Palworld | As game continues to soar, Nintendo slaps down a mod that adds Pokémon character models

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Survival game Palworld continues to break records, but Nintendo has already had a Pokémon-themed mod pulled as suggestions it’s a ‘ripoff’ persist.

When Palworld was announced last year, it’s doubtful that even its own creators could have predicted just how wildly popular it would soon become. At the time of writing, the survival adventure has already sold over 6m copies and is now the most-played game on Steam, with players evidently warming to its oft-repeated premise: ‘Pokémon with guns’.

It’s a description that wasn’t dreamed up by its developer, PocketPair, but seems accurate given just how closely the game’s character models resemble those in Nintendo/The Pokémon Company’s franchise.

As the game’s fame continues to build, there’s been some question as to how Nintendo will react. According to Bloomberg, Nintendo says it’s ‘aware’ of Palworld, but neither it nor The Pokémon Company have offered a direct comment on the game.

One move Nintendo has made, though, is rapidly slap down a fan-made mod which replaces Palworld’s character models with official Pokémon assets. As reported by Eurogamer, the creator of that mod, ToastedShoes, wrote on Twitter/X, “Nintendo has come for me, please leave me in your thoughts and prayers”. The mod has since been deleted from the web.

In a less official capacity, a former chief legal officer, Don McGowan, has also offered his thoughts on Palworld. Speaking to GameFile, he described the game as “ripoff nonsense” and expressed his surprise that it had even made it to its current state (the game’s in Early Access on Steam).

“This looks like the usual ripoff nonsense that I would see a thousand times a year when I was Chief Legal Officer of Pokémon,” McGowan said. “I’m just surprised it got this far.”

If McGowan’s any kind of barometer, it’s possible that lawyers connected to Pokémon are considering their options, especially as there have been some suggestions – uncorroborated so far – that Palworld may have somehow used generative AI to rapidly create similar-but-different pocket monster assets. Those who subscribe to this argument point to some tweets from PocketPair CEO Takuro Mizobe in 2021, in which he talked about the possibility of using generative AI to make Pokémon. Again, there’s no proof that this actually happened, however.

More recently, Mizobe has revealed that, as popular as Palworld already is, it’s still in its nascent stages, and “around 60%” complete. We half wonder whether, at some point in the near future, a call from some very expensive Nintendo lawyers will result in a few character design tweaks as part of that development process.

More on this as we get it.

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