Palworld Is Breaking Player Count Records Despite Concerns Over Poké-Plagiarism

When people said "Pokémon with guns," they weren't entirely wrong.

We’ve had our eyes on Palworld for a hot minute, ever since developer Pocket Pair started dropping trailers that would quickly change tone from chill creature-collecting survival crafting sim to disconcerting creature-enslaving and shooting experience. Now that it’s out, it’s clear that we weren’t alone in paying it attention, with the game absolutely lighting up sales and Steam charts.

In less than two days since launching in early access for $43.95 AUD, the game racked up over three million copies sold according to the studio on Twitter. That figure is especially impressive when you factor in that the game is available via Game Pass on both Xbox and PC. It’s going absolutely gangbusters on Steam though, having peaked at a concurrent user count of an astonishing 1.3 million players according to SteamDB – the second most ever for a paid product, beating both Elden Ring and Cyberpunk 2077 and breaking servers at one point, as well as the fifth biggest concurrent player peak of all time.

That success is not without controversy though, with users online quick to point out that the designs for the “Pal” creatures in Palworld bear some striking and hard-to-believe-they’re-coincidental similarities to existing Pokémon designs. Looking through the Pals that are being compared to Pokémon, it’s easy to see why eyebrows are being raised. Resemblances range from ‘yeah, I see it’ to almost uncanny, including some model geometry and textures that almost look like they could have been ripped straight from Game Freaks’ original files.

RELATED:  JB Hi-Fi Is Also Giving Out That Bonus Limited Edition Pokémon Card For Pokémon Day

There’s a combination of potential things happening here from inspiration to parody and of course an alleged outright copying of certain elements, and it’s natural with a franchise as big and with as rabid a fanbase as Pokémon that folks are jumping on the issue with a passion.

Many folks have also drawn attention to Pocket Pair CEO Takuro Mizobe’s history in producing games using generative AI assets and even suggesting in social media posts that generative AI models could circumvent copyright restrictions because they don’t pull from specific images or assets. There’s no evidence that AI has been used in the development of Palworld, but for some it’s been enough to suggest that the company isn’t above taking shortcuts in producing art, and if you go on Twitter right now you’ll find that the conversation has quickly escalated to the point that AI accusations are being thrown at Palworld, again despite no evidence of its use.

It’s arguable whether or not Nintendo/Game Freak could or would pursue any kind of action given that Palworld isn’t outright cloning Pokémon designs, and the game itself is closer to something like ARK than the Pokémon games, but with how hugely popular the game has proven I’m sure all eyes will be on any further Pals it might introduce in future.