Palworld, “The Pokémon with weapons”: Video game became a phenomenon overnight

Launched in early access on Friday, January 19th, Palworld, aka “the Pokémon with weapons”, is making a real splash on Steam. More than a million players are connecting at the same time since the weekend.

More than 1.2 million: that’s the number of players who were connected at the same time to Palworld on Sunday, January 21st, via Steam (according to SteamCharts). In history, only one paying game has done better (and it became free): PUBG. Big names like Cyberpunk 2077 (1,054,388), Hogwarts Legacy (879,308), and Baldur’s Gate 3 (875,343) must bow before what looks like a Pokémon copy from Wish.

This record attendance, which does not take into account the figures achieved on Xbox consoles or via Xbox Game Pass, can be explained by the amazing first sales figures. In a tweet published on January 21st, the developers congratulate themselves for having sold more than 4 million copies in three days. Here we are talking about a game that is only available in early access (i.e. it is far from finished), created by a studio with a dubious reputation.

Where does the surprise success of Palworld come from?

In recent years, the media exposure of Palworld has been built on cruel and irreverent trailers. We see cute creatures, whose design recalls Pokémon, being mistreated and exploited. Very quickly, Palworld obtained a nickname: the “Pokémon with weapons”. The images show inspirations from all over: there’s a bit of Fortnite, a bit of Zelda. All of it in the service of a survival experience reminiscent of Ark. On paper, nothing seemed to be going right for Palworld.

This blazing start can first be explained by the very nature of the project. By openly drawing inspiration from Pokémon (a popular, exclusive license, and sometimes accused of resting on its laurels) to offer gameplay partly centered on capture, Palworld hits the mark. This is very well summed up by Dinga Bakaba, creative director of Arkane Lyon: “At the end, this game is at the center of an improbable Venn diagram:

  • People who like Pokémon: ‘Cool, Pokémon with weapons’
  • People who don’t like Pokémon: ‘Cool, Pokémon with weapons’
  • People who like survival games: ‘A survival game!'”

The most popular game on Twitch

Pocketpair also hit the mark by giving streamers the opportunity to showcase the game early. They were even invited to do so: on the official page, you can see the message “Creator Review Code Applications” displayed front and center. Sunday night, around 11 pm, the game had nearly 300,000 live views on Twitch. Popular channels like Wankil Studio (over 11,000 viewers), Locklear (over 9,000), and Gotaga (over 8,000) were off the charts. In recent days, Palworld has therefore benefited from immense support from creators who have influence, knowing that the game lends itself rather well to a spectacle with its violence tinged with black humor. The combo is perfect for sowing the seeds of success: a game with obvious streaming potential + popular streamers who show it off.

Un dimanche soir sur Twitch // Source : Maxime Claudel pour Numerama

Nevertheless, we wonder how Pocketpair will manage such a success, now that Palworld has become a phenomenon. There is really a lot to do for the title to live up to such enthusiasm (Numerama has played a good ten hours). And there is as if the shadow of a doubt: Craftopia, the studio’s other big game, is still in early access even though it was released in 2020. We also notice some big similarities between the two titles (Craftopia leans a little more towards Zelda, but there are mechanics and visual assets in common). It is also a studio that claims to have used AI to create a game: AI: Art Impostor, also in early access since 2022. In short, Pocketpair inspires anything but trust. Behind the buzz, now we will have to take responsibility.

Palworld // Source : Capture d'écran

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