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Palworld Controversy: Pokémon's Ex-Legal Chief Calls It 'Ripoff'

Nathan Lees
Nathan Lees

Don McGowan, the former chief legal officer for The Pokémon Company International, has openly criticized the breakout hit game Palworld, labeling it as “ripoff nonsense.” McGowan, who helmed the legal team of Pokémon for nearly 12 years, told Game File of his astonishment at how far Palworld had progressed despite its apparent similarities to the iconic Pokémon series.

Palworld, developed by Pocketpair, is an action-adventure survival game where players capture and battle creatures known as Pals. These creatures are used for various purposes, including base building, traversal, and combat. However, it's the striking resemblance of these Pals to Pokémon that has sparked controversy. The game, often referred to as “Pokémon with guns,” gained notoriety last summer for its monster designs, which many believe are too similar to those in Pokémon.

The issue escalated when an anonymous account surfaced online, presenting what it claimed to be evidence of not just design inspiration but outright plagiarism of assets from Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. In response to these allegations, Palworld director and Pocketpair CEO Takuro Mizobe issued a statement. While he didn’t outright deny the influence of Pokémon on Palworld, he emphasized the online abuse and threats directed at the game’s artists, urging for it to stop.

This incident has opened a broader discussion in the gaming world about the fine line between inspiration and plagiarism. The debate is particularly relevant in an industry where homage and influence are common, but where intellectual property rights are also fiercely protected.


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