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Have you ever wondered, "What if Pokémon, but with guns?" If so, Palworld is probably a game you picked up at launch - you and countless others who made the early excess survival game an instant hit on Steam.
The success of Palworld, however, can probably be attributed to people's love of the international juggernaut, Pokémon. There are direct comparisons between Pals, the in-game animals you can capture and apparently subjugate, and Pokémon, the titular genus of monsters from the popular anime. The comparisons are so close, in fact, that Pokémon fans are mad, though they may be upset for the wrong reasons.
What is Palworld?
Palworld is an open-world, multiplayer, monster-tamer survival game. In it, you can capture creatures called Pals. Once captured, you can fight them, sell them, eat them, or put them to work on farms or factories. You can also give them guns for some reason, which is not a weird sentence to write these days.
The world you inhabit is extremely inhospitable, so you'll have to work to survive. This includes building bases, fighting off poachers, putting your Pals to work in munition factories (sheesh), and maybe even eating your Pal buddies to make it through the night. The game was released in Early Access on January 19th, 2024.
Is Palworld successful?
As of this writing, Palworld has sold up to seven million copies. And that's only on P.C. Once Microsoft reveals its game sales numbers, those numbers could skyrocket. The numbers were confirmed by developer Pocketpair to Geoff Keighley, who reported it on X (formerly Twitter). According to Geoff, that is approximately $189 million in the first five days of this EARLY ACCESS game. The whole game isn't out yet, my friends. Every one of those seven million players is beta-testing this brand-new game. Pocketpair has also presented a roadmap of upcoming features and support for the fledgling monster tamer, which includes cross-play functionality, raid bosses, various bug fixes, and Pal PVP.
So, what's the problem with Palworld?
Where things get a bit sticky is that Palworld is a pretty egregious doppelganger of the world's most famous monster-capturing franchise. No, not Monster Hunter. Pokémon! It's so bad that Pokémon fans are calling it outright asset theft. There are numerous threads on the web chronicling the similarities between certain Pokémon and their Pal counterparts. It's not even a week into the game's life, and a Pokémon mod is already planned for this early-access juggernaut. The character models match up so closely that the mod barely looks different from the actual game.
Palworld isn't the first Monster Tamer game to hit shelves, but it may be the most successful to date. Despite being a copycat, Palworld is a massive success because it's giving many Pokémon fans the thing they have wanted for years. An open-world multiplayer version of Pokémon. Something Nintendo refuses to do for reasons none of us can understand.
What can Nintendo learn from Palworld?
The runaway success of Palworld should be a beacon to Nintendo. In a world where poorly optimized versions of official Pokémon games exist, Palworld offers a fully realized Pokémon alternative, albeit a questionable one. With over seven million copies sold in a weekend and climbing, fans of the genre have spoken, and Palworld is a hit.
Can you imagine the success of an official Pokémon open-world, online, multiplayer game? The fandom has spoken with their wallets. If Nintendo refuses to give them an adequately optimized online Pokémon game, fans will get it where they can. The success of Palworld shows that Pokémon fans are willing to invest in a carbon copy with guns and weird animal manual labor just to get the open-world multiplayer feeling they are missing from the official color-coded Pokémon games.
Recent Pokemon games like Pokémon Scarlet and Violet or the open world Pokémon Legends: Arceus with their poor performance and visual fidelity left many fans wanting. They also refuse to take that final step and create a truly immersive online open world for the die-hard Pokémon trainers. Palworld decided to do just that, perhaps cutting a few prominent corners along the way, which doesn't make the game less successful.
If Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom can sell 10 million copies in three days, can you imagine what an online Pokémon game could do in one? I'm no analyst, but that could net a lot of happy fans and gobs of money. Or, at the very least, seven million copies sold and $189 million U.S. in the bank.