New “Pokémon with Guns” Game Palworld is a Hit

Sometimes, it’s the simplest concepts that prove the most popular. Over the past few days, the latest example of this is “Pokémon with guns.” That phrase is being used to describe Palworld, a new action survival video game from Japanese game developer Pocketpair. Palworld drops you into an open-world area called Palpagos Islands,  where you must capture (but not catch) small creatures called Pals and then put them to work for you. The Pals help you scavenge, build bases, and kill enemies with crafted weapons like machine guns. In other words, it lives up to its assigned premise, with enough differences to keep the copyright lawyers at bay.

Palworld sounds silly, but the folks at Pocketpair are laughing all the way to the bank because the indie game is a hit. In its first four days, Palworld – which was released as an early-access game and will stay that way for a year – sold over six million copies on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC, and as of this writing, its peak concurrent user number on Steam is over 1.85 million, putting it ahead of Counter-Strike and surpassing popular games like Elden Ring and Cyberpunk 2077. Seemingly everyone is playing this game, and they appear to be having a lot of fun.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Pocketpair, though. Modder Toasted Shoes was planning to add Pokémon character Ash and some of the Pokémon themselves  to Palworld, which he teased in a tweet. Nintendo, who make the Pokémon video games, descended on him immediately, and to avoid “legal troubles,” he’s scrapped the mod. This isn’t Pocketpair’s fault, but it doesn’t help their argument that Palworld is not a Pokémon ripoff. (They claim it’s more closely related to games like Ark: Survival Evolved, Rust, and Dragon Quest.) Palworld has also experienced server outages that have disrupted gameplay, and because of the accusations of copying Pokémon, Pocketpair employees claim they have received death threats.

But these must be minor hiccups compared to Palworld’s early numbers, which could grow as word spreads and the game improves with time. The game’s fans – and with those sales, there must be a lot of them – don’t seem to think it’s simply “Pokémon with guns,” or they’re having too much fun to care. We’ll see how long Pocketpair can keep this up, or even if they’ve got a potential franchise on their hands. (Can Palworld in Space be far off?) Az from Heel vs. Babyface (who has been livestreaming the game) put it best:

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