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Palworld video game, dubbed “Pokémon with Weapons,” sparks frenzy on social media

The friendly Pokémon Pikachu equipped with a machine gun.

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Palworld video game, dubbed “Pokémon with Weapons,” sparks frenzy on social media

The friendly Pokémon Pikachu equipped with a machine gun...does that seem strange to you? However, this is the whole concept of the survival game “Palworld” developed by the Japanese studio Pocketpair. The latter offers the player the possibility of interacting with creatures very similar to the famous Pokémon, here called “Pal”, which they can exploit as they wish and arm themselves to survive on the island where the adventure takes place.

The first images of the trailer released seven months ago had already sparked many reactions. The studio presented the possibility of weakening the creatures as much as possible or locking them in what appeared to be electrified enclosures.

All while drawing great inspiration, and without authorization, from the design of Nintendo's Pokémon games but also from the open world of the Fortnite game...enough to generate buzz around its early access release last weekend.

Available on the Steam distribution platform for 26 euros and on Xbox Game Pass (Microsoft's PC and console subscription service) since Friday, the game is already enjoying some success. As of Saturday, Palworld was selling at 86,000 units per hour. On Monday, the studio announced that it had exceeded 5 million sales. However, Pocketpair does not specify the proportion of units sold with the Gamepass.

The game has also become one of the most popular titles on Steam with more than 1.5 million players on the platform. It thus surpassed games like Baldur’s Gate 3, Elden Ring, Hogwarts Legacy and Cyberpunk 2077.

Streamers quickly took up the game and, at present, “Palworld” has more than 345,000 simultaneous spectators on the live video platform Twitch. Likewise on the Chinese social network TikTok, where videos of users sharing their “Palworld” discoveries abound.

“The game is designed to be broadcast: it is easy to learn and it offers effective surprises by reminding Internet users of other popular games. Here, in this case, Pokémon and Fortnite,” analyzes Julien Djoubri, specialist in new technologies and founder of Point’n Think. “And then, it offers a more adult experience with greater freedom...Which has been demanded by Pokémon fans for a long time.”

On X (formerly Twitter), the keyword “Palworld” also has nearly 243,000 tweets. For example, some players show how they inserted a “Pal” into their automatic weapon to project it at their opponent, before presenting their production line on which their creatures are working. “It’s not Pokémon guys, it’s an Amazon simulation,” laughs one of them. Still others are surprised that the game allows them to cut up or kill these little companions, once they are deemed useless. In “Palworld” there are no rules, and it is on this principle that the popularity of the game seems to be based.

Palworld is also provocative in its design. The resemblance between the “Pal” and the Pokémon is such that some people wonder if the studio did not use advances in generative AI to purely and simply copy the design of the latter. Especially since, as reported by the Frandroid site, the game also copies the music from the title The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild and elements of the gameplay from Elden Ring.

However, now easier access to software like Midjourney or DALL-E allows Internet users to create false images using written requests. The studio could therefore also have used it to imagine the creatures of Palworld. “In the case of this game, it really looks like the designers asked Midjourney to design a universe that would mix Pokémon and Fortnite,” emphasizes Julien Djoubri.

Especially since the creator of Palworld, Takuro Mizobe, would like to put an end to the limits generated by copyright, the system of protection of literary and artistic works. He has already pointed out, on his X account (formerly Twitter), that progress in AI could put an end to the principles of copyright within thirty years.

“For example, already in 2022, Takuro Mizobe estimated that it would be increasingly difficult to distinguish which Pokémon were created by Nintendo and those created by an AI,” continues Julien Djoubri. “And Pocketpair’s previous game, called AI:Art Impostor, was based on the principle of players generating works of art using AI.”

Elements which, for the specialist, could tend to prove that the studio plagiarized Nintendo. But what worries him most is the reaction of Internet users, who are not very alarmed by this possibility. “The fun offered by these creations like Palworld outweighs the questions around artificial intelligence. Tomorrow, if the public follows, it is not impossible that we will see this type of games created quickly thanks to this new software multiply,” he notes. “Which could strengthen expectations around big studios and increase pressure on developers.”

For its part, the Pocketpair studio has not yet communicated on the date on which the final version of the game would be available. Palworld is the studio's fourth game and the other three, previously developed, are still in early access. At the same time, the studio announced that it was working on a new 2D game, called Never Grave. This time the player plays a little witch, who must cross ruins and face different enemies.

A trailer and a scenario which resemble, unmistakably, the successful game Hollow Knight published by the Australian studio Team Cherry and released in 2017...Enough to fuel questions around possible plagiarism on the part of the Japanese studio.

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