Palworld by Japanese studio Pocketpair released into early access on PC and Xbox on Friday, and immediately became a breakout success, with its creator claiming 2 million sales in 24 hours.
The huge launch exposure inevitably reignited discourse that has followed Palworld since its announcement, around its character designs’ apparent similarities to Pokémon.
Although the gameplay of Palworld is closer to survival games like Ark and Rust than Game Freak’s series, many social media users have noted the obvious influences its character designs have taken from the Nintendo series.
Following Palworld’s release on Friday, some X users collated perceived similarities between Palworld’s ‘Pals’ and Pokémon.
“It’s not even subtle about its rip offs, how much else has it stolen?” wrote one user. Another added: “I want to like Palworld, but I don’t know if I can support running existing Pokemon through a fusor and passing them off as ‘new’ IP”.
since I'm bored as hell, I'm gonna be making a thread of this i think... Palworld design analysis trying to spot every pokemon they jumbled together pic.twitter.com/Ch9jcx5hCI— onion_mu (@onion_mu) January 18, 2024
The situation is further muddled in the eyes of some by Pocketpair’s historical relationship with generative AI tools. Artist Zaytri noted on X that one of its previous titles was ‘AI: Art Imposter’, a game which literally utilises an AI image generator as its core mechanic.
Galarian Meowth face pic.twitter.com/fc6juxyEe9— Barbie-Élite4 (@Barbie_E4) January 18, 2024
The user also highlighted multiple historical X posts by Pocketpair’s CEO Takuro Mizobe, in which he appeared to praise the potential of AI image generators for content creation.
The use of generative AI is a significant pressure point in many creative industries, including video games, with tools such as Midjourney being criticised by some who perceive them as replacing professional artists and using their work without permission for their training set.
Earlier this month, an ongoing lawsuit against Midjourney, Stability AI, and DeviantArt listed thousands of artist names that plaintiffs allege have had their artwork scraped to train them.
One of the Pocketpair CEO’s X posts from 2022 discussed how he believed generative AI tools could one day be sophisticated enough to avoid copyright issues. In another potentially more damning post from 2021, Mizobe showed how AI could be used to generate new Pokémon designs.
This does not, of course, prove that any of the designs in Palworld were made with the help of AI. However, some believe that if this was indeed the case, it could explain the similarities with the game’s designs, especially since Palworld was made by a mostly inexperienced team, many of whom were amateurs before being hired (one team member, Mizobe has claimed, was even previously working in a convenience store).
Palworld is out now for Xbox Series X/S and PC. You can download the latest Palworld Trainer and cheats for free from WeMod.
here's the CEO of Pocketpair talking about using AI to bypass copyright, generating fakemons with it, calling AI: Art Imposter a real-time image generation game, and being excited for games powered by GPT-4 pic.twitter.com/79xwZr0yEI— Zaytri 🍉 FREE PALESTINE (@imZaytri) January 19, 2024
In a blog post published this week, the CEO even claimed that Palworld’s 100 character concepts were made mostly by a single graduate student.
“She was a new graduate and had applied to nearly 100 companies, but failed them all,” he wrote. “And she is now drawing most of the characters in Palworld.”
Elsewhere in the post, Mizobe discusses how Pocketpair’s previous game, Craftopia, was built mostly using off-the-shelf assets and how, when it started work on Palworld, the company had no animation staff.
“It’s truly a miracle that Pal World was born, that it was completed, and that it turned out to be such a fun game,” he wrote.
AIというフィルターを通したら、あくまで特定の何かの画像でない事が多いから、著作権問題は解決するのかも？と思ってたら、実際世の中はその方向に進んでいて驚いてる— Takuro Mizobe | Craftopia, Palworld (@urokuta_ja) November 29, 2022
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