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

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. Two of us — a Violet player and a Scarlet player — tested this by playing Union Circle together. We were both able to find Oranguru spawning in abundance, but didn’t see any Passimian. We’re still testing the conditions of how version exclusivity works in multiplayer (maybe we were just unlucky), and will update when we can.
  • 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 cannot battle or trade Pokémon with your friends from within the Union Circle feature.
  • You can fast travel to any of your waypoints, even if your host does not have them unlocked.
  • 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.