|What's needed: Add cites from reliable sources where these two have been confused for each other; Ex: "SPORTSCENTER" - not in the ESPN show itself, but in a commercial which aired in 7/01, in which Kenny Mayne specifies the (obvious) differences between Pokémon and Digimon.|
Digimon and Pokémon are Japanese franchises that both began around the same time. They are often confused as similar by those unfamiliar with both series, and there are sometimes accusations of copying, although these claims are baseless.
Digimon and Pokémon as creatures
Digimon and Pokémon differ in this sense that Digimon exist as virtual lifeforms in the Digital World parallel to our Earth while Pokémon exist as a substitute for animals in an as of yet unnamed world which shares some locations with our Earth. First the facts on Digimon. Digimon are virtual life forms that live on the Digital World, a physical embodiment of Earth's communication systems. Digimon are created from data, while Pokémon appear to be biologically correct creatures made of flesh and blood with the exception of Porygon and its evolutions. Though more animal-like than Digimon, with few able of use perfect speech and understanding language, Pokémon would use animal sounds or say syllables of their names. Some Digimon, such as Calumon and Biyomon in the japanese version, tend to end their sentences in a similar fashion. Pokémon and Digimon are similar in the sense of their societies. Digimon are seen building complex villages and cities. While Pokémon do create and inhabit villages, these are more primitive than those the Digimon build.
Digimon and Pokémon are both seen exhibiting free will. Pokémon and Digimon are seen choosing evil intentions and evil masters as well as carrying out whatever bidding they please. In Digimon, a prime example of this is BlackWarGreymon. Like Mewtwo, he was artifically created and rebelled against his creator, going out on his own to find his place in the world while causing trouble in the process. Instances of free will are also seen when a Digimon or Pokémon chooses to stay with a master or Tamer. They accompany him or her by their own choice. As such, if a Pokémon or Digimon wills it, they may leave their master whenever they please.
Though both Digimon and most Pokémon change forms, the method of which they do this is completely different.
Digivolution occurs in Digimon either when it is old enough to have gathered enough data from its surroundings or when a Tamer uses a Digivice to cause Digivolution. In either case, the change is not permanent. Digimon that lose a significant amount of power or that are injured sufficiently regress to a lower form. In addition, Digimon who lose all of their energy or are mortally wounded do not 'die', rather, their data is reconfigured and reborn as a Digiegg, which then goes through the Digimon's stages again. Furthermore, most Digimon can Digivolve into several different trees instead of a set path.
Evolution in Pokémon is independent of its age or its trainer. A Pokémon evolves only when it is strong enough to do so, which may be through battle experience, trading, a stone used upon it, or reaction of the environment. Evolution in Pokémon is a permanent process, and with the exception of Eevee and some others, all Pokémon of one type evolve to a set type. Also, Evolution tends to show a progression of age, such as Caterpie evolving to a Metapod and then to a Butterfree, exactly like a real caterpillar.
Digimon can have at least six levels but a Pokémon can only have three.
Both Digimon and Pokémon differ on the popular animes associated with the two. While the Pokémon anime seems to use a more episodic style while Digimon has a plot line more akin to traditional animes. Each episode of Pokémon follows the travels of different Pokémon trainers while in the case of Digimon each episode contributes to a greater plot. The morals of the two shows also differ to an extent. While they share themes, Digimon is mostly about survival while Pokémon uses friendship and love as a main theme.
Both Digimon and Pokémon share a similar game franchise, although like the rest of the franchise, Pokémon games are much more popular. Digimon and Pokémon games each focus on catching, battling, and helping either Digimon and Pokémon depending on the game. The two also share missions and special quests, normally to achieve rarer Digimon or Pokémon. Both also take elements from their respective anime's. Despite this, Digimon games are normally classified as fighting games or RPG's while Pokémon games are primarilly made up of RPG's and spin-offs.