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A hot potato: The developers of Palworld have been accused of plagiarizing Pokémon since the game's explosive launch last week. The company that owns Pokémon recently confirmed its awareness of the situation, but analysis from legal experts suggests that a lawsuit might not be an open-and-shut case.
The Pokémon Company issued an official statement in response to the controversy surrounding the recent hit release, Palworld, which bears strong visual similarities to Nintendo's monster-training franchise. The likelihood of any legal proceedings remains unclear.
In a boilerplate announcement, the Pokémon Company acknowledged receiving numerous inquiries about Palworld without directly referring to the game. The company stated that it would investigate whether Palworld's character designs infringe upon Pokémon's copyright, a right it continues to defend vigorously.
since I'm bored as hell, I'm gonna be making a thread of this i think... Palworld design analysis trying to spot every pokemon they jumbled together pic.twitter.com/Ch9jcx5hCI– onion_mu (@onion_mu) January 18, 2024
Nintendo, one of the most famously litigious entities in the video game industry, aggressively pursues individuals who share and develop unofficial or pirated copies of its games. Many expected the company to take similar action against Palworld developer Pocket Pair, as the monsters it designed bear uncanny resemblances to specific Pokémon.
Legal experts have acknowledged these resemblances but admit they might be just different enough to escape a lawsuit. Palworld also faced accusations of ripping 3D assets directly from Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, but no concrete evidence has surfaced. Pocketpair CEO Takuro Mizobe claimed that Palworld passed legal reviews before its release. Moreover, images from Palworld have been publicly available since at least 2022 – Nintendo and the Pokémon Company have had two years to sue Pocket Pair but never did.
The Palworld developer also noted that, despite the visual similarities, the game bears little mechanical resemblance to Pokémon. It's more an amalgamation of elements from many popular titles, including Pokémon, Ark: Survival Evolved, Minecraft, Fortnite, Monster Hunter, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Taking heavy inspiration from another product isn't enough to sustain a lawsuit.
Regardless of the legal status of the game's default characters, modders will find it challenging (though not impossible) to add real Pokémon to Palworld. Nexus Mods refuses to carry Pokémon-related mods for Palworld, fearing Nintendo's wrath, although it still hosts Pokémon mods for other games. A YouTuber who posted a now-deleted video of one such mod later said, "Nintendo has come for me." A Discord server for Palworld mods also forbids any discussion of mods to add Pokémon.
#Palworld has sold over 8 million copies in less than 6 days!– Palworld (@Palworld_EN) January 25, 2024
Thank you very much!!
As stated previously, we continue to work at full-speed on addressing bugs and issues!
Thanks for your support!#Pocketpair pic.twitter.com/4PLB1J4CYH
Although other monster-taming games with cartoon-like art styles exist, the conversation surrounding Palworld has become so heated due to its historic success. Over the weekend, we reported that it had sold three million copies and reached 1.8 million concurrent players on Steam, but Palworld has since surpassed these milestones.
Palworld is currently the top-selling and most-played game on Steam as of January 25, outperforming evergreen pillars like Counter-Strike 2, Dota 2, and PUBG. On Thursday, Pocket Pair announced that Palworld has sold eight million copies on Steam. According to unofficial data, it has become the second game in Steam's history to exceed two million concurrent players. Its peak is now second only to PUBG's three million, and it could take the crown, given its current pace and planned updates.
The latest patch introduced significant bug fixes, and Pocket Pair's roadmap includes substantial upcoming features. The developer plans to add PvP, end-game raid bosses, new environments, Xbox-Steam crossplay, and more.