Pokemon Company’s Former Top Lawyer Calls Palworld ‘Ripoff Nonsense’


  • Former Pokemon Company Chief Legal Officer Don McGowan labeled Palworld as “ripoff nonsense.”
  • McGowan, who led The Pokemon Company’s legal affairs for 12 years, said he’s surprised to see Palworld “got this far.”
  • The Pokemon Company has so far said nothing about Palworld, but some vocal fans continue to insist the game blatantly rips off many Pokemon creature designs.

Don McGowan, The Pokemon Company’s former chief legal officer, has labeled Palworld as “ripoff nonsense.” His views on the hit survival game dovetail with those of some vocal Pokemon fans who are not happy about Palworld and eager to criticize it any chance they get.

Originally unveiled by Japanese developer Pocketpair in mid-2021, Palworld is an open-world survival game with monster-taming mechanics whose early access version hit PC and Xbox consoles on January 19. Despite sharing more similarities with Craftopia—Pocketpair’s last title—than Pokemon, it has so far proven to be unable to escape the “Pokemon with guns” label attached to it by both critics and fans alike. But as the ongoing accusations of Palworld ripping off Pokemon suggest, that description may not be completely baseless.

Palworld Pokemon Ash Ketchum Pikachu and AnubisRelated

Palworld Mod Adds Pokemon, Ash Ketchum

A Palworld mod introduces various characters from the Pokemon franchise, such as Ash and Pikachu, to the game.

Don McGowan, who worked as The Pokemon Company’s chief legal officer over a 12-year period ending in 2020, has now offered his two cents on the ordeal. Speaking with Game File’s Stephen Totilo, McGowan described Palworld as “the usual ripoff nonsense” that he used to encounter on a daily basis back when he was still with The Pokemon Company International. “I’m just surprised it got this far,” the industry veteran said. It is unclear whether that remark was meant to imply Pokemon ripoffs usually fizzle out before release, or that McGowan would look into suing PocketPair for copyright infringement if he were still in charge of all Pokemon-related legal affairs.

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Palworld Pal with explosions in the background

McGowan’s former employer has so far remained mum on the hit game. Seeing how Palworld has been sharing gameplay footage for years leading up to its early access release, The Pokemon Company already had ample time to prepare a copyright infringement complaint. Whether it decided against doing so because it wasn’t convinced it had an iron-clad case against Pocketpair or some other reason is unclear. But there is little doubt that the conglomerate has been aware of Palworld and its similarities to Pokemon for a long time now.

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

The ongoing controversy has so far generated quite a bit of toxic discourse online, which culminated in the Palworld developers getting death threats from some seemingly disgruntled Pokemon fans. Pocketpair CEO Takuro Mizobe has subsequently taken to Twitter to condemn the harassment of his employees, stating that he is ultimately the one responsible for the game’s content.

Though some of its elements were seemingly designed as a parody of Pokemon, Palworld has long been trying to distance itself from comparisons with Game Freak’s hit franchise. And while its efforts to do so have yielded little results so far, the game still managed to become a massive hit, blowing past 5 million sales following its launch weekend.



Pocket Pair’s Palworld is a creature-collection game set in an open-world. Entering early access on January 19, 2024, the project blends survival, building, farming, monster breeding, and shooter elements.

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Platform(s)PC , Xbox Series X , Xbox Series S , Xbox One Released January 19, 2024 Developer(s) Pocket Pair, Inc. Publisher(s) Pocket Pair, Inc. Genre(s)Open-World , Shooter , Survival Engine Unreal Engine 5 ESRB T For Teen Due To Violence See at Official SiteSee at SteamSee at Xbox Games Store

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