As reported by local Chinese publications, The Pokémon Company is suing six Chinese entities for profiting off of its intellectual property, due to them running a mobile game called Pocket Monster Reissue, only available via Chinese app stores. The rights holder is asking for 500 million Yuan, approximately 72 million USD, and on top of that, the company has also requested that the companies issue apologies on major local online platforms such as Tencent.com and NetEase.com. A pretty big ask, so just how blatant is the ripoff?
Pocket Monster Reissue’s usage of official Pokémon imagery ranges from respectable re-designs (the original designs are still quite obvious) to copy-and-paste artwork of certain Pokémon, some even used for promotional material. You can see below that the official app icon is just the Pikachu design from the cover art of 1998’s Pokémon Yellow. Furthermore, other promotional material features Ash Ketchum, the main character from the Pokémon anime series, as well as another Pikachu, Tepig, and Oshawott.
Videos uploaded on Chinese video-sharing websites give a better look at the game. This one here showcases various battles which show the Pokémon re-designs. This video is over two hours long but sprinkled across the first few battles you’ll see variations of Lugia, Groudon, Emboar, and Giratina among others. Around the 18-minute mark, you’ll also see what is undeniably Professor Oak, talking to the player on a menu screen.
The high demands from the Pokémon Company aren’t just because of the gravity of the infringement, but also just how much money the Chinese entities have made over time. The game has been out since 2015; by the following year, it had made over 40 million USD, with monthly gross revenues of nearly 4 million USD. By 2021, just one of the companies being sued, Zhongnan Heavy Industries, has a gross revenue of up to 7 million USD.
The demand for Pokémon-like games has always been high, even among western audiences. The creature-collecting RPG concept is a sound one. The difference is that, unlike in many countries, the gaming audience in China has limited accessibility to Pokémon games, especially in the mobile space. Pokemon Go has been banned in China since 2017, due to “safety risks” from players being on their phones while on the road. However, the Nintendo Switch has been successful in the Chinese market, which may be why The Pokémon Company is now choosing to clamp down on clones, despite this game’s long-standing existence.
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