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How Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s multiplayer works (and doesn’t)

Everything you need to know about the Union Circle feature

Two Pokémon trainers take selfies together. One throws up a piece sign and the other one shades their eyes to look into the distance Image: Game Freak, The Pokémon Company/Nintendo via Polygon
Julia Lee (she/her) is a guides producer, writing guides for games like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Genshin Impact. She helped launch the Rift Herald in 2016.

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s online multiplayer component is a little confusing and weird. It may seem like you’re traveling to another player’s version of Paldea, but that isn’t fully the case.

All of the multiplayer features — including, trading, playing with your friends, and completing Tera Raid Battles — can be done by pressing the X button and selecting the “Poké Portal” option.

When you use the Union Circle feature, it may seem like one player is the host and the other players are “visiting” their world, but you still remain in your world. You can, however, now see your friends on screen. You’ll also see their activity occasionally in the top left and right corner, noting if they’re doing story or catching new Pokémon.

Here’s a quick rundown of what you can do in Union Circle mode, based on our testing:

  • You can raid together by interacting with your raid crystals. Interacting with another player’s crystal will give you a message saying it’s not yours, but it will give you league points (LP) and Tera Orb charges. Invites to join the raid will be sent out if you select “challenge as a group,” but the other players cannot be in a battle, cutscene, or otherwise preoccupied to get the invitation.
  • You can do mass outbreaks together, but it will only show the host’s outbreaks.
  • You can battle Team Star leaders, gym leaders, Titan Pokémon, and other story-based battles. You will not do this together, though, and you cannot see your friends taking part in these battles.
  • You cannot buy the opposite Charcadet evolution item, even if you visit the opposite version of your game.
  • You can catch version exclusive Pokémon that are not exclusive to your game. Version exclusives will only spawn around the player who owns that version. For example, a Scarlet player will spawn Oranguru around them, but a Violet player will spawn Passimian around them, even if walking around in a similar area.
  • You can pick up items without “stealing” them from your host or friends. Picking up items will not affect their the host’s items.
  • You can battle or trade Pokémon with your friends from within the Union Circle feature, just by accessing the Poké Portal and using it the same way you would if you weren’t in Union Circle. Once you start searching for a battle or trade, other players in your Union Circle will be notified (as long as they’re not in a menu, cutscene, or otherwise occupied) to join you. You do not have to set a link code to match up with players in your Union Circle.
  • You can fast travel to any of your waypoints, even if your host does not have them unlocked.
  • You can picnic together to make sandwiches and even breed Pokémon.
  • You can take cute selfies with each other. See the lead image of this guide? Cute.

That said, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s multiplayer feature is still okay for being able to raid with your friends quickly, or just seeing how far they’ve progressed, but it’s not as invasive or expansive as some players might have believed before launch.

Correction (Nov. 22): A previous version of this guide did not accurately cover how trading and battling works in Union Circles. We’ve updated the post to reflect the correct information.

Update (Nov. 28): We’ve updated this guide with more things players can do in Union Circles and confirmed how version exclusives work.

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