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Pokémon Go Trainer Battles are live, which means that players can engage in direct player-to-player duels for the first time.

Niantic said today that players can now fight in player-vs.-player Trainer Battles at levels 10 and up in Pokémon Go. The new feature comes two-and-a-half years after the debut of the location-based game, which has generated more than $2 billion in revenues and reached more than 800 million players, at last count. Niantic had to bring other features, like friends

While Trainers (players) have been able to participate competitively in Gym battles and cooperatively in Raid Battles thus far, now they can go head to head in battles where three of their creatures square off against three from the other player’s collection.

“When it comes to creating a fun and engaging Trainer Battle experience, we had to strike a careful balance,” Niantic said in a blog post. “On one hand, we wanted the system to be easy and straightforward enough for any Trainer — even someone relatively unfamiliar with the mechanics of Pokémon video games. At the same time, we wanted to create a unique competitive experience that gave Trainers who are passionate about battle an avenue to create complex strategies. We accomplished this balance by implementing Trainer Battle Leagues and creating even more opportunities for Trainers to build battle strategies.”

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Above: Pokémon Go also has remote Trainer Battle play between players with strong friendship ties.

Image Credit: Niantic

Niantic explained how the fighting works earlier. It found ways to match casual players against other casual players, and pit hardcore players against those with similar experience levels.

Leagues aren’t just for new-player accessibility. Fans of previous Pokémon video games know that restrictions on allowed Pokémon change the competitive landscape drastically. Since the Master League has the most powerful Pokémon to operate at full strength, winning strategies may involve powerful Legendary Pokémon and clever counters.

Compare this to the Great League — the CP limitation means almost every Pokémon is on an even CP playing field. This means a huge number of Pokémon all need to be considered, so winning strategies may revolve more heavily around creative type matchups and surprising your opponent with the unexpected, Niantic said.

“In designing Trainer Battles, we wanted to emphasize the importance of strategy,” the post said. “For example, battle updates that accompany Trainer Battles will increase type-effectiveness bonuses, and Trainers will be able to unlock an additional Charged Attack for their Pokémon to increase their versatility in battle. Changes like these enable Trainers to think more creatively in order to beat their opponent in a fast-paced format that is unique to Pokémon Go.”

The team said that Trainer Battles build upon Pokémon Go’s emphasis on encouraging in-person social interaction, so remote gameplay is limited to only play between Ultra Friends and Best Friends.

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