NFT game Girl Story suspected of plagiarizing assets from The Idolmaster: Million Live! Theater Days

Lifeless idols

Publication date of the original Japanese article: 2021-10-12 19:35 (JST)
Translated by. Nick Mosier

The NFT game Girl Story is becoming a hot topic on social media in Japan, but not in the good sense. The game is facing strong accusations that it is plagiarizing assets from Bandai Namco’s The Idolmaster: Million Live! Theater Days.

The Girl Story official website describes the game as a “casual anime game based on Binance Smart Chain.” The game itself involves acquiring NFT anime girls and raising their levels with training and daily missions. The terms that stand out here are NFT and Binance Smart Chain, so let’s start with a brief explanation of those.

An NFT (Non-Fungible Token) is basically a way to provide and maintain ownership rights of digital files and data. In simpler terms, it’s a proof of ownership for digital items. An example might be that it makes owning a piece of digital art similar to owning a piece of physical art. In Girl Story, the characters are NFTs with the concept being that each character is one of a kind and ownership of that character is maintained with NFT technology.

NFT systems are often implemented with an application platform called Ethereum as the base. Binance Smart Chain is a platform that’s compatible with applications built on Ethereum and was released by Binance, a cryptocurrency exchange. The game will handle ownership and transactions of characters with NFT technology based on Binance Smart Chain.

Now to the matter at hand. Many people are pointing out that the character assets in Girl Story are plagiarized from The Idolmaster: Million Live! Theater Days. And if you check the official website or images on the official Twitter account, there’s definitely some extremely similar character assets being used.

When I went to compare characters from the games myself, I was also able to notice many similarities. First, let’s start with the characters posted on the official Girl Story Twitter account. The girl holding the guitar, which is also in the key art on the official website, appears to be wearing the same outfit as a character in Million Live! Theater Days. From the design and colors to the characteristic ribbon, the similarities are striking and causing strong suspicions of plagiarism. Also, the face of the character wearing the outfit strongly resembles Nao Yokoyama from Million Live! Theater Days.

Other clothing and character assets also look similar to those found in Million Live! Theater Days. However, the 3D models, possibly due to poor use of shaders, all have lifeless eyes.

The character card looking images at the top of the Girl Story official website feature a girl in a pose with her right hand outstretched. This image is very similar to one of Shizuka Mogami on the Million Live! Theater Days official website. When comparing the images in photo editing software, there weren’t any noticeable differences besides the reduced size.

While all we can do is wait for an official statement on whether any misappropriation exists or not, at the very least, it’s hard to think Girl Story can avoid any copyright infringement claims if they haven’t received permission to use the assets.

Girl Story is sharing information and PR about the game through their official website, Twitter, Telegram, Reddit, Discord, and YouTube channel. They all became active from around the end of September to the beginning of October with the game not yet being released.

Despite that, the official Twitter account already has 15,000 followers as of this writing. And tweets from the account are getting a suspicious amount of “Great project” and “Best project ever” replies and quote tweets.

Even English speaking users are pointing out asset plagiarism, but the official Girl Story account is hiding these kinds of replies. And possibly in an attempt to avoid critical tweets, it’s also suspicious that many of their tweets have replies restricted.

The roadmap for the game listed on the official website states their plan to launch an open beta and conduct an IDO (Initial DEX Offering) this month, but with asset similarities being discovered and pointed out, it raises a lot of concerns.

The use of NFT technology is increasing, and many readers have probably seen reports of NFT artwork selling for high prices. The movement to put NFTs into games is also gaining steam with titles turning characters and avatars into NFTs showing up here and there. On the other hand, the NFT game Epic Hero Battles also got caught taking assets from others and immediately took them down and deleted their social media accounts (related article in Japanese).

In the end, NFTs are nothing more than technology, and how they are used depends on the user. But the malicious actions of people and organizations that are excited by the speculative nature of NFTs can sour the perception of the technology. The Girl Story official website doesn’t have any contact information listed which suggests that they are avoiding inquiries and the media. What does the future hold for Girl Story? Will Bandai Namco move to deal with what appears to be infringement of their copyright? We’ll keep an eye on any further developments.

[UPDATE 2021/10/14 15:27 JST]
Most of the images on Girl Story‘s Twitter account have been removed in response to reports from the copyright holder.