Palworld has hit record breaking numbers over the weekend after its launch, but alongside this success comes some controversy.
The title looks very much like a Pokemon like monster collecting RPG, but it also has open world and survival elements. So, the likes of Monster Rancher Ultra Kaiju and Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince are actually more similar to the Pokemon games than Palworld is. But it cannot be denied that part of the game’s appeal is that resemblance to Nintendo’s franchise, with fans dubbing it “Pokemon with guns.”
The game launched on Early Access on Steam and Xbox, making it a notable Pokemon alternative for PC and Xbox players. As we had reported, it is also part of Game Pass, meaning a large number of Xbox users could be playing the game without paying more. As reported by Video Games Chronicle, within the first 24 hours, the title hit 2 million sales on Steam.
As of yesterday, SteamDB recorded a concurrent player count of 1,262,087 players, ranking it as the 5th highest such player peak on the platform. What makes this even more impressive is the four titles above it are all free-to-play titles; Counter-Strike 2, PUBG, Lost Ark, and DOTA 2. As of this writing, the game is on sale at $ 26.99 with a 10 % discount.
But then, and strangely enough, its studio Pocketpair lied about this achievement. They falsely claimed in a tweet that they reached the highest concurrent player count of any paid game in Steam. As Video Games Chronicle pointed out, when PUBG reached its concurrent player peak, it was still a paid retail game.
Obviously, they did not have to lie or exaggerate what was already an impressive achievement. Now, this could just be a small oversight, as not everyone would remember that technical detail. But it has to be said this is only one of several red flags about the title.
After the surface comparisons between Palworld’s creature designs to the familiar Pokemon, some gamers started snooping around and raised red flags that the game may have used generative AI, without disclosing it.
For one, Pocketpair CEO Takuro Mizobe made posts citing his passion for AI image generators, and specifically using them for content creation. Several of their other previous titles also have a superficial resemblance to other successful and famous titles. Overdungeon is a roguelike, tower defense card game. Craftopia is another survival game with building, hunting, farming, and automation mechanics.
And then there’s AI: Art Impostor, which seems vaguely inspired by Among Us, but with significantly different mechanics. The players all use generative AI to make art based on a theme, but one of the artists is an impostor who doesn’t know the theme. If the other players catch the impostor, they win.
Palworld has listed artists, and no indication that it uses generative AI. On that end, the company may be misrepresenting their product to gamers, who until now have been very openly anti AI. In regards to accusations of plagiarism or unethical use of copyrighted assets, these are legal matters beyond the scope of this article. But these accusations shouldn’t be brushed away lightly. In particular, if Pocketpair trained their AI on Pokemon games, and Pokemon fanart, to make their Palworld creatures, that would be using other people’s work without compensation.
And we should note, that it’s even more important for Pocketpair to address these concerns, because of their sudden and immediate success. If they successfully skate by legally and ethically dubious lines with this game, that could open the floodgates for other similarly dubious projects, that will ride their wave of popularity to also get by.