Pokemon Go publisher Niantic has raised suspicions among fans after a promotional image showed some clear signs of possibly being an AI artifact rather than something created by an actual human artist.
The image in question appears in promotional material for Adventures Abound, the next season of the mobile collectathon game, which runs from September 1 to December 1. If you open the official Pokémon Go website page, you’ll see a colorful image of what looks like a city. But further inspection reveals some strange artistic decisions that fans suspect could be AI, such as blurry graphics and a lack of consistency in the environment itself, as if it was done without any kind of planning. A detail I noticed is that there is a subway car that doesn’t seem to have a tunnel to go through. Plus, there’s nothing that suggests it’s actually Pokemon art. Not one of your favorite critters in the barren cityscape.
After some fans pointed this out online, Kotaku reached out to Niantic for comment, and a studio representative sent a statement that either completely denied the AI suspicions or stopped short of crediting any specific artist for the work.
“Niantic uses a variety of tools and software to create visual assets,” the statement reads. “We do not disclose details about our processes.”
Read further: The game Pokemon Go Fest 2023 is a reminder for a big city
It’s a huge bummer if this piece is AI-generated, considering the Pokémon franchise gives Niantic plenty of talent to draw from if they want a good asset for the upcoming season of Go. Pokémon Go itself has featured some beautiful art in promotional assets and when you boot up the app, so it’s really sad to see the possibility that Niantic and The Pokémon Company are choosing AI over real artists.
Companies choosing to use AI tools instead of hiring real actors is an unfortunate trend these days, and Pokemon is the first video game franchise to raise questions about the use of this technology. More recently, an ad for Amazon’s upcoming Fallout TV show also appeared to be made by an AI rather than a person. It seems cheaper to produce prompt to moderate results in a machine than to pay an artist to do a good job. Capitalism comes for us all.