Palworld feels like gaming’s ultimate troll. It’s a troll on the concepts of IP and copyright as it so brazenly mimics Pokémon with its creature design. And it’s a troll on Pokémon fans, given it’s really just yet another tree-bashing survival game. But oh boy, has it been a success, and as Nintendo and The Pokémon Company continue not to sue it into space, developer Pocketpair is now looking to expand into running an entire merchandized franchise. Toys are coming! Surely the biggest troll yet?

Teaming up with Sony Music Entertainment, Japanese developer Pocketpair has created a new company called Palworld Entertainment, Inc. Described as “the company responsible for the licensing business of ‘Palworld’,” the purpose is (prepare for corporate bollocks) “accelerating the multifaceted global development of Palworld and its further expansion!” In other words, plushies and shit.

It is, if anything, an incredibly slow response to the enormous success of the game, that back in January saw an eye-watering 2.1 million people playing the game at once, making it the second-most popular game on Steam, ever.

Six months on, that number is now a tremendously more modest 90k, but still an impressive tail at a point where most games have faded into the background. Of course, there’s a good chance the slowness of this reaction could have been influenced by the then-presumed need to prepare for Nintendo’s notoriously furious lawyers. However, half a year later, there’s not been a peep, with Pocketpair confirming as much to former Kotaku EiC Stephen Totilo’s Game File newsletter. Presumably this created enough confidence that the game was in the clear, such that console rival Sony would be prepared to get involved, albeit through an entirely different arm of the company.

And yet, well, we can all pretend that Palworld isn’t unbelievably obviously copying famous Pokémon, but come on. Releasing merch based on these animals is surely going to make the Big N’s wrath more likely? Yet, merchandize they shall, the new company teaming up with Japanese store Aniplex, for as-yet-unannounced products. They will be available “later on.”

It’s going to be interesting. I genuinely don’t understand how Nintendo will be able to continue sitting on its hands should Palworld Entertainment start selling a Bristla plushie on a store shelf next to one of Pokémon’s Bellossom. Or Jormuntide alongside Gyarados. Let alone the most infamous Grizzbolt and the near-identical Electabuzz. But clearly Sony Music and Pocketpair feel sure it’s all legally sound.

A bunch of comparisons of Pals and Pokemon.

Image: The Pokémon Company / Palworld Wiki / Kotaku

Well, good luck to all involved. Clearly a lot of people are betting big that this is going to work out fine.


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