Former Pokémon legal chief says Palworld 'looks like the usual ripoff nonsense I would see a thousand times a year ' and he's 'surprised it got this far'

Palworld early access
(Image credit: Pocketpair)

Palworld is Pokémon with guns. So much so, in fact, that in its four days on the market it's already been accused of straight-up ripping off the Nintendo franchise by various internet detectives, a claim the developer called "slanderous."

But it's not just internet commenters who have taken notice of Palworld and its gajillions of sales. The former head of The Pokémon Company's legal team, Don McGowan, isn't mincing words about the game either. In a chat with Game File, McGowan straightforwardly said Palworld "looks like the usual ripoff nonsense that I would see a thousand times a year when I was chief legal officer of Pokémon."

In fact, McGowan—who headed Pikachu's legal defence force between 2008 and 2020—seems to think it's a shock Palworld wasn't snuffed out some time ago. "I'm just surprised it got this far," he said.

It's an accusation that Palworld developer Pocketpair must be used to hearing by now. For its part, the developer has said that it has "no intention of infringing upon the intellectual property of other companies," and Nintendo itself—which is always game to send out cease and desist letters when it catches a whiff of copyright infringement—hasn't made any moves to shut the game down. 

Maybe Pocketpair CEO Takuro Mizobe has a point when he says the game is far more comparable to ARK: Survival Evolved than Pokémon, even if you are roaming the world capturing monsters in spheres and forcing them to fight for your glory and entertainment.

But whatever the case, McGowan isn't convinced, and I have to imagine the thinking of the former Pokémon Company chief legal officer isn't too far removed from that of the current Pokémon Company legal team. Even if they're not going full-throttle and dragging Pocketpair to court, they can't be too happy about the meteoric popularity of Pokémon with guns. 

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Joshua Wolens
News Writer

One of Josh's first memories is of playing Quake 2 on the family computer when he was much too young to be doing that, and he's been irreparably game-brained ever since. His writing has been featured in Vice, Fanbyte, and the Financial Times. He'll play pretty much anything, and has written far too much on everything from visual novels to Assassin's Creed. His most profound loves are for CRPGs, immersive sims, and any game whose ambition outstrips its budget. He thinks you're all far too mean about Deus Ex: Invisible War.