Japanese Pokémon fan arrested for selling hacked creatures

A Japanese Pokémon fan faces fines and a potential prison sentence after his arrest for selling hacked versions of the game’s creatures.

36-year-old Yoshihiro Yamakawa from Uji City works as an interior decorator by day. But out of hours he’s accused of hacking Nintendo Switch games Pokémon Scarlet and Violet to turn a profit off of modified Pokémon (thanks, NHK).

Yamakawa hacked creatures to order, it’s alleged, altering and improving their stats before trading them on for up to 13,000 yen (around £68) each.

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Arrested under Japan’s Unfair Competition Prevention Act, Yamakawa now faces fines of up to 5m yen (around £26k) and the possibility of up to five years’ prison time.

Kyoto police tracked down Yamakawa and arrested him last week, at which point he seemingly acknowledged his actions and said he “did it to earn a living”.

The Pokémon Company is notoriously protective of its prized franchise, though it’s unusual to see matters pounced on first by police.

In 2021, two Pokémon fans leaked details of the then-unreleased Pokémon Sword and Shield via images taken from a strategy guide book. The Pokémon Company’s lawyers pounced, and ultimately settled with the pair for an eye-watering $300k to cover damages, attorney’s fees and other costs.

Last month, the former legal boss of The Pokémon Company admitted much of his work had been based around spotting popular fan creations that bubbled up in press reports and on social media – though his team of lawyers would often only “engage” when someone was trying to turn a profit.

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