Though on the surface the premise of Palworld, unofficially dubbed the “Pokemon with Guns” game by fans and critics alike, seems like the fleeting daydream of some edgy teenager, Japanese developer Pocketpair’s success so far has been anything but foolish.
The game’s staggering success started over the weekend when over 300,000 players logged in simultaneously to Palworld‘s servers and temporarily crashed them. By Sunday, Palworld had become one of the most popular games on the planet, with concurrent users reaching 1.5 million and the total number of copies sold on Steam passing the 5 million mark.
As of this writing on Tuesday night, Palworld hit a peak concurrent user total of 1,864,421, the second highest total in Steam history (SteamDB), elevating it above such vaunted names as Counter-Strike (all-time peak of 1,818,773), Dota 2 (1,295,114), Cyberpunk 2077 (953,426), Apex Legends (624,473), Call of Duty (491,670) and Baldur’s Gate 3 (875,343). The only game with a higher concurrent user total is PUBG: Battlegrounds (3,257,248).
Pocketpair took to Twitter/X to celebrate the milestone, saying, “Thank you for playing the game even though it is a weekday! The team is working hard to ensure that you can enjoy the game even more comfortably.”
One could argue that a considerable amount of the game’s popularity, aside from the entertaining gameplay itself, has been the influx of publicity for the game — good or bad — and the obvious comparisons which it draws to Nintendo/Game Freak’s iconic Pokemon series. Yes, Palworld, much like Pokemon features a menagerie of fabricated creatures at its forefront. And yes, while there are some suspect similarities between some of Palworld‘s Pals and established Pokemon designs:
I went through the entire 111 list of Pals in Palworld to see what seems like a Pokémon rip off compared to not, because I’ve seen a lot of people talk about it but no full comprehensive list. Here’s what I found (it’s a lot) 🧵 pic.twitter.com/EPSpBvC9hD
— Cecilia Fae 🍂 (@CeciliaFae) January 21, 2024
Thus far there have been no legal ramifications. But there have been detractors.
Don McGowan, formerly the head of the Pokemon legal team for 12 years, claimed he was surprised that Palworld has actually made it this far into its lifespan.
“This looks like the usual ripoff nonsense that I would see a thousand times a year when I was Chief Legal Officer of Pokémon,” McGowan told Game File. “I’m just surprised it got this far.”
Former Blizzard and PlayStation developer Eric Covington said of this Pal (which looks strikingly similar to the Pokemon Serperior), “To ‘accidentally’ create a complex model mesh with so near-exact proportions is practically impossible. To repeat that improbability throughout your roster… doesn’t pass the sniff test.”
Pocketpair CEO Takuro Mizobe responded to plagiarism accusations on Twitter/X, stating that although it was okay to accuse the game of drawing influence from the Pokemon series, the manner in which some accusations were being made on social media — including death threats — was certainly not okay.
“While we have received various opinions about Palworld, it is important to note that the supervision of all materials related to Palworld is conducted by a team, including myself. I bear the responsibility for the produced materials. I would appreciate it if these comments towards artists involved in Palworld would cease.”
Mizobe also stated in an interview with Automaton that Palworld was taken to market after clearing legal reviews.
“We make our games very seriously,” Mizobe said, “and we have absolutely no intention of infringing upon the intellectual property of other companies.”
Palworld is now available to play on PC, Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One formats.
What do you think of the fact the news that Palworld passed Counter-Strike and other notable games’ concurrent player record on Steam? Are you surprised by the game’s success? Do you think it plagiarizes from Pokemon or that Nintendo/Game Freak doesn’t own the copyright for cutesy animal companions in a cartoony art style? Let us know in the comments.