The concept of Pokemon with guns almost feels like it was destined to be successful. However, despite this, no one could have expected that Palworld, of all games, would turn out to be one of the biggest hits we’ve seen in recent history. Within just a week after its launch, the game had as many as 8 million players, according to a post from the official Twitter account. And that too, was just on Steam.
Despite its widespread popularity, though, the game has been marred by its own set of controversies. One of the biggest issues people have taken with the title is its resemblance to Pokemon. Fans have pointed out how many of the Pals in the game look a bit too close to their Pokemon counterparts. While some have defended the game, the similarities definitely seem apparent.
But perhaps, the thing that’s even more problematic for Palworld, is the accusation that the game’s developer used AI to make the title. While there isn’t any definitive proof for this, it seems to be a widely believed sentiment among people on social media. But here’s the thing. Despite this, the game is still continuing to do amazingly well. And if anything, this shows most regular gamers don’t care about AI being used in games. Here’s why.
AI Image Generation Was Previously Quite Poor
Generative AI in video games has been a point of contention lately. Artists feel like this emerging tech will put them out of a job. But more importantly, many have stated that the way these AI models are trained is by scraping the existing works done by actual artists. This could be counted as plagiarism, as artists are not compensated for having their works used like this.
Ubisoft literally conducting layoffs this year and last month, and they're posting AI art. Unbelievable.
What the hell is the game industry doing right now. pic.twitter.com/XVbzqcbw9D
— Reid Southen (@Rahll) October 31, 2023
Previously, clear attempts at AI usage in the video game industry have been met with a lot of criticism. Just a couple of months ago, Ubisoft made a tweet showcasing an image of Ezio Auditore made using Midjourney. Many pointed out how the character looked like he belonged in Fortnite. Artists also mentioned there were some technical faults with the image too. Like how he was wearing gun grips like knives. The tweet was soon deleted.
Artists have generally been very vocal about their dislike for AI image generation before. In many cases, the general public has been on their side. But with how Palworld has taken over Steam recently, it’s becoming apparent that this mutual understanding between artists and consumers was only temporary. At the end of the day, there’s only one thing that average gamers really care about. And that’s the final result.
The Final Result Trumps All
Palworld has been a definitive turning point in most people’s outlook for AI usage in video games. While it’s worth noting that the accusations of using AI have yet to be proven, for most consumers this is an afterthought. Because for them, the quality of the video game is all that matters at the end of the day. Previously, it was easier to get consumers and artists to align their goals.
AI art can potentially put artists out of a job. And for gamers, it meant that the quality of art in their video games was going to be poor. That’s because art generated through AI services generally has a “fake” or “low quality” vibe to it. But as AI services continue to become more and more advanced, they might eventually become indistinguishable from art made by real humans.
At that point, it’s clear that most consumers will simply not care if the art made for their video games is done by a human or an AI. As long as the end product they’re enjoying is of a high quality, gamers won’t care. Palworld proves this with how well it’s continuing to do on Steam. Even with the whole controversy of the game using AI during development, it’s one of the most successful games on the platform.
This Is Bad For Artists
For artists, this sadly might feel like a defeat. At least when it comes to winning over the general audience. Gamers and consumers can’t be expected to side with the plights of artists, even if it’s their work that’s being used for these generative models. That’s because most people, pay a price, and expect to get a good quality result for it. The moral and ethical implications of video game development are something that fans are completely unaware of. Or, in some cases, simply don’t care enough to know about it.
This is perhaps best explained by Asmongold, even if his words are a tad harsh. While posting a reaction to a video about AI art generation, popular streamer Asmongold mentioned how the “fun factor” is what matters when it comes to games. And average consumers simply don’t care about what artists feel or think about the usage of AI either.
“Artists opinions don’t matter. What matters is the opinion of the people buying the product.”
Wewwwww boy what the hell lmao https://t.co/6ILurbq0gl
— JUM🅱️O (Comms reopen March 1st) (@bromojumbo) January 24, 2024
This sentiment was met with a lot of backlash and criticism from the art community over on Twitter. Many called out Asmongold for viewing things from a purely business perspective. According to the critics, the streamer failed to take into account the moral and “correct” thing to do in such a case. But again, many others came to Asmongold’s defense too.
Its very simple to prove that he is right. Consumers in general dont give a **** as long as they get what they want.
Do people stopped going to mcdonalds because they put machines to take orders instead of employees?
Did people stop buying at groceries stores because of self…
— Mike 🍯 (@mooiiiike) January 24, 2024
The general sentiment seems to be that yes, while AI image generation becoming more and more popular in video game development is terrible for artists, it seems like a sad eventuality. Video game companies operate like any other business, and will try to maximize their profits. And if the general audience continues to give them money for AI-made games, then that’s where game development will eventually go.
The Age of AI Is Here To Stay
According to a recent survey conducted by the GDC, the use of AI in video games is definitely something that many devs are concerned about. This concern likely stems from the reliance on AI services in video games increasing over time. And again, developers and artists have highlighted ethical concerns involved in this process. But if it is the best way to go financially, they might be forced into it.
To compete with other developers using AI, just about every company will have its own models up and running. If Palworld has shown anything, it’s that the public is up for this too. They simply don’t care as much as artists would like to think they do. That said, just because generative AI is becoming more popular in gaming, doesn’t mean every artist is going to be homeless.
As pointed out by many people, generative AI could be used to supplement the work of existing artists. For example, imagine an open-world video game, where a company could previously only record 10 unique lines for their NPCs. With the help of AI, this could be increased to over a hundred with the help of AI. In this case, the voice actor won’t lose out on the work they would have gotten for those 90 dialogues. Because they simply wouldn’t have ever recorded them, had it not been for generative AI.
Palworld’s Part In All This
For most consumers, Palworld was the first game to use generative AI in a way that genuinely impressed them. To them, it was the turning point that made them realize that they don’t mind AI in video games, as long as it’s well done. That said, part of the reason behind the game’s popularity might just be that there’s simply no proof of it using AI as I previously said.
According to a report by Forbes, despite the widespread accusations seen on Twitter, there’s no definitive proof linking the game to generative AI. At most, the lead developer behind the title has shared his interest in AI generation previously. The studio has also made a game about an AI artist in the past. But none of this is proof of Palworld using AI.
In any case, Palworld’s image as a game will likely be linked with AI generation from now on, whether or not it actually used it. And the fact that gamers don’t care either way goes to show the change in the industry we’ll be undergoing in the coming years if not months. With AI services becoming more and more common, it’ll be interesting to see how things shape up.
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