Pokemon developer battles App Store rip-offs

Feb 22, 2012
Games

There’s still no official Pokemon title in the iTunes App Store, despite the clamoring of fans for a mobile version of Nintendo’s incredibly popular monster-catching role-playing game series. But even though Nintendo isn’t making any money off those iPhone- and iPad-owning fans, someone did for at least a weekend. Now, the creators of Pokemon have […]

There’s still no official Pokemon title in the iTunes App Store, despite the clamoring of fans for a mobile version of Nintendo’s incredibly popular monster-catching role-playing game series.

But even though Nintendo isn’t making any money off those iPhone- and iPad-owning fans, someone did for at least a weekend. Now, the creators of Pokemon have issued a warning to those App Store developers: We’re looking for you.

The trouble started during the weekend of Feb. 17, when a game purporting to be Pokemon Yellow appeared in the App Store. The game originally was released way back in 1998 for the Nintendo Gameboy, but despite being extremely old in video game terms, the Pokemon titles still have a hugely dedicated following. They’ve also gone through tens of iterations since then on Nintendo’s proprietary hardware, so the fans remain heavily excited about new (and old) Pokemon releases.

The unlicensed Pokemon knockoff was developed by a company called Home of Anime, and users quickly pegged it as a fake, noting that the game had issues beyond its stolen title screen. But that didn’t stop the broken, stolen version of Pokemon Yellow from hitting the No. 3 spot on iTunes’ Paid Games list during the weekend, according to a story from Ars Technica.

Another Pokemon “game” also snuck into the App Store over the weekend, calling itself Pokemon Pocket Edition. Instead of being a real game, this one actually was just a picture gallery of Pokemon characters. But at $4.99, the app was also fairly misrepresented in its description. Apple has pulled both apps as of Tuesday.

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As Develop reports, the actual makers of Pokemon definitely took notice of their game popping up where it didn’t below in Apple’s walled garden. The Pokemon Company, a subsidiary of Nintendo, said it plans to take action against those who made thousands over the weekend from the Pokemon name. The company also warned players to report unauthorized games bearing the Pokemon name to Nintendo and The Pokemon Company so that more players don’t fall victim to scams. Nintendo isn’t the first company to fall victim to such scammers, and it seems the only real recourse when one such fake app appears is to report such games to their actual copyright owners and to Apple as quickly as possible.

Despite the strong words from Nintendo and its subsidiaries, however, the fact remains that there’s massive demand for mobile versions of the Pokemon games on Apple’s hardware. Nintendo has made a pledge not to sell its software on anything but Nintendo hardware, and with the recent release of the company’s new handheld console, the Nintendo 3DS, it’s unlikely that we’ll be seeing a Pokemon title on iOS anytime soon. But it sure feels like Nintendo’s leaving money on the table by not porting its games to the iOS audience. That’s money that others will probably keep trying to pick up.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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