Beginning in 2008, the Pokemon TCG would begin to host “Challenge Plaza” (ポケモンチャレンジひろば, commonly mistranslated as “Challenge Hiroba” in English) events. This article will refer to them as the more common “Challenge Hiroba” mistranslation for the sake of consistency with what major international grading companies like CGC and PSA have codified the cards as.
Challenge Hirobas were larger events held in department stores or shopping malls instead of small card/hobby shops, and featured various activities for participants:
- Teaching Corners: Side events to teach players how to play the TCG
- Lotteries: Various lotteries at each Challenge Hiroba location. Prizes included TCG accessories like coins and sleeves, booster packs, and cards.
- Free Battle: Open battle areas
- Trading Corners: Places where players could trade cards with staff members or each other
- Card Get Battle: Small official tournaments. Players played until they lost, up to 5 rounds. Some distributed promo prize cards.
Although these events had been introduced earlier in 2008, they didn’t start distributing exclusive promos until 2009. Each store would receive new promos approximately every month, and leftover promos from previous events were frequently given out at future ones.
Challenge Hiroba events were started near the start of 2008 as an alternative way to introduce players to the Pokemon TCG. For years, Official Gyms hosted Gym Challenge events in card / hobby shops, but Challenge Hirobas raised public awareness of the TCG by hosting tournaments and events in large shopping malls / department stores.
Throughout much of 2008, Challenge Hiroba events didn’t distribute new promo cards, but instead would redistribute some previously issued promos.
July – August Challenge Hiroba
During these months, visitors to Challenge Hirobas would receive a promo Piplup card. This was the only promo card exclusive to Challenge Hirobas in 2008. This card was part of the Collection Challenge Campaign.
November Challenge Hiroba
In November 2008, Challenge Hiroba particpants were randomly given an older Pokemon promo card from Battle Road events. Because Battle Road 2008 was prematurely cancelled, this was a source for the promos from those events.
2009 would begin the pattern of Challenge Hiroba events distributing new promo cards.
Beat of the Frontier Release Commemoration Tournament
Challenge Hirobas across Japan hosted tournaments to celebrate the release of the Beat of the Frontier expansion (released in English as Supreme Victors) in March 2009. Players at each store would queue up and play each other in a swiss-draw tournament.
For participating, players would earn a promo SP Energy card. Some locations would also distribute the Pikachu cosmos holofoil card previously given out in Battle Road 2008.
Winning 1 match would reward players with a Battle Tower stamped with the set’s logo. 2 wins would reward them with a Dragonite card also stamped with the set’s logo.
Winners of the tournament would receive a Drifblim card, also stamped with the set’s logo.
May Challenge Hiroba
Challenge Hiroba events would issue new promos every month throughout the year starting in May. Participants of the Challenge Hiroba events in May received a Chatot promo card.
Players who won 5 consecutive times in the Card Get Battle event at the Challenge Hirobas would earn a new Victory Medal, featuring Giratina.
June Challenge Hiroba
In June 2009, Challenge Hiroba events would begin issuing a Ponyta promo to participants. This card featured a a graphic of the next set emblazoned across its text box for the upcoming Advent of Arceus expansion (released as Platinum: Arceus in English).
August Challenge Hiroba
In August 2009, a new promo was added for Challenge Hiroba events. Participants of the Card Get Battle tournaments at these venues would receive a cosmos holofoil Jigglypuff promo card.
September Challenge Hiroba
Beginning in September 2009, Official Gym events began distributing the first of the L-P promos in preparation for the first LEGENDS-era sets, HeartGold Collection and SoulSilver Collection, which would be later released in October 2009.
Players of the Challenge Hiroba during this month would receive a Meganium promo with the upcoming SoulSilver Collection expansion logo in its text box.
Attendees at the “Pokemon Day in Roppongi Hills” on September 26-27, 2009 that celebrated the launch of the Pokemon HeartGold and Pokemon SoulSilver video games were also able to receive this card at the event.
Pokémon Card Game LEGEND Battle
To celebrate the release of the HeartGold Collection and SoulSilver Collection expansions in October 2009, both Gym Challenges at stores in Japan and Challenge Hirobas around the country hosted the Pokemon Card Game LEGEND Battle (the expansions were the first in the LEGEND series of Japanese expansions).
Participants of both the Gym Challenge and Challenge Hiroba events received a stamped cosmos foil Sentret.
Players at the Challenge Hirobas who won 3 consecutive times in the Card Get Battles received a stamped cosmos holofoil Professor Elm’s Training Method promo.
The rarest of the 3 promos was given out to only winners of the Gym Challenge tournaments hosted under the Pokemon Card Game LEGEND Battle. This was a stamped cosmos holofoil Copycat. Notably this one is stamped with the SoulSilver Collection expansion logo, while the other 2 promos were stamped with the HeartGold Collection one.
November Challenge Hiroba
In November 2009, a new promo card was distributed to Challenge Hiroba participants, a cosmos holofoil Wobbuffet.
Additionally, starting in November, players who won 5 consecutive games in the Card Get Battles at Challenge Hirobas would win a silver Victory Medal, featuring Meganium.
2010 was the final year of Challenge Hiroba events. They would be phased out as the Gen 5 games and respective TCG expansions were introduced in the fall of 2010.
January Challenge Hiroba
A new Victory Medal was issued to kick off the new year’s Challenge Hiroba events. Players could win a silver Typhlosion medal by winning 5 consecutive times in the Card Get Battle.
Reviving Legend Release Commemorative Tournament
In February 2010, Challenge Hirobas across Japan hosted tournaments to celebrate the release of the Reviving Legends expansion (released in English as Undaunted). These tournaments were hosted as Card Get Battles at each location. Players would play single-elimination matches against each other, with 5 rounds total.
All participants would get either a Scyther or Houndour cosmos holofoil promo card stamped with the set’s logo. The promos were randomly distributed, and each player only received one.
If a player reached 3 consecutive wins, they would receive a stamped Legend Box promo.
Lastly, if a player managed to win 5 consecutive times (thereby going undefeated and winning the Card Get Battle), they would be awarded with a stamped Burned Tower promo card.
Lost Link Release Commemoration Tournament
In April 2010, Challenge Hirobas across Japan hosted a tournament to celebrate the release of the Lost Link subset expansion (there is no English equivalent of this set). Official Pokemon Center stores would also participate by hosting “Card Get Battles” are their locations, similar to Challenge Hiroba events.
All participants of the event would receive a cosmos holofoil Zangoose card, stamped with the set logo.
Players who won 3 consecutive times in the event would receive a cosmos holofoil Lost Remover card with the set stamp. Additionally, winners could also receive Victory medals that were previously introduced if they won consecutive 5 times.
May Challenge Hiroba
In May 2010, participants in the Challenge Hiroba events were able to get a Lapras promo card.
Winners of the Card Get Battle were also able to win the final Victory Medal card, featuring Feraligatr.
June Challenge Hiroba
A new participation promo was added to the Challenge Hiroba lineup in June 2010. Tournament entrants would receive a cosmos holofoil Shuckle card.
Clash at the Summit Release Commemoration Tournament
In July of 2010, both Official Gyms (via Gym Challenges) and Challenge Hirobas would celebrate the release of the new Clash at the Summit expansion (released as Triumphant in English) with tournaments at locations around Japan. Official Pokemon Center stores would also participate by hosting “Card Get Battles” are their locations, similar to Challenge Hiroba events.
This expansion was the final expansion in the LEGEND series, and thus would also be the final Challenge Hiroba event to issue new promos.
With the release of the Pokemon Black and Pokemon White games coming up, Challenge Hiroba events were phased out.
Participants of any of the 3 kinds of events would receive a cosmos holofoil Electabuzz promo card stamped with the expansion logo.
Players who won 3 consecutive games at any of the events would receive a cosmos holofoil Indigo Plateau promo, also stamped with the expansion’s logo.
Challenge Hiroba events issued some of the most iconic promos of the LEGEND era. Additionally, the promos distributed at each new expansion’s release commemoration tournament during this era also established a precedent of having promos with the expansion’s logo on them for release and prerelease events.
This practice was carried forward all the way to present times, with every modern set release event featuring similar set stamps. Cards released in every language would adopt these set stamps to commemorate each new set.