Who’d have thought the drama surrounding a pseudo-Pokémon video game would be this pronounced? Over the past few days, Palworld, an indie video game from Japanese studio Pocketpair, has become a phenomenon, selling over eight million copies in under six days and being the most-played game on Steam. But talk has swirled around Palworld ripping off Pokémon, with the game jokingly referred to as “Pokémon with guns.” So far, not much has happened; one modder who was planning a Pokémon mod for Palworld was dissuaded by Nintendo. (We don’t know exactly how, but presumably, they threatened to sue him.) And PETA wants a vegan guide to the game, like anyone cares. But now, The Pokémon Company has fired a shot across Pocketpair’s bow with this official statement on the matter:
We have received many inquiries from customers about other companies’ games released in January 2024 that they are similar to Pokémon, as well as inquiries to see if they are licensed by us. We do not license any use of Pokemon in this game.
In addition, we will investigate any infringement of intellectual property rights related to Pokémon and take appropriate measures.
We will continue to bring out the individuality of each Pokémon, carefully protect and nurture its world, and work to connect the world with Pokémon.
The Pokémon Company
They don’t specifically mention Palworld, but it’s clear as day what they’re talking about in that statement. And it isn’t a definitive declaration of intent to sue; whether Palworld is infringing on their copyright or not, they’d be foolish not to investigate when people are calling some other company’s video game “Pokémon with guns.” How it plays out from here will be interesting. I have no idea if The Pokémon Company has a case because I haven’t played Palworld and have less than no interest in Pokémon. Based on the images I’ve seen, the Pals do bear a striking resemblance to Pokémon, and I don’t buy that “We’re actually trying to be like Dragon Quest” line. But it also looks like a parody, and if it’s different enough, it should be protected. Takuro Mizobe – CEO of Pocketpair – assured Automaton that Palword “cleared legal reviews” before being released, which suggests that they knew this could be a problem and planned for it. Even if that’s true, it doesn’t mean they won’t get sued; if The Pokémon Company is pissed enough, they could bring a lawsuit just to give Pocketpair grief. But considering the profits Palworld must be generating at this point, it’ll be worth it for Pocketpair… as long as the law is on their side.