The “Pokemon with guns” game Palworld has taken the world by storm with its engaging gameplay and endless discourse as the main question continues to never be answered: is this game even legal, considering how much it draws from one of the most popular franchises in the world?
Can Nintendo Sue Palworld for Copying Pokemon?
Palworld is supposedly legal and shouldn’t be inflicting any copyright rules at all, so there shouldn’t be any reason for Nintendo to go after them, in theory. The game was announced all the way back in 2021 and it had roughly the same monster designs it has now, so it’s impossible that the company didn’t know about it until it came out in January 2024.
People often joke around the “Nintendo will copyright strike everyone and everything into oblivion if they try to use their proprieties” meme, but the actual issue isn’t as bad as people make it seem. Lawsuits are only brought up when people have used copyrighted characters, names and such for profits. Palworld should be theoretically safe from these claims as it never uses the Pokemon name anywhere.
While Nintendo and The Pokemon Company are owners of the franchise, they do not own the “monster tamer” genre. Monster Rancher, Digimon, Yo-kai Watch and Temtem are all examples of popular franchises with similar elements to Pokemon, and none of them have faced legal trouble for that.
However, The Pokemon Company released a statement on January 25th following the game’s increasing popularity and plagiarism accusations made by fans:
“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. 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.
The Pokémon Company”
While this doesn’t confirm that Pocketpair is being sued, Pokemon has its eyes on the case and the possibility does exist, if they can confirm that the game did use their assets or any other intellectual property for designing their creatures.
Is Palworld Stealing Assets from Pokemon?
Despite the recent announcement, there has been no official confirmation of Palworld stealing assets from existing Pokemon. Pals are supposedly a fully original creation, despite their obvious similarities to already existing creatures in other games. Fans have used social media such as X (formerly Twitter) to show how far these similarities go.
Some users have also shown how well some Pokemon models fit into certain Pal models like Lycanroc and Direhowl when scaled properly. These have been some of the most concrete “proofs”, but it’s up to Nintendo to prove whether there was plagiarism or not. The game was released with no legal disputes, according to Pocketpair’s CEO Takuro Mizobe during an interview for Automaton.
Pokemon might be the magnum opus for the genre, but Nintendo itself would be in trouble if it were to threaten its competition with a copyright strike with no actual proof of plagiarism. The inspirations taken from Pokemon have never been denied, at the very least. They’re free to be inspired by Pokemon as long as they bring their own original twists and elements to the game.
And Palworld does have some original beats like their own take on a Survival game with their original creatures. Some of its systems are exactly like we’ve seen in other games like Ark, but they still manage to bring some unique aspects to the Base and its facilities.
You can’t deny that some Pals look exactly like a fanmade Eeveelution or that we have a few Lucario lookalikes here and there, but they’re supposed to be their own thing at the end of the day. References happen all the time in the gaming industry.
So don’t worry if you bought Palworld as the game won’t be vanishing from your Library anytime soon. Developers have affirmed that the game isn’t a scam either, so you’ll get what you’re paying for at the end of the day.