What you need to know
- Nearly a week after Palworld's Early Access launch on Xbox and PC, The Pokémon Company has responded to Palworld and claims that its developer Pocketpair allegedly plagiarized Pokémon.
- The firm says it intends "to investigate and take appropriate measures to address any acts that infringe on intellectual property rights related to the Pokémon."
- Pocketpair CEO Takuro Mizobe recently said Palworld "cleared legal reviews," and that the studio has "absolutely no intention of infringing upon the intellectual property of other companies."
- Palworld has enjoyed record-breaking success since release, with the game selling over 8 million copies in six days and becoming the second most-played Steam game of all time.
Between Palworld's record-breaking ascent to the top of the Steam charts since its Early Access launch on Xbox and PC last week and all the viral accusations that developer Pocketpair ripped off Pokémon designs and used stolen Pokémon assets, it seemed quite likely one of Pokémon's stewards was going to comment at some point. I wasn't expecting it just under a week after Palworld's release, admittedly, but here we are.
The Pokémon Company, which oversees publishing, marketing, and licensing for the colossal jointly owned franchise, posted a brief statement on its website on Wednesday evening. In it, the firm announced its intent to investigate "another company's game released in January 2024" — Palworld, clearly — and said it plans to "take appropriate measures," if necessary.
"We have received many inquiries regarding another company’s game released in January 2024. We have not granted any permission for the use of Pokémon intellectual property or assets in that game," wrote the publisher.
"We intend to investigate and take appropriate measures to address any acts that infringe on intellectual property rights related to the Pokémon. We will continue to cherish and nurture each and every Pokémon and its world, and work to bring the world together through Pokémon in the future."
In the days following its launch, Palworld has been embroiled in controversy, with artists and gamers on social media sites claiming that its developers committed plagiarism. The full explainer I linked to above goes over everything in close detail, but the TL;DR is that at the moment, there's not conclusive, concrete proof of any wrongdoing.
here's the CEO of Pocketpair talking about using AI to bypass copyright, generating fakemons with it, calling AI: Art Imposter a real-time image generation game, and being excited for games powered by GPT-4 pic.twitter.com/79xwZr0yEIJanuary 19, 2024
Some of these claims point to Pocketpair CEO, Takuro Mizobe's previous X (formerly Twitter) posts explaining how an AI generator could be used to create "Fakemon" to bypass copyright.
However, Mizobe has refuted these AI and copyright allegations saying that Palworld characters were designed by a single "new graduate" (Thanks Dot eSports). Once again, there is no proof that the Palworld developers utilized AI to create characters.
Everyone's been waiting to see how Nintendo or The Pokémon Company would respond to the situation, as the former is infamous for its historically litigious lawyers who aggressively take legal action against those who use the companies' characters without permission. This was once more illustrated with the DMCA a modder recently received from Nintendo regarding a mod project that would bring Pokémon characters to Palworld.
For the time being, though, it seems The Pokémon Company is opting to take things slow and thoroughly investigate. It may also dislike the fact that the ultraviolent Palworld is "Pokémon with guns" based on that "We will continue to cherish and nurture each and every Pokémon and its world" bit at the end.
Notably, Pocketpair's Mizobe recently said Palworld "cleared legal reviews," and that no other studios or companies have taken action against Pocketpair.
"We make our games very seriously, and we have absolutely no intention of infringing upon the intellectual property of other companies," Mizobe said while speaking with Automaton.
Previously, a Nintendo representative told Bloomberg that the gaming giant "is aware of" Palworld. They chose not to comment, however. A spokeswoman for The Pokémon Company declined to comment as well, at the time.
Analysis: Will this amount to anything?
Surprised Pikachu face. That pretty much sums up my response to this, as while I didn't expect The Pokémon Company to issue a statement this soon, I strongly doubted that it would tell us anything significant. And this one, despite all that firm wording, hasn't.
The Pokémon Company is doing what any publisher would do, which is signal to the fans of its franchise that it's keeping an eye on things and is ready to take action if it finds evidence that Pocketpair stole assets or infringed on its intellectual property. Ultimately, only time will tell if it actually does.
More interesting still is what any legal repercussions could mean for the millions of players who have been playing Palworld on PC and Xbox. Should The Pokémon Company feel the need to pursue legal action against Pocketpair, it could lead to Palworld getting removed from Steam and Xbox. It's hard to say if this would mean refunding millions of players their purchases or if it would just become a swallowed cost that players could never reclaim. Either way, it could mean that people wouldn't be able to play the creature-collecting survival game anymore.
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Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.
- Rebecca SpearGaming Editor
Out of curiosity: what if they used AI?Reply
"Design a cartoon squirrel in the style of a pokemon creature."
By all reports, style is neither copyrightable nor trademarketable under US nor EU law. No word on Japan but it is doubtful any country in the WTO is very different.
Like it or not, games *will* be made with AI tools sooner or later. And somebody *will* be first. Steam's terms only require notification and only for new games.
So, what if they pass legal muster precisely for using AI?
Why would it matter?