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Is Pokémon Scarlet and Violet leak fan art safe from Nintendo takedowns?

Nintendo and The Pokémon Company are aggressively looking to mitigate leaks

Smoliv in Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet — a little green Pokémon that looks like an olive with eyes and teeny tiny feetsies. Image: Game Freak/The Pokémon Company, Nintendo
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

The Pokémon Company, Nintendo, and eager Pokémon Scarlet and Violet wanters have been in a constant battle: Pokémon Scarlet and Violet leakers are spreading unauthorized content across the internet. But as soon as leakers distribute it on social media sites, the leaked screenshots and videos are being pulled down with copyright strikes. It makes sense: Pokémon Scarlet and Violet aren’t out until Nov. 18, and The Pokémon Company and Nintendo want to keep its secrets secret until then. But people are eager to see new Pokémon, and some fans are getting creative and making fan art to replace or “predict” the look of official, but unauthorized content — or to simply celebrate leaked Pokémon designs.

A word of caution: It’s not really clear if fan art is safe from copyright strikes. The Pokémon Company could still ding these images, because copyright law is complicated, even if a work is derivative. Most problems with fan art come if an artist is selling their own work based on trademarked properties. But the nature of these Pokémon images — namely, that they’re not supposed to be out there yet — may complicate that.

So far, it doesn’t seem that The Pokémon Company and Nintendo are targeting fan art at all; its main focus appears to be leaked images and early Twitch streams. Plenty of Pokémon fan artists just want to celebrate the new Pokémon they’ll be able to catch when Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are out next week. Fan art is one way leaks reach from side channels and into the mainstream.

Before the major leaks, Pokémon artists were also important in fan communities, as blurry, cut-off images started circulating. Fan artists stepped in to build off those cropped, muddled images to “predict” what any particular Pokémon might look like.

[Ed. note: If you’re hoping to avoid spoilers, stop reading here. Though there are no official images of new Pokémon, we have included fan art of them.]

Elsewhere, some Pokémon fan artists are using their artwork to “predict” Pokémon from Pokémon Scarlet and Violet — a move that was more common before we had a ton of information. Sometimes it’s evolutions from Pokémon we’ve seen before, and other times it’s completely new monsters, often based off the region.

But if you’re looking for fan art of the leaked and other new Pokémon, there’s a ton of that, too. Here are some of our favorites: