"Pokemon with guns" game Palworld sells 5 million copies, tops Steam most played in a single weekend

Official screenshot of Pocketpair's "Palworld", taken from their Steam page.
Official screenshot of Pocketpair's "Palworld", taken from their Steam page. (Image credit: Pocketpair, Valve)

It's not often that a wholly-new IP appears out of nowhere and takes the gaming world by storm— especially not without being Free To Play— but Pocketpair's Palworld has achieved just that. Launched onto Steam Early Access on January 19th, 2024, Palworld serves as the year's first majorly-successful new launch, and has topped Steam's Most Played Games as of January 22nd, 2024.

This means that it only took three days for Palworld to net more players than Valve's own Counter-Strike 2 and Dota 2, as well as mainstays from other devs like PUBG: Battlegrounds, Apex Legends, and Grand Theft Auto V. Sorry, Baldur's Gate 3: you aren't Top 8 anymore. There's a new dominant PC RPG in town, and it carries an odd sense of familiarity. 

A shot of Steam's Most Played Games on January 22nd, 2024, highlighting Palworld's Most Played status.

(Image credit: Valve)

Considering that the majority of Steam's Most Played Games are either Free To Play or belong to major franchises in their own right, this is an incredibly impressive feat on developer Pocketpair's part. However, this meteoric rise is also being met with considerable controversy, and anyone familiar with the Pokemon franchise can probably see why.

To say that Palworld's "Pal" designs are inspired by Pokémon might just be an understatement. While the severity of parallels to certain Pokémon designs can vary, a number of Pals have been called plagiarized designs. There is even speculation that aspects of the game (concept art, models, etc) were made with generative AI, though Pocketpair themselves denies the allegations of AI-assisted game development.

While this game may initially present as a soulless cash grab at Pokémon's audience by a relatively unknown new developer, it's worth noting that Palworld is fairly technically competent. 

While the game is still missing some key features (like key rebinding), it's much more ambitious with its graphical and online multiplayer features than the series it's supposedly plagiarizing. Its widely-successful multiplatform launch may have something to do with its own merits, like 4-player Co-Op (alongside 32-player servers and 20-player guilds) and Ark-esque survival gameplay.

Will Nintendo take action on Palworld? It's hard to say, but Nintendo can be notoriously litigation-happy, even to its own fans. Between Palworld's successful release and confirmation of the first functional Switch flash cart in the same week, someone at Nintendo can't be very happy right now.

  • -Fran-
    This is not a Pokemon game, just to be clear.

    It's ARK with Pokemon, which is a good funnier thing.

    For being a "meme" game, it's super good. Kind of reminds me of the Unnamed Goose Game. It's the simple things in life that make it better :P

  • coolitic
    Pokemon fans may perhaps swallow the hard pill that most Pokemon designs aren't exactly chock-full of creativity.
  • Blastomonas
    Perhaps, but the first thing I thought when I saw it was it's Pokémon with guns.

    I imagine that most people will see it the same and it's maybe one of the reasons that it's so popular.

    I will be surprised if Nintendo don't react to this.
  • bigdragon
    Nintendo and Pokemon shouldn't be given exclusive control over the monster collecting and battling genre. Digimon, Monster Hunter Stories, Monster Rancher, Dragon Quest Monsters, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, and others have incorporated monster collecting and battling features. The designs of some Pals share similarities with Pokemon. However, the same comparisons between Pokemon and Digimon, Pokemon and Dragon Quest Monsters, and similar comparisons can be made across other franchises. Palworld is distinct enough. Any action Nintendo takes against Palworld would be an overreach.

    Describing a game with the world "survival" usually turns me off to playing it. I'm thinking of giving Palworld a play tonight though. I was a huge Pokemon fan. I remember reading about Pocket Monsters Red and Blue in Nintendo Power well in advance of them crossing the Pacific, and then I played both before the franchise blew up. I wanted Game Freak to make a "Pokemon Breath of the Wild" after playing Zelda BOTW and seeing the Detective Pikachu movie. I don't think Game Freak has delivered on that idea. Pokemon has been predictable, stale, and boring for years. Palworld looks like it pushes the genre in a new direction. Hopefully Palworld forces Nintendo and Game Freak to evolve the Pokemon formula instead of endlessly rehashing it.
  • DavidLejdar
    Meanwhile, in the chart of Steam's Most Played Games, on a spot far far away (e.g. right now, 12 players in multi-player) :

    How I wish that SW Squadrons would have ripped off X-Wing vs TIE Fighter (from 1997), or X-Wing Alliance. It could have been a so much better game.

    Seriously. In particular XvT came with different dogfighting modes, a number of different missions (playable co-op or against each other), with in particular the BoP campaign playable also in multi-player. Additionally, a mission creator tool, with which story-like missions could be created (SP and MP).

    Squadrons, on the other hand, has one dogfighting mode, "a capital ship battle" (PvP or PvE), and a single-player campaign... And that's it. At least it has VR-support, which is quite cool.
  • funguseater
    Hmm, how many games do we play that have "orcs", "goblins" and "Dragons" in them... they must all be plagiarized!