Steam [1,733 articles]” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/platforms/pc/steam/”>Steam’s newest hit survival game, Palworld” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/games/palworld/”>Palworld, has been accused of plagiarising designs from Pokémon video games [700 articles]” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/games/pokemon/”>Pokémon, as social media users negatively highlight its creator’s historical association with generative AI tools.
Palworld by Japanese studio Pocketpair released into early access on PC [8,694 articles]” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/platforms/pc/”>PC and Xbox [7,891 articles]” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/platforms/xbox/”>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 [289 articles]” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/companies/game-freak/”>Game Freak’s series, many social media users have noted the obvious influences its character designs have taken from the Nintendo [4,213 articles]” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/platforms/nintendo/”>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”.
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.
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.
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 Pocketpair was made by a mostly inexperienced team, some of which were amateurs or working in convenience stores.
In a blog post published this week, CEO Mizobe 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.
VGC has asked Pocketpair for comment on this story.
Palworld is described by its creator as an “action-adventure survival game” in which players can battle and capture Pals in order to use them for base building, traversal, and combat.
The accusations of plagiarism around some of its character designs doesn’t appear to have bothered players much, as at the time of publishing Palworld has very positive reviews on Steam.
In Europe, the EU is moving to regulate generative AI, so that companies would need to disclose any copyrighted data used for training. And just last week, Valve changed the rules around games containing AI-generated assets on Steam, so that developers would need to disclose its use clearly.