Lately, if you’ve been in any gaming space you’ve probably seen varying amounts of praise, criticism and discourse for the new crafting-survival game Palworld. But it’s undeniable that this take on the genre has been massively successful, selling over eight million copies, and being one of the top played games on Steam.
Japanese mobile developer Klabs has just announced a partnership with Palworld creators Pocket Pair. The studio behind the popular Love Live mobile gaming adaptations, Bleach: Brave Souls, Captain Tsubasa and more, was recently in the news for the shuttering of its latest title in the Love Live series…in the same breath they had announced its global release. We noted how weird it was to be putting out a statement announcing a game’s release and its closure at the same time.
However, it now seems they might not have been making such a bizarre decision after all. With this latest partnership, it could be that we’re going to see Pocket Pair getting the chance to bring a game inspired by, or a direct port of, Palworld to mobile. Which, being the biggest gaming platform on the planet, could result in the already surprisingly successful studio finding even greater success.
Of course, for some, this might be the moment they start rolling their eyes…
Rip-off or inspiration?
Now, to quickly address the topic of rip-offs and clones. For someone covering mobile games, this is probably going to come across as facetious. After all, mobile does tend to be criticised for being flooded with clones; even if that’s not necessarily true, especially if you look at many of the more innovative games out there. It’s just that when you have a massive platform filled with tons of new games, you’re sure to see tons of new, bad actors – just look at Steam and Unity asset flips. We’d argue this is more due to the visibility and ease of access for mobile, many of these clones are because of, rather than the source of, mobile’s success. We see just as many original games as we do clones, but sadly they get overshadowed due to the egregious nature of some of these derivative games.
Palworld has equally received a lot of flak around originality and inspiration, even accusations of using AI for portions of the game’s texture work, although evidence for that has been a bit flaky. I’m not about to say the game doesn’t take obvious cues from franchises like Pokemon and Digimon, as well as mechanical influence from BotW. After all, most of the appeal is seeing the same sort of cutesy characters existing alongside completely out-of-context things like guns, machinery and forced labour.
However, I’d argue that people criticising Palworld are being a bit unfair because the game does have one crucial aspect which changes it from being a ‘rip-off’ to merely inspired by these other franchises. And that aspect is originality. If Pal World was just a monster collection game where you pit these creatures against one another then…yes I’d see the point. But when the key point of the game is basically a corruption of this usually cutesy, kid-friendly premise, I think allowances should be made for its transformative nature.
Pocket Pair also get more than their fair share of criticism for the ‘derivative’ nature of one of their earlier games, Craftopia. And yes, while there are a lot of cues being taken from games like Breath of the Wild, we should also remember that another mega-hit, Genshin Impact, also got the same criticism when it first emerged. I think the truth’s somewhere in the middle, that a lot of smaller studios can start off emulating things they’re fans of and cribbing bits of design from them. But as time goes on they start applying original ideas to make something wholly different, such is the case with Palworld. And it’d be a shame to dismiss a company like Pocket Pair which has managed to find this kind of success before seeing what they can do with more funding and a partnership with a studio that can support them.
That all being said, I still think survival-crafting has been done to death. But then that’s my own opinion.
Back to the topic at hand…
So, Palworld on mobile? Well, quite possibly. After all with the massive success it’s seen, Klabs are more than likely angling to replicate that success on mobile. Bringing Palworld to an even more widely-used platform would likely equal even bigger sales and financial success as well as exposing what some are calling a nascent new IP to an even wider audience.
But don’t get your hopes up for a quick turnaround, as Pal World was quite obviously made with PC and console in mind. We did discuss the move towards more graphically intensive games in our last piece discussing the upcoming release of Death Stranding, but even a 1-to-1 port would need at least a few months or a year of further development. Not only that but being designed control and gameplay-wise for PC and console makes adapting it for mobile not as straightforward as you might think.
What we’re most likely to see is a bespoke title made for mobile, as the Klab statement indicates the two companies are working on a new standalone game. Although, with the Palworld setting garnering massive amounts of publicity and notoriety, it’s more than likely that it’ll still form a core part of this new game. Given the recent news of Nintendo ‘looking into’ the designs of the Pal roster this would be a chance for Palworld developers Pocket Pair to go over their designs and change them from being more evocative of the existing Pocket Monster roster to being something a bit more lawsuit-friendly.
Certainly, while some may have scoffed at the idea of Palworld being a new IP in the making, this partnership with Klabs is a pretty big step forward. Whatever the results of their partnership, short of it dissolving, it will be interesting to see just what comes out of it…