Palworld May Be A Pokemon Rip-Off, But It Gave Fans What Nintendo Couldn’t In Years

Can taking inspiration cross the limits of good taste?

Story Highlights

  • Palworld is an open-world survival game with tamable creatures known as Pals.
  • The game is an overnight sensation that’s taken the world by storm with over 7 million units sold.
  • Its success has brought on accusations of plagiarism from Pokemon fans.

If you keep up with the world of video games, then chances are high that you might have at the very least heard of the phenomenon that is Palworld. And yes this is the correct choice of word here because as of the time of writing, the game has sold well over 7 million copies and it isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.

What started back in 2021 as a frankly comical little trailer for a survival game aptly dubbed by the community as “Pokemon With Guns,” is now a fully-fledged game and it’s taken the world by storm, making headlines left and right and has even become one of the most-played games on Steam in a span of 3 days.

Such tremendous fame has also brought with it a wave of criticism and accusations, mainly directed at what many perceive as flagrant plagiarism on the part of the developers. But what’s the real truth of the matter, and does it even matter if the devs have borrowed more than what is in good taste? Let’s discuss.

Is Palworld A Pokemon Rip-Off?

If you wade into any warfront discussing this particular issue, you can find arguments for both why Palworld is and isn’t a rip-off. Both sides have valid arguments to be made and I’m sure that the discourse machine will keep on churning for months if not years to come.

We’re not here to take either side, but there is a very diplomatic and reasonable point to be made here by people who have played the game themselves or even watched any footage of it for that matter. In a world of extremes, this might not be what most people want to hear, but it’s still something worth talking about.

And that point is that Palworld very obviously borrows heavily from the Pokemon games, oftentimes even unashamedly appropriating designs, color palettes, and even straight-up imposing body parts onto new creatures. But, and this is a big but, it does so within the limits of what is legally allowed.

Now, is all of this in poor taste? Absolutely. Are Pokemon fans allowed to be at least a little bit annoyed that this game is “Borrowing” so heavily from a franchise so near and dear to their hearts? Also yes. And finally, does this make Palworld kind of a rip-off? I mean, yeah.

The Devs Are Not Bothered

But once again, being a rip-off of a significantly more popular franchise does not make what the devs are doing illegal. And I don’t believe that a studio would invest so much time and effort into making a game like this without at least doing a little bit of futureproofing.

In an interview with Japanese website AUTOMATON, Pocket Pair CEO Takuro Mizobe clarified that their game had cleared legal reviews and that no action had been taken against them so far. And fair enough, no action has been taken by Nintendo of all companies, who as we all know are always itching to call their lawyers.

A Lot of Pals Are Very Similar To Pokemon.

Takuro-san has even gone so far as to say that he’s not into “Originality,” according to an interview he gave to WIRED Japan in 2022, and that he’d much rather chase trends instead. I mean fair enough, his studio’s next game Never Grave already looks way too much like indie darling Hollow Knight, but at least he’s self-aware.

What’s even funnier is that the Palworld was set to receive a Pokemon-themed mod, and that is under threat from Nintendo while the actual game is not. The creator of the mod, ToastedShoes, had this to say just a day after they made the initial announcement about the mod.

So yeah I think it’s safe to assume that if Nintendo has not deployed their assassins to take down Palworld yet, the devs might have covered their tracks adequately. The only real threats here are the death threats being sent to the devs following the game’s success, which again, is not helping anyone make a point.

Does It Matter If The Game Is A Rip-Off?

Now the next question that begs to be asked is; does it really matter that Palworld is a rip-off? I know it can be hard for many to look past the initial visuals, which again, very strongly borrow designs and aesthetics from the Pokemon games.

I understand why this whole situation leaves a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth, and I get why people are so annoyed at Palworld. But at the same time, Nintendo is a company that has proven time and time again that they do not care about their fans, and by extension fan projects based on their properties.

Few video game companies are as notoriously litigious as them, and if they had any real cause for going after Palworld, they would have already. And not to sound like I’m ever gonna take a corporation’s side on this matter, but if Nintendo doesn’t care, why are so many people up in arms?

The Game Has Well Over A Million Concurrent Players.

If Palworld itself is fun, and it seems to be, can we not look past the admittedly gimmicky visuals? It’s in its infancy stage right now and is only going to grow and change in the coming months and may hopefully evolve, no pun intended, into its own unique thing. The creatures will always look the same, but we can’t win ’em all.

People are really enjoying the game so far. It’s not every day that a newly released early-access title climbs to the top of the Steam Charts and manages to maintain 1.2 million concurrent players. There’s something here that a lot of critics seem to be ignoring.

Survival crafting games have always been super popular on Steam, and are more often than not propelled to great heights when YouTube and Twitch creators join the fray and expose them to millions of new gamers. Just look at Ark: Survival Evolved or Sons of The Forest for some examples of this.

Palworld Gave Fans What Nintendo Wouldn’t

So when the developers at Pocket Pair had the idea to meld together Ark and Pokemon to create a love child of the two, it was guaranteed for greatness. I’ve managed to put in around a dozen or so hours myself, and I can confirm that it has the makings of something I can see myself playing with friends for months on end.

Its combination of an open-world environment, base-building, survival elements, monster taming, and extensive breeding mechanics, all but guarantee a good time. And the tech tree alone is so long, that it by itself will keep me hooked for a long time.

Palworld Is A Really Good Time.

Another factor for why Palworld has found so much success, and one many people may be overlooking, is that Pokemon fans have been asking for something new and interesting for decades now, and Nintendo has always ignored these requests.

The closest we’ve come to something new and unique in the series was 2022’s Pokémon Legends: Arceus, and it quickly went on to become one of the best-selling games on the Switch. It’s a testament to how desperate people are for something new that they’ve latched onto Palworld so hard.

Fans have also been asking for a cooperative game in the universe for a long time now, and when Nintendo refuses to deliver, smaller games like TemTem, and now Palworld, step in to satisfy the demand. And wouldn’t you know it, they immediately find success.

At the end of the day, no matter how gimmicky or buggy it may be right now, Palworld is just fun to play with friends. I’ve gotten over my initial annoyance with it, as have millions of others, and it looks like the game has a long life in front of it.

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Amama Farrukh is a News Reporter on eXputer who’s been passionate about playing and writing about games since an early age. As a die-hard God of War fan, she’s really into gory hack-and-slash titles that get her adrenaline pumping. She’s got a bachelor's in Business Administration and several years of experience reporting on the gaming industry. Experience: 3+ Years || Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration || Previously worked as a Freelancer || Published 100+ News Stories

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