Commentary: Palworld or Pokémon? It’s part of a larger issue

Graph depicting the involvement of Pokemon with the game Palworld. (USBLOG AKY/Flickr)

There’s a new game where you run around catching colourful creatures in spheres and use them to fight other players.

Do you think I am talking about Pokémon? You wouldn’t be the first. The game I’m describing is actually Palworld, which has quickly garnered over two million players to date and has held a spot at the top of the gaming charts on Steam. It is currently being called “Pokémon with guns” by some users.

However, several critics and Pokémon fans are not pleased with Palworld, saying that the game is ripping off the famous Nintendo franchise. 

I do not think this is the case and I’ll tell you why.

For starters, this game isn’t “Pokémon with guns.” There is a lot more creative range to make your own goals and do what you want in the game, whereas the goal in Pokémon is much clearer — be the very best Pokémon trainer in the league

One of the main ideas that Palworld is allegedly copying from Pokémon is the design of the Pals. If you look at certain Pokémon you will clearly see that they are based on animals and/or combined with natural elements. Some Pokémon actually lack a lot of originality. For example, Beedril looks like a bee, Butterfree looks like a butterfly, and the iconic Squirtle obviously looks like a turtle. The same can be said about Pals, as many of them resemble real animals. None of the Pals in Palworld are exactly like Pokémon. They simply have similarities as they are based on similar animals. 

The real issue that Nintendo would and should not be pleased with is the release of some fan-made modifications that make Pals look like well-known Pokémon, but these have been quickly shut down.

Overall, it will be up to Nintendo to decide if they will sue, which I am sure they are looking into. The response to this though would be that Palworld has been in the works for a while now, yet the accusations of copyright infringement only appeared with its growing popularity. But Nintendo has a long history of taking action against games that they believe have taken their ideas.

Nintendo even went as far as to sue a Japanese company that was doing tours in go-karts. Nintendo claimed the company purposefully made the go-karts look like characters from their game Mario Kart

In my opinion, the game that resembles Palworld the closest is ARK: Survival Evolved. The game feel, items, even the intro are very similar to ARK, except instead of dinosaurs, there are Pals. To me, this is the closest that Palworld gets to copyright infringement.

It’s easy to see how copying exact characters and logos from games are clear copyright infringement. What’s not as clear is stealing ideas from other games. This is not copyright infringement and in fact happens all the time, not only in the gaming world but also in media from movies to book plots. There’s no way to prove that someone stole someone else’s ‘ideas’ and in fact I don’t think it’s a problem if they did ‘steal’ them. This would simply be taking inspiration from other resources.

Imagine all the games where there are two teams that battle each other in combat. Should all of these games be accused of stealing this game mechanic? Who is the rightful owner of this idea? The answer is no one, because these ideas can’t be copyrighted and they should never be.

Nintendo should not sue and should maybe even be grateful to Palworld for making Pokémon popular in the media once again. Unless Palworld’s next update includes Pikachu or a rival battle against Ash Ketchum… it’s not copyright infringement.