Niantic responds to Pokémon Go AI art controversy

Pokémon Go
(Image credit: Niantic/Future)

Pokémon Go is still going strong, with the mobile augmented reality game enjoying sustained popularity since launching in 2016. Publisher Niantic regularly reveals new seasons of the game, with new creatures to collect. But the latest is proving controversial for an unexpected reason.

The company has announced Adventures Abound, the twelfth season of the game, which will run from now until 1st December. The season features 20 new Pokémon from the Paldea region featured in the Scarlet and Violet games on Nintendo Switch. And it also, some fans suspect, features some AI-generated artwork. (For more bizarre examples, check out some of the weirdest AI art we've seen.)

Pokémon Go

The offending artwork (Image credit: Niantic)

The lead image on the Pokémon Go website features a vapourware-esque cityscape rendered in purples and pinks. But with a strange lack of Pokémon-related detail, and blurry, in-cohesive line art, plenty of fans are accusing Niantic of using AI to generate the image. 

"Bruh there is no way this isn't AI art," one user tweets, while another adds, "What a disappointment. They’ve given up their integrity when the game is literally at its best." For the uninitiated, AI art has proven a controversial topic since text-to-image generators began to emerge last year, with issues over ethics and copyright plaguing the text. Even Adobe has been accused by artists of copyright infringement related to its own AI offering, Firefly.

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“Niantic uses a variety of tools and software to create visual assets," the company responded to Kotaku's request for comment. "We don’t disclose specifics around our processes." The response is notable for containing neither an apology nor a denial – while other brands have claimed their use of AI use to be a mistake, there's no such suggestion here.

Indeed, it seems suspiciously AI-looking artwork is making its way into the mainstream. Just last week, fans accused Amazon's artwork for its upcoming Fallout series of appearing to be AI-generated.

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Daniel John
Senior News Editor

Daniel John is Senior News Editor at Creative Bloq. He reports on the worlds of art, design, branding and lifestyle tech (which often translates to tech made by Apple). He joined in 2020 after working in copywriting and digital marketing with brands including ITV, NBC, Channel 4 and more.