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Palworld is the game you need to play, but controversy is coming with it

This weekend has belonged to Palworld, the Pokémon with guns, for positive and negative reasons: there are those who enjoy it, and those who accuse it of basically plagiarizing everything it does.

Palworld is the game you need to play, but controversy is coming with it
Álvaro Arbonés

Álvaro Arbonés

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No one ever knows what the next big phenomenon will be. Nor how long it will last or if it will be embraced enthusiastically. If someone knew, they would be swimming in money, because they would know the magic formula to create successes. Unfortunately, that doesn’t exist, and even when it’s evident that something will work, it’s impossible to predict if it will work in the short, medium, or long term, or if a portion of the audience will react negatively to its success. Something that Palworld is currently experiencing in real time.

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Sales nobody expected

In terms of sales, the game has been a success. Despite appearing on GamePass from the start, it has sold four million copies and reached almost 1.3 million players on Steam. Scandalous figures that define it as a resounding success. Something that has also brought it no small amount of criticism.

Although Palworld is gameplay-wise a copy of games like Ark, shamelessly stealing its UI, or Rust, many people have pointed out the obvious influence that Pokémon has had on the game’s design. Defined by many as “Pokémon with guns”, some Twitter users are conducting analysis to demonstrate all the extreme similarities between the creatures of Palworld and some Pokémon. Some of them reaching uncomfortable points. Some even bordering on legal action.

It also doesn’t help that Takuro Mizobe, the CEO of Pocketpair, the studio behind Palworld, is an avid advocate of generative AI and in particular, the ease with which it can create new Pokémon designs. It also hasn’t helped that the studio has a game, AI: Art Impostor, that uses an AI image generator as one of its main mechanics, or that all of its projects, past or future, are heavily inspired by other popular video games. Including Never Grave: The Witch and The Curse, their game expected to be released in the first quarter of this year, which looks like a ripoff of the popular Hollow Knight.

While it is true that the opinions of the company’s CEO and Pocketpair’s own practices do not help Palworld, there is currently no evidence that they have used generative AI to create the game’s assets. It also cannot be proven conclusively that they have plagiarized Pokémon designs. However, due to their track record, the suspicions of many users are more than justified. And considering the success that Palworld is achieving, although it is true that a portion of the audience seems not to care, it also seems evident that this controversy is far from ending silently just because it sells well.

Palworld DOWNLOAD
Álvaro Arbonés

Álvaro Arbonés

Cultural journalist and writer with a special interest in audiovisuals and everything that can be played. I'm not here to talk about my books, but you can always ask me about them if you're curious.

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