The Pokémon Company has filed a lawsuit against six Chinese companies over a mobile game for “copyright infringement and unfair competition behaviour.” It is claiming over $US72 ($100) million in damages and demanding public apologies on major social media platforms, gaming websites, and app stores. The proposed apology tour will include Sina.com, Tencent.com and NetEase.com, as well as on major mobile app stores.
Originally reported by The South China Morning Post, Pocket Monster Reissue is a mobile game where you collect not-Pokémon and battle them in a turn-based system that features artwork with “similarities” to popular characters from the Pokémon franchise, like Ash Ketchum. Gameplay videos on Chinese video sites show that most of the trainable monsters are original designs, but one video featured an unedited Clefable and Granbull. I also caught a glimpse of a character who appeared to be N from Pokémon Black and White. Kotaku has reached out to Nintendo for a comment, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
Pocket Monster Reissue has been operating on major Chinese app stores since 2015, according to a stock exchange filing by one of the defendants, Jiangyin Zhongnan Heavy Industries Co. The game made over $US4 ($6) million a month in its first year, and the company’s profits have increased every year. Ever since the lawsuit was announced, the game and industrial pipe maker (I know!) has seen a 6 per cent tumble in stock price.
Pokémon has only recently begun officially making inroads into the Chinese market. Pokémon Sun and Moon were the first games that received an official Chinese port. Pokémon Go has been banned since 2017 over traffic safety concerns, but that hasn’t stopped Chinese players from finding workarounds to play the game anyway. Even after decades without official game releases, Pokémon is immensely popular in China. My own childhood summers were filled with bootleg trading cards and plastic toys, so it’s unsurprising that Reissue made millions off of the IP every year.
Kotaku reached out to Jiangyin Zhongnan Heavy Industries to ask if they anticipated Nintendo’s response when the game was originally released, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
Hopefully, Zhongnan Heavy Industries sticks to making metal pipes instead of video games.