Posted: January 17, 2021 | Updated: May 4, 2021

PokeTimes Returns! Chansey!

The remainder of May passed. June went by. July arrived, and there was still no sign of a second PokeTimes Surprise Trade event. In our piece on Clefairy’s distribution (see here), we noted how Generation Galar’s conditions are optimal for a modern-day revival of the staff-to-player chance trade format. And yet if PokeTimes had any such preconceived plan, schedule or agenda after taking a brave, tentative first step with Clefairy, it certainly didn’t seem like it. June 1 and July 1 2020, two promising dates for a follow-up, both came and went quietly. And just when I was ready to proclaim PokeTimes Clefairy a one-off standalone special – a one-shot, to borrow a manga term – and had readied its analysis article for publication, PokeTimes blindsided us all and announced… Chansey.

PokeTimes Chansey, July 17 2020, 6-8PM JST

Which naturally raises the question: what was the occasion for this second “exchange meeting”?1 第二回ポケタイムス交換会 PokeTimes’ second anniversary had now passed. Tanabata was still a month out. And if the event were a nod to Chansey’s Japanese name, “Lucky” (ラッキー), I would’ve expected it to take place on 7/7, ie. the luckiest day of the Gregorian calendar. But nope. It frankly seems like there was no special occasion other than, perhaps, a good-natured intern’s initiative to lift everyone’s spirits during annus horribilis 2020. (Though, it must be said that amidst April’s rapidly dwindling COVID infection numbers as a function of burgeoning Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, the future didn’t seem quite so bleak!)

Whatever the precise motivation, PokeTimes gave a tidy seven days’ forewarning of the impending second Surprise Trade event, putting out on word on July 10 for a selected timeslot of Sunday July 17, 6-8PM JST. Enclosed in this initial tweet was the full, detailed summary page of what proved to be a readily distributable PokeTimes Chansey. Which is to say, the tweet showed off not a subtly censored or modified “taster” Chansey, but provided a fully accurate preview of the genuine article that matched all the parameters of the 60 “Lucky” handed out the following week. (Which, quite obviously, is playing with fire from the standpoint of mimicry interference in the event – but more on that later.) As before, the OTN was to be ポケタイムス (PokeTimes) with the TID again 714674. Clefairy’s celebratory theme also continued, with Chansey equally carrying the egg move Present. With PokeTimes, there’s always a party! (Full moveset: Copycat / Defense Curl / Seismic Toss / Present.)

The preview also made it clear that, in contrast to Clefairy, PokeTimes had dispensed with the doozy of candying up their 60 Chanseys to some predetermined level. It’s too bad, really – a lucky Lv. 7 or 8 would have been thematically appropriate. (Mr. Donut Chansey got there!) Instead, five dozen plain, freshly-hatched Heal Ball Chanseys were pressed straight into service after hatching. Now, we can’t be quite certain whether their parents were a pair of actual Chansey or a Chansey plus a surrogate Ditto – potentially the same one that fathered an army of Clefairy. Owing to the mechanics of IV inheritance, however, we can deduce that the lovebirds had near-perfect stats. More so, variable natures of Relaxed and Gentle (and possibly also Rash) tell us that no Everstone was equipped on either parent, which further indicates a lack of concern about controlling the Chanseys’ stat bonuses / maluses on PokeTimes’ part.2The Chanseys in question are those received by: @chirishrimp (Relaxed – 5IV), @ken6165yu12 (Gentle – 5IV), plus the July 10 official preview Chansey (Relaxed – 4IV). A … Continue reading

@555masoma and @fura_games advertising their streams.

Right. Since Chansey marked the second PokeTimes surprise trade event, was public coverage of it any better this time around? Weeeell. A handful of Japanese interwebbers were evidently keen to broadcast the experience. Savvy fellows like @555masoma and @fura_games posted their intention to stream on YouTube to the Twitter #ポケタイムス交換会 hashtag well in advance in a bid to drum up publicity for their liveshow. Some streamers launched spur-of-the-moment shows on YouTube, but the only one I can trace back (かえるてんぐ) has since privated the VOD. I could find nothing at all on Twitch, and disappointingly, nobody in the Anglosphere appears to have streamed the event, at least not under any related keywords or hashtags. It goes without saying that PokeTimes once more passed up the opportunity to stream the event from their end, which is rather subpar, frankly, for an official body all about social outreach. Clearly, then, this second iteration of the PokeTimes Surprise Trade Fiesta was still nichest of niche happenings – perhaps more so, paradoxically, than even Clefairy had been.

PokeTimes’ haul. That’s a lot of Dreepy! Note the two Wobbuffet.

In keeping with this observation, fewer winners than before came forward on social media. Only nine total PokeTimes Chansey recipients reported in, five down from Clefairy. While intrinsically interesting, I’m really not sure what to make of this data point, as it can be interpreted to mean number of things. Perhaps fewer lucky winners happened to have a Twitter presence. Perhaps more Chansey ended up with accidental partakers in the event (ie. randos) implying, well, chance or, possibly, a smaller proportion of committed participants. (A lower Surprise Trade signal to noise ratio, if you will.) Or it might be taken to suggest that fewer successful participants could be bothered to tell the world – with one possible multiple-time winner in particular looming large in skewing the statistics. Or we might chalk up the Clefairy-Chansey gap of five to a ceteris paribus natural variance. I’m sure laws of statistical probability can be unleashed upon this problem – but you won’t see me doing that. Either way, here’s a list of documented lucky recipients. As before, all came forward during the event window and attached to their Tweet either pictographic or video evidence of receiving, or holding, PokeTimes Chansey on their savefile, thus passing the most basic of triangulation checks (# followers at the time of the event in parenthesis):

@HS_susanooch (970)
@ochakaru (179)
@ken6165yu12 (~168)
@chirishrimp (>70)
@Decade_Deende (ろすと) (68)
@shirasaka0328 (ゆーX) (57)
@mik_poke (54)
@camosand_7 (53)
@tybtk300 (20)

Inspect the PokeTimes haul screenshots closely, and you can find @shirasaka0328’s Hippopotas, HS_susanooch’s Grookey (any of the visible four), and @Decade_Deende’s Dreepy (any of five) sitting pretty on the other side. Also, if it wasn’t self-evident from the Chanseys’ OTN and TID, the recycled PC Box names visible in PokeTimes’ “haul screenshots” make it abundantly clear that they used same save file to prepare the event Pokémon.

Oh, you’d like another victors collage? Fine, fine. Here’s a victors collage.

Pouring over the list of winners, we find a notable number of self-proclaimed Pokémaniacs among them: the Twitter bios of @HS_susanooch, @ken6165yu12, and @mik_poke are all explicit about their account owners’ franchise fandom. A further two winners were active in the gaming and / or streaming space at large (@chirishrimp and @ochakaru). Meanwhile, we see no otherwise-dormant lurker accounts or hastily-created post-hoc profiles among the nine. These collective findings are consistent with the idea of a narrower tranche of dedicated Chansey participants. In that sense, it appears that April’s Clefairy event acted as a filter for future participation. Which is to say, starved for success, more casual partakers threw in the towel on account of slim victory odds, leaving a smaller group of highly-motivated, indefatigable Pokémon aficionados to double down and stand alone in combatting the natural noise of the blissfully unaware ordinary (international) players who just happened to be using Surprise Trade at the time, and never understood the essence of the Chansey they might have received. Still, a documentation strike rate of 9/60 is comparatively impressive when set against the GTS distributions of yore. And it’s perfectly clear that we have widespread adoption of social media to thank for this!

I’d also like to point out that out of all nine documented Chansey winners, only @Decade_Deende had the presence of mind to hit record on their Switch and take a snap video of PokeTimes Chansey’s arrival. In the resulting clip, the PokeTimes account can be seen in the Sword & Shield sidebar overview before the algorithm finds a match for Deende, and Chansey is traded to their game. (They also won a Cramorant wallpaper from PokeTimes in May – some people’s luck…!) In their excitement, Deende looks to have been a touch trigger-happy, and the 30-second “post to Twitter” footage cuts out before the trade is completed. Crucially, the PokeTimes OTN (ポケタイムス) does flash briefly on screen when Dreepy is sent away!

Finally, in the interest of a fullness of information, it should be noted that there initially appeared to be a tenth winner. Minutes before the closure of the two-hour event window, one @KIRA_0505 posted excitedly about receiving through Surprise Trade a Lv.1 PokeTimes Chansey inhabiting, somewhat incongruently, a Love Ball. It was almost immediately clarified, however, that this odd-duck Chansey was, in fact, a deliberate mimic put together by fellow Twitterer @harutosukidrdu. As it was, this proved to be the sole report of a Chansey mimic sowing confusion, which, in isolation, more than suffices to illustrate the potential chaos that could have ensued had somebody, anybody, with a Poké-editing toolkit and truly nefarious intent taken to spread a battalion of mimics on Surprise Trade during the event window. I still feel we dodged a bullet. Please don’t so naively tip your hand again, PokeTimes. Thanks.

From bliss to heartbreak in minutes. Kira’s Chansey, genned by Hiramizu.

Which brings us to the subject of interference. Everybody loves this part. (Not.) Thankfully, as mentioned, my worst fears of mimic hacking analogous to what befell the Daisuki Club’s GTS09 did not materialise. Not a single third-party group formed with the explicit intent to poison the well by spreading fakes and/or replicas. Even so, common knowledge of PokeTimes’ modus operandi paired with a seven-day lead time enabled a group opportunistic individuals to inject themselves into the event. Concretely, at least one – and possibly multiple – commercial Pokésale group succeeded at diverting, if not outright hijacking, the event spotlight for their own promotional purposes, to a mixture of bemuse- and bewilderment on part of Japanese participants. It was quite the coup. Here’s what happened.

This side-story starts, oddly enough, with the “Karen” meme. Now, if you’re reading this from 2021, you’ll likely need no further explanation. But, I can already picture readers from the near or not-so near future scratching their heads in confusion, so forgive me a little cautious elaboration. (Hello, you beautiful cybernetically-augmented bastards!) In the perturbed year 2020, the slanderous term “Karen” was coined to capture the perceived stereotype of a middle-class Anglo-American female with an outsized sense of self-entitlement. A “Karen” was considered to have a confrontational attitude towards her perceived social inferiors and possess a ruthless determination to force through one’s will, however unreasonable, in specific socio-economic situations. This “stereotype of a stereotype” image apparently tapped into – at a minimum – a faint kernel of truth and rapidly achieved global recognition. This much is all the essential context you need here, and I won’t say any more about the subject, for this website is a place for Pokémon, not politics.

Now. Enter Machamps.com, a small-time seller and reseller of digital Pokémon who, by their own description, “give out thousands of Pokémon every day”. (Never trust marketing claims!) In a broad sense, the gray market for virtual Pokémon is still a relatively new phenomenon anno 2020 – one that only really took off with the global Pokémon revival in the wake of the franchise’s 20th Anniversary and, particularly, with the impulse from the release of Pokémon Sword & Shield. A variety of eBay sellers and websites like Pokefella have built a customer base out of reasonably undiscerning players seeking easy shinies, event Pokémon from the present or past, or perhaps even a ready-to-go full Pokédex delivered straight to one’s HOME, obviating the need to even play the game! Yes, paying for the privilege to skip straight to the ending of an entry in a franchise that has always, since its inception, been about the journey is very twistedly 2020. Then again, with a total Pokémon tally pushing on 1000, I can hardly fault newcomers for wanting to take a few shortcuts. But I digress. In any case, it’s abundantly clear that Machamps.com is doing well out of the Poké-boom, and in the PokeTimes Chansey Surprise Trade event, its owners astutely perceived a free promotional opportunity.

Machamps’ chosen vehicle for this operation was a Wobbuffet. Not just any Wobbuffet, mind you. Rather, it was a shiny Lv.100 housed in a Love Ball, assigned a Naughty nature, blinged out with a Pearl String, and taught a suggestive moveset of Destiny Bond / Counter / Mirror Coat / Encore. Moreover, it was female with characteristic red sultry lips. You can see where this is going, right? Yes… It was nicknamed, all but inevitably, “Karen”. To drive home exactly what wicked hivemind had contrived this devilish, eyebrow-raising creature, “Karen” had a self-referential OTN of Machamps.com. When this pink Wobbuffet was first brought to my attention, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The evil genius of it was obvious: Machamps.com had cleverly designed not just any run-off-the-mill, easily overlooked and ignored Pokémon bearing their OTN, but one that very recognisably played off a global meme dominating the zeitgeist, meaning the resulting Pokémon was sure to attract maximum attention. It was an advertising masterstroke that nobody had seen coming.

The mass-cloned Karens reached Japan in considerable numbers. In fact, given the sheer volume of Karen Wobbuffet reports out of Japan, I think it’s safe to infer that the Machamps.com website operators traded out Karens continually, concurrently on multiple devices, either manually or through or a botscript, throughout the event’s two-hour window. Not all Japanese participants recognised the Pokémon for what they were; many referred to the Karens simply as “shiny Wobbuffet”. From an advertising standpoint, however, that didn’t seem to matter all that much: the Karens’ striking exterior plus the frequency with which they popped up had participants realise full-well that Machamps.com were “piggybacking off the official project”.3 Words of @AkitoChokoMint Wary players consequently reported on the Wobbuffet with some exasperation on the #ポケタイムス交換会 hashtag. Just 45 minutes into the event, for example, @AkitoChokoMint took to Twitter to grumpily share the news of two very clearly genned shiny Wobbuffet received over Surprise Trade. Around the same time, @XXxSxxXxxXxxxXX (their actual handle) reported the receipt of three “Karen-chans” in a similar timeframe. Half an hour on, Chansey winner @ochakaru shared an image of *their* mysterious copy of Machamps’ Karen Wobbuffet. A @LiaPAN1009 mentioned getting two. And shortly after the event wrapped up, an @ofuton_suyami also tweeted out a Karen Wobbuffet picture. Last but not least, judging from their post-event haul summary, even PokeTimes got saddled with two Karen Wobbuffet. Yeah.

Make no mistake, you won’t usually find this website publicise the dastardly deeds of Pokémon community mavericks. Yet it’s an inescapable truth that the (un)timely deluge of Karen Wobbuffet makes them part of PokeTimes event history by default – and thus we (reluctantly) document it. Thankfully the “Karen” Wobbuffet were relatively harmless from both participation and preservation points of view – they weren’t exactly mimics – and so we get to dismiss Machamps’ bold scheme as playful if distasteful interference. Whether Machamps targeted increased brand recognition or sought to snag multiple PokeTimes Chansey for cloning, sale and ultimately profit, they look to have succeeded with flying colours on both counts. Well-played, Machamps.com, well-played.

The Wobbuffet notwithstanding, many players demonstrably enjoyed the event, checking in enthusiastically afterwards on the official hashtag (#ポケタイムス交換会) to thank PokeTimes for hosting it, thank their fellow players for taking part, and gleefully show off their Surprise Trade hauls. On the flip side of the medal, other participants, however, expressed exasperation and/or frustration with Machamps’ abominations and tweeted their gripes directly at that same event hashtag. To provide a quick snapshot of the tenor of such comments: one @dora_120903 wrote in disbelief that “the instance of remodelling is too high”; a @tetuika334 lamented the amount of “garbage modification” arriving over Surprise Trade;4 Writing: “ゴミ改造多すぎじゃね?60回流したけど5体も改造来たわ 滅びろゴミ業者”, and one @darknessvillain even went so far as to suggest a wholly impractical “password system” to gatekeep participants in the future.5 Writing: “ただ改造ポケモンがばっか来られるので次から指定パスワードの方がいいと思います。 カイリキー.comのせいで菱形アシレーヌ. … Continue reading I consider it improbable for PokeTimes to have remained oblivious to these sentiments, as they were often directly fired at them, and even a cursory inspection of the chain of tweets sees them stand out like a sore thumb. I can’t help but wonder, then, whether the Karens are the reason we’ve not yet seen a third PokeTimes exchange event, as their presence painfully exposed the undercurrent of hacking in the Pokécommunity.

The year 2021 is upon us, and the month of April – PokeTimes’ third anniversary – will be here soon. If there is to be a third PokeTimes Surprise Trade event in the form of “Present” Delibird, Jigglypuff, Marill, or Miltank, to name just a few possible candidates, it will likely happen then, or never.

For more about April 2020’s first PokeTimes Surprise Trade event – Clefairy – see here!

Footnotes

Footnotes
1  第二回ポケタイムス交換会
2 The Chanseys in question are those received by: @chirishrimp (Relaxed – 5IV), @ken6165yu12 (Gentle – 5IV), plus the July 10 official preview Chansey (Relaxed – 4IV). A “we’re ready to roll” PokeTimes tweet from July 17 additionally shows a Rash Chansey with unknown IVs.
3  Words of @AkitoChokoMint
4  Writing: “ゴミ改造多すぎじゃね?60回流したけど5体も改造来たわ 滅びろゴミ業者”
5  Writing: “ただ改造ポケモンがばっか来られるので次から指定パスワードの方がいいと思います。 カイリキー.comのせいで菱形アシレーヌ. 来たのが腹立ちました(笑) そしてそのソーナンス改造ソーナンス臭くて草”