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Palworld: Copyright Infringement or Coincidence?

Screenshot+from+Palworld+Official+Early+Access+Gameplay+Trailer
Screenshot from Palworld Official Early Access Gameplay Trailer

A month ago, a game named “Palworld” was released by Pocketpair Inc. in early access on Steam and Xbox to much critical acclaim. It was said to be “Pokémon with guns” by many game fans, and it largely portrayed itself that way. It is an action-adventure game where players are forced to forage, build, and craft items to aid their survival. Players can also collect creatures known as “Pals,” which can aid with several things such as construction, mining, and defense of the base itself. The game is open-world, allowing for relatively free roaming across the vast map.

 In the lead-up to the release, the developers on Twitter would release #Paldecks, short videos and information showing off a Pal within the game, and it was then that people began to draw parallels between Palworld and Pokémon. Many called out the similar art style, saying it copied the Pokémon style. Others were suspicious of the models used to make the pals, but nothing was confirmed until the release.

Upon release, many fans and non-fans of Pokémon immediately fell in love with the game and its mechanics, and the game exploded on the internet and Steam, garnering up to 2 million concurrent players a day. This popularity was partly due to a mod that replaced every Pal in the game with a different Pokémon. As expected, however, Nintendo issued a DMCA takedown of the mod, essentially banning it from being distributed. Fans expected this, as Nintendo has a history of being extremely strict on copyright infringement, which is why the issue of the Pals models themselves got thrust into the limelight.

While some highly praised the game, others found their own reasons to be wary of it. Some people called out the game for copying Pokémon assets, as some seemed to be stripped directly from various Pokémon. While the resemblance is sometimes uncanny, several people investigated the models themselves, ultimately concluding that they were different through the polygon patterns found on them. That said, many artists were concerned on both sides of the issue. On the Pokémon side, many argued that the many Pokémon assets and designs Palworld seemingly copied were created by artists who won’t get any credit for their influence. On the Palworld side, they called out that the policing of the Pokémon art style could stifle creativity and hurt artists everywhere. 

Some critics additionally claimed that the game used generative AI to produce some Pal models and art; however, there is no real concrete evidence despite the resemblance to different Pokémon models. The main reason for this claim comes from Pocketpair CEO Takuro Mizobe’s interest in AI and its uses in game development. The AI claims have been somewhat stifled by Mizobe, who states that most of the artwork for the Pals is drawn by an artist. This was backed up by Steam’s new policy requiring games to report the use of AI in the game development process, and as of now, there is no AI disclosure on Palworld’s game page. 

Though the investigation and defense of Palworld seemed to be completely fan-driven, Nintendo did eventually release a statement regarding the game during a Q&A. The President of Nintendo, Shuntaro Furukawa, does not directly address Palworld but states, “We will take appropriate action against those that infringe our intellectual property rights.” The Pokémon Company stated two weeks prior that many fans had inquired about the game, adding, “We have not granted any permission for using 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.” The company has not issued any specific legal action but is investigating whether Palworld violates any IP

The future of Palworld is uncertain, and all hinges upon whether the Pokémon company has any legal grounds to issue legal consequences for violating IP laws. They have expressed awareness of the game and have shown a willingness to get a mod shut down, so all that is left to wait for is the discovery of anything incriminating. For now, the game continues to thrive online, with a community of fans all sharing their love for the unique gameplay experience and the Pals.

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About the Contributor
Gabriel Lozano
Gabriel Lozano, Writer / Photographer
Hello! My name’s Gabriel Lozano and I’m a freshman here at MSJC. I am a journalism major and love writing in my freetime. I started writing fiction when I was around 6 or 7 and continue to this day. As such, I began to get more interested in writing for an actual audience. I joined my high school newspaper club and that’s where my love for journalism truly began. I mainly write about social issues, pop culture, and occasionally politics/history. I’m excited to be here and get a grasp of the basics of professional journalism practices!

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    MariaMar 5, 2024 at 12:31 pm

    Very interesting information, coherent exposition of both sides and unbiased presentation.

    Reply