Nintendo probably isn’t ever going to fulfill gamers’ fever dreams of high-powered weaponry, but an indie developer did just that on Friday with the early access launch of Palworld on PC and Xbox. And it has quickly taken the gaming world by storm.

Palworld’s creatures look like Pokémon at a glance, but the game plays more like a survival game like Ark: Survival Evolved and Minecraft—or perhaps the latest Legend of Zelda games. That blend of cute monsters and tougher play mechanics has already attracted millions of players in a matter of days.

But Palworld has been controversial for more than just its eyebrow-raising elevator pitch. If you haven’t been following the immense online chatter around the game, here’s a quick look at the myriad reasons why gamers can’t stop talking about Palworld.

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It’s “Pokémon with guns”

We have to start here. While the idea of “Pokémon with guns” is clearly appealing to many players, the concept is also repulsive to others. Some gamers hate the idea of “knockoff” pocket monsters being tossed into explicitly violent skirmishes, or to see Pokémon-esque creatures put into an unfamiliar style of gameplay.

Employees of developer Pocketpair say they’re received death threats since the game’s early access launch and massive success. It’s a depressing thought, though given how intensely territorial and reactionary some gamers can be, it’s honestly not that shocking.

It’s an enormous hit

Palworld launched in early access on Friday—and sold a million copies in about eight hours. Now it has topped five million copies sold in just over three days, according to the developer, with over 1.5 million maximum concurrent players on the PC gaming platform Steam.

Success draws attention, no doubt, spurring curious players to check it out and prompting haters to talk trash about it. Good or bad, people are definitely talking about Palworld right now.

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People think it’s AI-generated

If the claims of Palworld being a Pokémon copycat or knockoff aren’t bad enough for gamers, there’s also a pervasive rumor that the developer used generative AI tools to create the game. It’s a sore subject for many gamers, who have pushed back against the use of generative AI for various reasons—whether it’s the sometimes-poor results, the impact on human developers, or a trend of gamers grumbling about new technologies (like NFTs) being used.

This rumor is fueled in part because Pocketpair previously released a PC game called AI: Art Imposter, which is built around an image generator, plus the studio’s CEO once tweeted about how the DALL-E image generator can spit out compelling knockoff Pokémon.

Slam dunk, right? Not so fast. While the AI narrative has quickly taken hold, Forbes points out that “there is no conclusive proof of generative AI in design or assets of the game at this point.” Likewise, many of the viral tweets about the game’s alleged generative AI use have been tagged with community notes mentioning much the same.

It’s having tech issues

Early access games from small indie studios don’t often find this huge of an audience within a matter of days, but Palworld has faced just that. “Early access” means that it’s presented as an incomplete game—a work in progress, essentially. But that message can get muddled when millions of people are playing and talking about it at the same time.

Players have noticed bugs and other technical issues in the game, plus the servers have struggled to keep up with demand in these early days. On top of that, the Xbox version of the game is missing some features from the PC release at this point, which has unsurprisingly led to further complaints.

There's a Pokémon mod

Of course there is. YouTuber ToastedShoes has teased a user-created mod for Palworld that transforms the Pokémon-esque creatures and characters into actual sights from the massively popular franchise. We're sure Nintendo won't be thrilled about this development, but what can we say? It looks like a blast.

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Edited by Ryan Ozawa.

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