Is the new viral video game Palworld a Pokémon ripoff?

Gotta shoot ‘em all?

Is the new viral video game Palworld a Pokémon ripoff?
Source: Pocket Pair

Gotta shoot ‘em all? Video game maker Pocket Pair has created the ideal video game, bringing together some of the most popular genres – shooter, survival and multiplayer – while also tapping into the vast Pokémon fanbase with what some are calling lookalikes in its viral new video game, Palworld. But the game, which many refer to as “Pokémon with guns,” has sparked outrage among fans of Japan’s legendary monster franchise for what they see as similarities between the Pals and Pokémon characters.

Gamers have taken to social media to debate these similarities, with Pocket Pair CEO Takuro Mizobe even stating on X that developers at the company are receiving “slanderous comments against our artists” and “tweets that appear to be death threats.”

In Palworld, players work together to capture some pretty cute monsters, build bases and survive the elements in a cartoon fantasy world. That sounds a little too familiar to some gamers who love the Pokémon franchise. But Pokémon games, which are more kid-friendly, don’t have guns – something that seems to be drawing in the fans of Palworld’s darker side.

Even though the Pokémon brand is still super popular, its latest games have earned mixed reviews, with some rated at 6 or 7 out of 10 and one reviewer describing them as “feeling unfinished,” according to Bloomberg.  

Last week, Pocket Pair announced on X that 8 million copies of Palworld were sold in less than six days. The game is available on Microsoft’s Xbox and has made it to the top slots on its Game Pass subscription service. On the popular video-game marketplace, Steam, it surpassed 2 million concurrent players at one point pushing it to No.1 in the current standings. As of the time of writing, it was still the top-selling and top-played game on the platform.

“Of course, it’s a well-made game, and the mechanics play a role, but nobody would talk about this game like they are right now if the designs weren’t as reminiscent of Pokémon,” says Serkan Toto of Japanese consultancy Kantan Games. “If you changed the characters, the game would be far away from the success we’re seeing.”

Founding attorney at Odin Law & Media, Brandon Huffman, and his colleague, Connor Richards, told Bloomberg that, while the game may have gotten inspiration from Pokémon, there’s already a precedent for adopting colleagues’ ideas when it comes to battle royale and survival genres. “None of them give you the impression that they’re supposed to be Pokémon,” says Richards about Palworld, suggesting that Pocket Pair doesn’t have anything to worry about, legally speaking.

But The Pokémon Company released a statement on Thursday after being inundated with questions and requests for comments, without directly naming Palworld, saying, “We intend to investigate and take appropriate measures to address any acts that infringe on intellectual property rights related to the Pokémon.”