Nearly 6 months later, Palworld devs confirm Nintendo never drew so much as an inch of its legal sword over bootleg Pokémon allegations

Palworld early access
(Image credit: Pocketpair)

Palworld's meteoric popularity has naturally settled from its obscene all-time peak of 2 million players, which is only natural for a game released in early access—and for any popular game period. No monarch rules forever.

Early critiques aimed at the game involved the idea that the Palworld, which blends creature collection and survival game mechanics, was a "rip off" of beloved franchise Pokémon, overseen in part by the famously-litigious Nintendo—a company that has a habit of bringing down the legal hammer on emulators, Garry's Mod, and, well, people.

Which all led to a collective pair of clenched cheeks from the internet at-large, as we all wondered whether our big corporate dad was going to beat up our smaller indie dad over some too-similar character models. Certainly, while I think Palworld's designs were very derivative, I'm not sure you could really make the claim they were direct, 1:1 rips—but then again, Nintendo has a reputation for this sort of thing, and its former legal chief called it "ripoff nonsense".

This came to a head when the Pokémon Company issued a "we're looking into it" statement towards the end of January. Now, as confirmed by an interview with gaming newsletter GameFile (thanks, Eurogamer), Palworld's creator Takuro Mizobe says that the studio heard "nothing at all … Nintendo and the Pokémon Company didn't say anything to us".

This isn't too surprising—after all, the Pokémon Company only promised it was looking into it, and anything further read into that was a function of reputation rather than concrete fact.

Besides, fair use is an important thing. I think Palworld does absolutely draw heavy, let's call it, inspiration from its predecessor: But imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and you could even make the argument that Pokémon was initially "guilty" of similar tricks. I mean, just look at these first-gen designs when compared to Dragon Quest concept art:

Showing someone Dragon Warrior and they say the monsters look like Pokemon. from r/dragonquest

At any rate, even if Palworld occasionally brushes a hair too close to just reinventing Mewtwo sometimes, I think it'd be a very boring (pal)world if people were never allowed to iterate, even if said iteration is poorly done. Honestly, Palworld's been upping its design game post-release, anyway: even as someone who was quite down on the whole thing, I actually like quite a lot of the designs previewed in its incoming update.

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.