Palworld, the video game accused of plagiarizing Pokémon

Sold 4 million units in its first weekend

Palworld is the first major viral phenomenon of 2024, at least in terms of the electronic entertainment world. This survival video game developed by the Japanese studio Pocket Pair—and accused of being a plagiarism of titles like Pokémon—has been available for PC and Xbox since last Friday, and in its first three days on sale, it has managed to sell more than 4 million units, as revealed by its developers.

Incredible numbers
In its first weekend, it managed to surpass ‘Cyberpunk 2077’ in simultaneous users on PC
This is not the only surprising figure for what is undoubtedly the game of the moment. According to SteamDB, a website that provides usage data for the PC gaming platform Steam, Palworld is already among the top five titles with the highest number of simultaneous players. Up to 1,291,967 users played this title simultaneously during the weekend of its launch, a figure that is above what Cyberpunk 2077 achieved and could surpass if it maintains the momentum of the last few days.

Its creators have claimed on Twitter that this is the “highest number of simultaneous players for any paid game in the history of Steam,” but this information is not correct, as the action game PUBG reached its peak (3,257,248 simultaneous players) when it was still a paid game.

“Pokémon with guns”

Beyond the dance of numbers, what is clear is that a significant part of this success may be due to the controversy that has surrounded this title since it was announced. When its first images were published in 2021, attention was quickly drawn to how it mixed elements of the popular Pokémon series with mechanics more similar to those of other action and survival games like Ark: Survival Evolved, resulting in a game much further from the family-friendly tone of the Pikachu-led franchise.

That “Pokémon with guns,” as it was known from the moment its first images were published, seemed more like a meme than a product developed for commercial purposes. However, a few years later, it is sweeping—and that’s despite it also being available on Microsoft’s Game Pass service and only being in early access, so it’s not finished yet.

The title developed by Pocket Pair has been accused of plagiarizing Pokémon due to the striking resemblance to the game by the also Japanese studio Game Freak. The similarities are more than evident and range from the general dynamics of the game, consisting of capturing a series of adorable creatures that roam the environment, to the design of these creatures, which in some cases is a more than obvious copy. In fact, some users have been comparing the appearance of these creatures from both games through social media for days, and the resemblance of some of them is not at all subtle.

Character from the video game ‘Naraka: Bladepoint’ by the Chinese company NetEase, which has opted to incorporate the use of AI in its developments
Another controversy surrounding Palworld has to do with the use of AI. As reported by the media VideoGamesChronicle, previous games from the studio, such as Art Impostor, revolved entirely around AI-generated images. And while the use of this technology is becoming increasingly widespread in game development, various users have accused the studio of perhaps using these tools, resulting in many creatures looking so similar to those in Nintendo’s game series.

Plagiarism in video games has been around since the beginning of this industry, but that does not make Palworld’s appropriation any less reprehensible.
In reality, Palworld not only takes ideas from Pokémon but also from many other games. The general dynamics of the game are a copy of what can be found in survival simulators like Rust (Facepunch Studios) or Ark: Survival Evolved (Studio Wildcard). Likewise, many elements of the interface and the game world itself are clearly “inspired” by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo).

Plagiarism in video games has been around since the beginning of this cultural industry. Since Atari released the classic Pong in 1972 and it was copied extensively by other companies, there have been examples of plagiarism everywhere in this competitive sector. Not to mention, popular titles like Candy Crush or Fortnite are copies of earlier titles that proposed exactly the same gameplay dynamics. However, the fact that it is not something new does not make this type of plagiarism any less reprehensible. In the case of Palworld, the copying of Pokémon is evident, but neither The Pokémon Company nor Nintendo has made a move yet.


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