Palworld got a working Pokemon conversion mod, and Nintendo's lawyers struck immediately

Screenshot of the Pokémon Palworld mod from ToastedShoes' Twitter page.
Screenshot of the Pokémon Palworld mod from ToastedShoes' Twitter page. (Image credit: ToastedShoes (Mod Developer) on Twitter; Mod contains Nintendo-owned Pokémon in the Pocketpair-owned game, Palworld.)

Recent multi-platform mega-hit Palworld, described as "Pokémon with guns" (with most of its gameplay similarities actually rooted in Ark) has already been accused of plagiarism by the fan community. The original designs are technically distinct, but it's pretty difficult to argue there was no inspiration whatsoever. 

But modders on the PCs are never content to leave these tenuous connections in an unplayable form, so ToastedShoes on Twitter and YouTube chose to announce a Pokémon Palworld conversion mod — complete with footage of the mod in action. We do not have this footage, because Nintendo issued a DMCA strike on all videos of the mod within 24 hours. [h/t The Verge]

Now, technically, the Palworld Pokémon mod never saw a public release, and was planned as a free release. However, the quick action on the announcement video served as a chilling effect on the mod developer: ToastedShoes quickly announced he planned to "tread lightly" regarding the mod's release, potentially cancelling it outright.

Before that happened, though, the developer posted an over 15 minute video of the mod in action. The mod replaces both in-game Pals with Pokémon and the playable character with Ash Ketchum, a character from the anime. Aside from that, it's unaltered Palworld gameplay, which means all of the games edgier mechanics are still in play and put to use on these beloved, very copyrighted characters.

While some video game companies are either much more welcoming to fan games and fan mods or outright encourage them, Nintendo is absolutely not one of them. Especially not when the mod is placing one of its highest-valued properties in a game meant to directly rival the very same property. Even Pokémon fangames with fully original monsters and assets like Pokémon Uranium weren't safe from Nintendo's copyright hammer.

Whether or not this mod ever sees a public release, the message sent by it is fairly clear: Everyone playing Palworld knows these designs are, at the very least, highly influenced by Pokémons, and that's part of the appeal. Seeing as Nintendo has yet to take public action on the main game itself but didn't hesitate to take down announcement videos of a Pokémon mod for this game, this might mean Palworld itself is safe (or it might mean Nintendo is hard at work with its lawyers). 

  • usertests
    It's interesting that a person can easily pirate virtually any Nintendo game ever made, including Switch games, but fan projects keep crumbling due to legal threats (maybe not this mod, we'll see).

    Stay anonymous, my friends.
    Reply
  • bigdragon
    I really don't like what ToastedShoes is doing here. His attempts to monetize the IP of Nintendo, Disney, Universal, and others through game mods is one of the two major reasons why so many studios and publishers have become hostile to mods -- the other reason being DLC monetization. He shouldn't be poking the bears like this. I'm not surprised Nintendo acted so quickly.

    I also hope there are emergency meetings going on at Nintendo and Game Freak because of Palworld. It's a clunky, disjointed, stylistically inconsistent, weakly motivated, and completely unpolished game that gets the fundamental mechanics and legally-distinct monster designs right! I felt the last monster collecting game I played -- Pokemon Shield -- was an enormous disappointment and essentially the same game I played back in the 1990's. I'm having a blast with Palworld so far and am glad someone finally delivered "Pokemon Breath of the Wild" that I wanted so many years ago. I hope Pocketpair is able to refine and polish Palworld given their sales success. I also hope Nintendo and Game Freak get off their butts and finally try to iterate, innovate, and evolve their stagnant monster franchise.
    Reply
  • MatheusNRei
    bigdragon said:
    I really don't like what ToastedShoes is doing here. His attempts to monetize the IP of Nintendo, Disney, Universal, and others through game mods is one of the two major reasons why so many studios and publishers have become hostile to mods...
    Since the mod was supposed to be free there's no monetization going on at all.
    Reply
  • usertests
    bigdragon said:
    I really don't like what ToastedShoes is doing here. His attempts to monetize the IP of Nintendo, Disney, Universal, and others through game mods is one of the two major reasons why so many studios and publishers have become hostile to mods -- the other reason being DLC monetization. He shouldn't be poking the bears like this. I'm not surprised Nintendo acted so quickly.
    There's no use chastising one random person for what I assume was a relatively easy mod to make. Someone else would have done it. 3D models were ripped out of Sword/Shield/etc. years ago, and are available for download after a simple Google search. It's unlikely that an unofficial mod would make Pocket Pair or any other developer legally liable for infringement.
    Reply
  • bigdragon
    MatheusNRei said:
    Since the mod was supposed to be free there's no monetization going on at all.
    Take a look at ToastedShoes on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCf7P7LZsVOvv8KWs2p1YINw Monetizing the mod would happen through YouTube views rather than paid mod files. This guy appears to make a living off of playing with fire when it comes to IP rights.
    usertests said:
    There's no use chastising one random person for what I assume was a relatively easy mod to make. Someone else would have done it. 3D models were ripped out of Sword/Shield/etc. years ago, and are available for download after a simple Google search. It's unlikely that an unofficial mod would make Pocket Pair or any other developer legally liable for infringement.
    The mod is easy to make and no doubt several people have equivalent Pokemon in Palworld mods ready or in production. I've always been uncomfortable with mods that feature assets ripped right out of a rival retail game. While Pocketpair shouldn't -- can't say isn't because some corporation will surely try -- liable for the actions of their players and modders, a more aggressive anti-modding push is currently being led by Capcom and their Enigma anti-tampering software. AAA is increasingly seeing mods as dangerous to their reputation and something they think they're responsible for stopping.

    I love mods. I used to create mod content for UT. I want to see more mods. All I'm saying is putting ripped Pokemon assets into a competing monster game, hyping it up on social media, and then trying to monetize it through YouTube views is behavior that further drives a wedge between behemoths of the game industry and their most passionate supporters (the modders).
    Reply
  • derekullo
    MatheusNRei said:
    Since the mod was supposed to be free there's no monetization going on at all.
    Monetization or not Nintendo is required to defend its trademark or else it risks losing it.
    https://www.lodhs.com/blog/defend-your-trademark-or-you-could-lose-it/
    Reply
  • TJ Hooker
    derekullo said:
    Monetization or not Nintendo is required to defend its trademark or else it risks losing it.
    https://www.lodhs.com/blog/defend-your-trademark-or-you-could-lose-it/
    The design of Pokémon would be copyright, not trademark. I don't believe there's any equivalent 'defend it or lose it' concept for copyright.
    Reply
  • AkroZ
    The Pokemon IP is holded by The Pokémon Company (Nintendo hold some parts with Game Freaks and Creatures).
    The Pokémon Company is known to be very conservative, one time a pokemon fan wanted to make a pokemon day (announced on Facebook) with a $10 fee for the food, it gained 4000 participants but never happened. The organizer was in courts before that.
    Reply
  • gggplaya
    I wonder how Pixelmon gets away with it??? It directly uses Nintendo IP.
    Reply