Palworld Accused of Plagiarising Pokémon as Game Sells 6 Million Copies, Pocketpair CEO Responds

Palworld, the viral hit action-adventure survival title from Japanese developers Pocketpair, has taken the gaming industry by storm, climbing to the top of Steam charts and selling six million copies in just four days of release. But as the game’s player count balloons, it has found itself embroiled in a plagiarism controversy, with many on the Internet pointing out alleged similarities between the designs of Palworld’s creatures and those in popular Pokémon games. A user on social media platform X has gone as far as to compare in-game 3D models from both Palworld and Pokémon, claiming evidence of outright plagiarism.

Palworld features Pokémon-style animals, or Pals, that can be captured and utilised for combat, traversal and base building in the game’s open world. Gamers and commentators have even called the new survival title from Pocketpair “Pokémon with Guns.” Some, however, have gone beyond the claims of Palworld’s creatures being inspired by or satirising cute pocket monsters from the iconic Game Freak franchise and levelled accusations of plagiarising in-game assets.

On Sunday, X user @byofrog posted side-by-side mesh comparisons for character models from both Palworld and Pokémon games, first highlighting the similarities between a creature from the newly released game and the Cinderace model from Pokémon Sword and Shield. The user went on to post several other side-by-side comparisons, sparking more copycat accusations against Pocketpair. Since Palworld’s January 19 early access release, gamers and game developers have engaged in intense discourse over the game’s perceived Pokémon inspirations, with some alleging plagiarism and others defending the developers.

A former game designer at Blizzard, Eric Covington, quoted one of @byofrog’s comparison posts and claimed that the close similarity seen between character models couldn’t be accidental. “To “accidentally” create a complex model mesh with so near-exact proportions is practically impossible. To repeat that improbability throughout your roster… doesn’t pass the sniff test,” he said in a post on X. Others, meanwhile, were more cautious in their judgment, claiming the game included enough original ideas. Dinga Bakaba, studio/co-creative director at Arkane Lyon, defended Palworld in a series of posts on X, saying the game effectively mixed and matched gameplay concepts from popular games like Pokémon, Fortnite, Ark: Survival Evolved and Rust. “As a game designer, I’m baffled that some say this is lazy. Even if you copy an idea from another game you can just copy/paste it. Even doing a sequel to your own game with the same programmer in a new engine, it takes crazy amount of time to develop a viable V2.0 of a mechanic,” Bakaba said in one of his posts.

X user @byofrog also went on to qualify his posts comparing Palworld and Pokémon in a later post, saying the 3D models from the two games weren’t identical, despite close resemblances. “I want to emphasize that while some elements are similar these meshes are not literally “exact” copies of each other,” they said.

Meanwhile, game director and Pocketpair CEO Takuro Mizobe responded to the plagiarism accusations on X Monday, claiming the team had received what appeared to be death threats on the socil media platform. “I have received a variety of opinions regarding Palworld, but all productions related to Palworld are supervised by multiple people, including myself, and I am responsible for the production,” Mizobe said in his post (translated from Japanese). “I would appreciate it if you would refrain from slandering the artists involved in Palworld.”

Amid all the noise, Pocketpair confirmed Tuesday that Palworld had sold six million copies in just four days, with its all-time peak player count surpassing 1.7 million. The studio also said that it was prioritising issuing fixes for bugs and other issues reported by Palworld players. At the time of writing, Palworld has hit the third-highest all-time peak concurrent players in Steam history, surpassing Lost Ark and Dota 2. Palworld is also currently the most played title on Steam with almost double the player count of Counter Strike 2.

What are the most exciting titles that gamers can look forward to in 2023? We discuss some of our favourites on the latest episode of Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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