The Pokémon Company is suing six Chinese companies over a mobile game that shares stark similarites to the Pokémon franchise itself, citing copyright infringement and unfair competition behaviour, as reported by South China Morning Post (thanks, GamesIndustry,biz).
The Japanese giant, owned by Nintendo, Game Freak, and Creatures, is seeking damages of 500 million yuan (US$72.5 million) and requesting that the offending companies issue public apologies on Chinese websites and mobile apps. Naturally, it is also demanding that the game in question - Pocket Monster Reissue, or Koudaiyaoguai Fuke in Chinese - be removed from sale alongside all promotional material.
Taking one look at the screenshot below (courtesy of SCMP), you can see why The Pokémon Company has taken these measures. To say the mobile title shares similartiies with Pokémon is perhaps an understatement in itself; the image clearly shows actual key art from Pokémon, including Ask Ketchum, Pikachu, Tepig, and Oshawott.
Since some Pokémon games aren't available officially in mainland China, Pocket Monster Reissue's similarities have been discussed at length within the public, which likely led to the matter being brought to The Pokémon Company's attention. The game itself has been available since 2015, with revenue apparently exceeding 300 million yuan by 2016, with monthly turnover exceeding 30 million yuan. You can certainly understand why The Pokémon Company wants to put a stop to it.
It's not the first time a mobile game has been accused of infringing upon copyright laws. Just recently, none other than ex-Nintendo dev Takaya Imamura discovered that images from his 3DS title Steel Diver: Sub Wars was being used to promote a mobile game without permission from Nintendo.
What do you make of this whole affair? Share your thoughts in the usual place.
[source scmp.com, via gamesindustry.biz]
Just create your own hecking creations. They had it coming though.
I would be against that if it was a non-profit fangame, but these people are using them without permission and are profiting money from The Pokemon Company owned creation.
Hold up, a Chinese company is blatantly copying a well-known IP?
Not really surprising, they don't exactly know the term ''freedom'' in that country.. And I don't just mean that in a creative term either.
Good! I usually don't cheer for huge corporations, but that's some OBVIOUS STOLEN MATERIAL.
Streamer I watch did a feature on (bad) android games and one of those featured a lot of these chinese Pokemon things, most of them looked to be of the gatcha variety..
I wish Nintendo went more after predatory trash like that instead of some freeware fangames but I guess these cheap android clones are the type where you cut off one head and two will immediatedily take its place.
Yeah they're so f*****. You don't mess with the highest grossing media franchise ever when it comes to bootlegs this blatant, that's for sure.
Now that is going to be interesting, I know that China has a lot of loopholes regarding copyright, they are the kings of brand copy paste. And Nintendo Is well known for protecting its IP’s.
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about time. There are so many of these
@PhhhCough can you not be racist?
this must one few sites left where the ccp bots dont start spamming hate
I'm glad they're getting sued, these Chinese companies had been making money off of IPs from hardworking devs for too long.
While on a smaller scale, it reminds me of those old mall kiosks that used to sell bootleg systems with emulators and ROMs loaded on them out in the open.
That Zhongwa-themed Tepig is impressive-looking, though.
Honestly, I'm completely fine with this existing. If Touhou can get away with having monetized fangames without hurting anyone, then Pokemon can as well. As long as it isn't active piracy, I feel like copyright shouldn't go into effect. That is just me, though.
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Given similar past issues and companies' background, I'm interested in hearing how this will play out
That was so disgusting mentality to rip off everything without permission and I felt ashamed every time I heard a news like that since I am Chinese Indonesian people. 😒
Is China finally going to face repercussions for their bootlegs?! This has been going on for a long time, so it'll be interesting to see if The Pokémon Company can be the first one to successfully nail them.
@alexybubble How are you ok with this company profitting from stolen ip off a s***y mobile game? It's so lazy. Fangames are ok bc they're passion projects, they're not trying to steal from Nintendo. But this?? This is just lazy garbage
This will be a very interesting battle to watch. Nintendo is rather famous for protecting its IP. But, fighting this fight in China is going to be a very steep hill to climb and likely an expensive one. But, I see how it could be a fight worth winning even at great expense. It would set a legal precedence in China about IP rights. If they can get actual legal protection, that's a HUGE win.
That icon reminds me of that one old iOS app that was advertised to be Pokémon Yellow, but actually didn't work.
Good luck with that. Chinese company usually do what they want with these things.
@KayFiOS they're not suing the country lol no doubt alot of their merchandise is manufactured there
@HammerKirby Honestly, it just comes down to my personal opinions. IMHO, copyright should only protect distribution (ie: stopping direct piracy), and require some kind of notice that unofficial projects are, in fact, unofficial. Once you release a product, it becomes the property of the world itself, to do with it what it pleases. Sometimes it creates good things, and sometimes it creates bad things, and it isn't up to me or to anyone else to draw an arbitrary line in the sand between the good and the bad; between passion and theft, as each person has their own distinct position on where that line is. I prefer the route of true freedom, where anyone can build off of any idea or concept that someone has had, as opposed to closing off ideas and increasing stagnation.
Personally, as someone who's currently making a game myself, I'd be honored if I got some Chinese knockoff of my game. It'd mean that I had actually made enough of an impact on the world to actually notice me, and see enough potential in my work to make something out of it. I know that I'm probably in the minority here, but that's at least my two cents on the whole issue.
@Would_you_kindly I know, but it is a China-based company producing bootlegs, which are a dime a dozen. Maybe I should have worded that differently, but I was in a bit of a hurry at the time.
The pirates will STEEL from anything, I see. I hope they get sued to DIVE their business.
@Expa0 I remembers year ago watching a stream with s-y bootleg mobile games, and one of the first things popping up in this Charizard-with-a-hat platformer was a popup for like a $100 "microtransaction".
Well, it's not illegal in China, so I guess they don't even see it as stealing.
The flipside of that is that others could easily copy your creation even exactly, and if a big company does it, it would even be of higher quality than your original. You wouldn't be able to make any money like that, no matter how great your idea is.
This also means that many people have no reason to ever produce something to sell in the first place, if they can just be copied and outclassed easily.
Your idea sounds nice on paper, in reality it can easily destroy innovation.
Lack of real innovations, there are plenty of similar type of Pokémon variations but to directly use the likeness and not expect issue. Yeah your asking for it.
@alexybubble I mean I respect your opinion, but I definitely disagree. They don't "respect" the creation, they just want to milk it for my money. Imo fangames should be legal as long as they're free and not profiting off the work.
@alexybubble Once you release a product, it becomes the property of the world itself, to do with it what it pleases.
You must not read what it mean Copyright Infringement here. You should read up on this before making dumb comments. They still own the IP of the games and likeness - why you would support pirates or bootlegs is beyond delusion. Those people most likely used codes from the Original to do what they did. Go talk to the Software Developers whom spent years in Game Development and say they don't deserve the money/time/labor for their work-see what reaction you get back.
If the pokémon company released a picture of a pokémon with the lanterns, hat, and fan all in red "to make it Chinese" I feel like everyone would be calling them racist, but the Chinese did it to themselves.
There's something there.
With a little effort they could have copied the basics in mechanics and characters while tweaking just enough to make it appear original. It's been working super well for Genshin Impact to where people don't realize the reason they like the characters and such is because it's all repackaged versions of things they liked already. This is lazy and greedy.
Yeah, this Chinese company's sadly gonna win. China's copyright laws are basically non-existant and what they did is a small misdemeanor at best.
Ah yes, the famous "Ask Ketchum".
I mean the last thing China actually created themselves was fireworks.
Leave Ponkachu, Oshawuhtt, Tippeg and Sha alone!
God, will the pokemon company ever stop bullying small creators!!!!
As a youtuber one said “China and Russia are the bootleg capital of the world”.
@SwitchForce Again I state, this is just my opinion. I know that that the law is what it is, I just don't agree with it.
@Kirgo Hence why I also believe that there should be some notice that a work isn't official, and that distribution should still be protected (ie: prohibiting piracy or exact copies). If there's one thing that I've come to learn from the internet, its that, given the ability to, most people want to support the original creator of a work. Look at how many people are willing to support projects like Bloodstained, and (despite its quality) Mighty No. 9. Beyond that, look at how many people are willing to support projects like Hollow Knight, Shovel Knight, Undertale, and more. Look at how many people still follow AM2R and how many people love Metroid: Samus Returns, despite both games doing the exact same thing. Look at Touhou, which has multiple for-profit fangames, some of which are made by bigger companies, and some of which have very similar gameplay to the base games. And yet, people still support the main series, despite it being a solo indie project. This realization solves both major problems at once, as crowdfunding platforms, word of mouth, and etc. can allow games to stand out amongst the crowd, even when that crowd is filled with many, very similar games. This allows smaller projects to still get money, even if a bigger name makes something very similar.
Plus, on the topic of someone making a better version of the game and getting the money for that; that's exactly what I want. If you can make a better version of something that someone else made, you should be able to, without arbitrary restrictions. It's why I consider patents to be humanity's second biggest mistake. If you can innovate on something without physically or mentally hurting other people, than you should be able to, without any arbitrary restrictions on that innovation. If they want to keep making money, they should innovate in return, or else they fall by the wayside into obscurity. The only problem is that it doesn't particularly work with current society, due to the current worldwide economic system heavily supporting the existence of megacorporations, which, due to the current major model, are forced to be structured in a way where this is really hard to make work. I'm starting to get really off topic, though, so I'll stop here for now.
It’s bit of a long shot, but I hope the Pokémon Company gets something good out of this.
This is a topic I thought a lot about as well, because I generally agree that the current system isn't ideal. I have trouble to come up with a better system that actually works though.
Your argumentation has big flaws as well.
First of all you say direct copies should still be protected, but where do you draw the line on that? You can play BotW with tons of mods and in 4k, could that version be sold without Nintendo? If you say yes, then what if I just change Links model? If you say no, then what if I change more details?
We would need a clear definition here.
And that is already what the current system is doing.
For example, you are bringing up games like Bloodstained. Bloodstained is essentially a Castlevania clone, yet still legal in the current system though.
If copies still aren't allowed, then you don't want to change much, you just want to draw the line somewhere else, which would need to be defined exactly. That is not as easy as it might seem at first btw.
Your whole argument about how people will still support the original work is very flawed, as you basically cherry pick cases where it works.
Generally in gaming it has a bigger chance of working, since people can become fans of some of the work, which are then the customers that will support you.
Good luck with that in many other businesses. Don't just think software either.
You are mentioning megacorps making this impossible, but you don't need to go that far, as even a small team of 10 people already has very big advantages over a developer that works alone for example.
If you think you're going to get away with messing about with the Pokèmon Company think again.
For point 1: The line would probably have to be drawn at different places depending on different media, and those lines would have to be decided by public consensus. As for my personal opinions, I'd say that anything non-modded should be acceptable, and for mods, you'd either need to have some kind of major changes for you to be able to sell it on its own (as examples, things like Mario 64 Star Road would almost definitely be acceptable), or, for things like cosmetic hacks, performance fixes, texture packs, and fan translations, things would stay practically identical to how they currently are, only with the ability to sell the separate files.
The main difference between the current system and my ideal system is that modifications without the original creator's permission aren't allowed, and that characters, level design, lore, etc. aren't covered anymore. So, in this hypothetical, Bloodstained would be allowed to have its protagonist be a Belmont in name, and build off of and add to the official Castlevania lore, without Konami being able to do anything about it.
For the point about cherry picking: I raise you another question. When hasn't it worked, excluding scenarios where, for whatever reason, the original wasn't available at during the time or at the place where the clone succeeded? Even in the mobile market, where people are the least likely to care about the game being the original, either the original ends up being the one that's remembered, or the game that came to surpass the original's success was already legal in the current system.
And as for the thing about even small teams having an advantage over lone developers, while I do agree, I raise you Cave Story. Despite there being many games that try to imitate what Cave Story did, even on much larger scales, and with much larger developers, Cave Story is still highly successful to this day.
@Kirgo Part 2, because it was too long as one comment:
As for the point about businesses outside of software, there are two scenarios. For other media companies, such as those that make books, movies, tv, etc., the same logic as with software companies would apply, as those businesses are able to grow fanbases just as easily as video games and other software. As for other companies, what you see as something that should be protected, I see as one of the greatest failures of the modern world. If a company fails to innovate on current technologies or make new products that people want, they should go out of business. There shouldn't be any safeguards for companies whatsoever; if they fail, they fail. The mention of megacorporations was mainly related to this point, as opposed to the points about software. This is mainly due to the stock market (humanity's worst mistake) legally requiring most companies to prioritize profit above decency, and allowing for companies to simply buy out their competition, as opposed to innovating themselves. That, on top of megacorporations being able to sell products at a loss and being able to bribe manufacturers with their ridiculously large amounts of money are what really make this system impossible in the current world climate, not anything to do with the amount of employees in the company.
Plus, for one final point, you don't seem to be taking the time advantage of the original creator into account. Things take time to make, even if they're highly derivative. Most products would end up having a decent amount of time between their release and the release of clones, allowing for the original creator to still get profits even if an objectively better version of the product is released later. The only exception to this would be if two very similar products were both made at the same time, in which case, that's just a huge coincidence combined with healthy business competition.
So the only thing you actually want to change is essentially being able to use the same names?
Something like the story you can already copy, as long as not everything is called the same, so it is really just names with your argumentation.
You are not really defining anything in your argumentation though, which we would need to press on, since this is one of the big problems. It is not easy.
Mario 64 Star Road is already legal as a modification, it would just not be legal to ship it as its own thing without having to own Mario 64. Is that not sufficient in this case?
How do you define things like "cosmetic" changes? Is AM2R still a cosmetic change, since it is essentially Metroid 2 with better graphics? You would probably say no, but we would need clear definitions and lines that could be used in court. How many lines of code may I copy?
Problem with that of course being able to cause customer confusion. When there are a thousand different "Pokemon" games on the same shelf, then that is not exactly a good situation for customer or original creator. But you can have a different opinion on that, I can see why.
Apart from that, I would argue that you in fact still cherry pick.
Let's get away from entertainment for a change.
Let's take for example Medicine. Companies invest billions into developing a new, let's say cancer treatment.
If another company can just copy that shortly after, then there would be no reason to develop that treatment in the first place, as they would never be able to get their investment back.
There are als no fans here who will say "Yes, I will happily pay 2000$ instead of 20$ because I like that company so much".
And yes, this would 100% happen.
I am a software deleoper in a smaller company myself. We produce business software. We don't sell to people, but to other businesses. We don't have these kinds of fans either.
Every innovation you make could be copied very quickly, so then why even try to innovate? If someone else does it, then just copy it, otherwise don't bother, it is not worth the investment.
And medicine is only one example of many many. You would have to solve these kind of issues in a lot of different businesses.
About the final point:
You are right that it will take time to copy something, but how much time it will take varies a lot. For it to work there, the original producer needs a high chance of recuperating more then their investment. Otherwise there would be no point to the innovation and that would hurt everyone. This happens especially easily, if there are milllions or even billions on the line.
If the only thing you want to not be protected anymore are names though, then this is less of an issue of course.
Also friendly reminder that similar products can already exist within current laws, since you are bringing it up again.
What you could do of course make more important things not something private companies do and if less important things are not worth the investment anymore, then who cares?
In which case we are mostly at communism.
If communism is what you want, then say so, because that is an entirely different basis.
@Kirgo For the point about it just being names: There's more to it than that. As an example, I've had an idea for a while now about what I'd want to do with a hypothetical successor to Doki Doki Literature Club. This successor revolves around the game's main antagonist, Monika, getting sent to alternate reality (based on an original IP of mine). This isn't something I can particularly do in the current system, as the plot of that story is heavily based on certain aspects of that game's plot, and the player knowing exactly what happened in that original game. That just isn't possible to do in the current system, unless you get the proper licensing, or are willing to release it for free.
For the point around Mario 64 Star Road being legal, while modding itself may be legal, that mod itself probably isn't, due to using copyrighted characters. Mods have been taken down before for this reason, such as with Zelda OOT: The Missing Link (here's an article about the takedown: https://techraptor.net/gaming/news/legend-of-zelda-missing-link-dmcad-by-nintendo).
As for AM2R and the difference between a cosmetic change and a new game, I'd again put it down to requiring the base files. AM2R doesn't take any files from the original Metroid 2, so it would be considered acceptable. While I don't have a concrete line for how much copied is acceptable, I don't feel I should be deciding that on my own anyway.
As for customer confusion, I again bring up the requirement of stating that a project is unofficial. If you use what would currently be considered breaking copyright law, you would have to mention that the project isn't made by the copyright owners in a clear manner, so that that confusion wouldn't be as prevalent.
As for innovation, I see two reasons for why innovation would still occur under these new laws. The first of these reasons is that, if products stagnated, people would stop buying new products, and money wouldn't be made. If you owned a certain software package, and nobody innovated on what you already had, what would be the point of buying new software? The people making it would eventually run out of people to buy the product, and would go out of business. As for the second part, I think you underestimate the human component of business. Even if, for whatever reason, the economic incentive to innovate is minimal, there will always be people who will see a problem and want to fix it, or see something that's simply mediocre and want to improve it. Look at the entire PC emulation community, for example. Very few people make money off of emulation, yet thousands of people have worked together to make emulators of various systems, purely out of a passion for the games on those systems, a passion for preservation, or even just wanting a programming challenge for the fun of it! That goes for software as a whole, with many free, open source projects innovating on their closed source counterparts, despite having no economic incentive to do so. This also goes to prove my point about smaller projects still being able to succeed when bigger projects from bigger companies try to do the same thing. While a lot of people might use Microsoft Paint or Adobe Photoshop, look at how many people still use GIMP to this day.
@Kirgo Part 2, for comment length:
As for the mention of communism, that's not really what I want either. I'm fine with manufacturing being privately owned. My ideal system would be one where the stock market didn't exist, companies couldn't merge, all major corporate transactions and meetings of any kind would be required to be released to the public, major transactions would have limits on how much they could cost, and there were strict limits on how much money both individuals and corporations could have (say, maybe a $100,000 max on an individual, and a $1,000,000 max on corporations), and on how land they could own. This would cause a modified version of trickle down theory to actually work, since, once you hit the money cap, you would be forced to flush any remaining money out until you were back under it. That would, in turn, balance out the existence of mega-corporations, as they make so much money on a daily basis that most of their employees would make so much money that they'd be near the money cap just by working menial office jobs. With that change, regular people would now be able to innovate on existing technologies without having to worry anywhere near as much about technologies being easily copied, since you could feasibly follow your passions without having to worry about having enough money to live. Plus, it has the added (and, in my mind, main) benefit of completely eliminating the need for investors, allowing people to innovate on and create new technology without having to worry about, depend on, or cater to the whims of a group of corporate fat cats that will inevitably corrupt the creator's vision so that they can milk it for every dollar its worth. Ultimately, passion, not profit, is what my ideal economy focuses on. Money ultimately exists in this economy not for the accumulation of power and resources, but as a signifier that you are, in fact, providing some service to the world. Non-menial labor jobs are done because you want to, not because you have to, and those menial jobs are then taken by either the people who need to fund their true passions, or by those who don't have those passions.
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