of this format going forward? That would depend on PokeTimes transforming their one-off anniversary special into a recurring item. But I can see none of the red flags that plagued the decade-old GTS events: the Surprise Trade feature is hiccup-free on a technical level, with no blue-screening or system overload; no user-composed Mail is involved, so there can be no questionable wordsmithing; and PokeTimes’ “blink and you miss it”, low-information approach affords little opportunity for hackers to spoil the show. (It can only have been helpful, in this regard, that PokeTimes’ April 24 tweet showed a different level Clefairy from the one that was ultimately distributed – a case of wily misinformation, perhaps.)

If I must observe a downside to this format, it’s how public winners are inevitably bombarded with trade requests. For instance, straight away on May 1 a numpty an eager if not terribly gifted trader by the handle of @Omarin321 openly messaged everyone who claimed to have gotten a Clefairy, writing: “Can you lend me Clefairy Just lend huh And I give you 10 zacian and 20 zamasenta equipped with Master balls Is that I told some friends that if I didn’t get it I was going to pay 30 dollars”. Yeah. Another account named @_Pokemon_trade tried a similar spiel on @nyakamra.7 @mememe_dolly has since deleted their Clefairy tweet, presumably due to repeated trade requests from various quarters. Another, @hehehoGX, has deleted their Twitter account entirely. Chances are that more victory tweets will disappear with time, either as a matter of natural attrition or through deliberate acts of privacy, hurting public memory of the event.

And of course, there are downsides to this format for us, the historians, preservationists, and all those with a soft spot for Pokémon history. We may never get to preserve an indisputably authentic PokeTimes Clefairy for posterity; it would have to come directly from one of fourteen identified winners who, so far, have not volunteered any. And so, as time goes by, the window of opportunity for obtaining and archiving one of these puffballs shrinks further and further until PokeTimes Surprise Trade Clefairy is but a distant memory.

PokeTimes Chansey, July 17 2020, 6-8PM JST
COMING SOON!

  1.  The Daisuki Club website still has an “Information Bureau” (だいすぃ情報局) of its own, covering mostly Pokémon-related festival, toy, and PokeCenter related news. Link: https://www.pokemon.jp/info
  2.  The PokeTimes event tweets were not translated and/or published to the international Pokémon Twitter account, even though same Surprise Trade guide is readily available in English and international audiences could have been involved without much logistical difficulty.
  3.  Which guarantees the maxed out 5IVs (two from either parent plus one randomised), but not which five. More so, with Destiny Knots in hand, neither parent can have held a nature-locking Everstone, implying random natures, as borne out by participants’ images.
  4.  Surprise Trades do briefly flash the sender on screen for a second or two; unlike for HOME GTS trades, no Notebook exists to take a permanent record.
  5.  Among notable researchers, it appears only PPTheSlayer caught the event live and participated.
  6.  There always has to be that one exception… A user with the catchy handle @BHceisAmPtYvBuD (メリープ) showcased a Lv.35 Clefairy with precisely 36.000 EXP points – 3.000 more than all fourteen others. Assuming this outlier is authentic, it suggests PokeTimes erroneously used one additional Candy M on it.
  7.  Writing: “突然のリプ失礼します。ポケタイムスピッピを探しててご連絡したのですが交換可能でしょうか?もし可能であればマスボオシャボ複数、色卵、色化石、孵化産色、配布系、その他などで提案したいです。ご検討よろしくお願い致します。”