Palworld launched on January 19, and since then has already sold more than six million copies, according to developer Pocketpair. It's logged more than a million concurrent players on Steam alone, with over 300,000 viewers watching Palworld streams on Twitch.

In other words, this PC and Xbox indie game is an enormous smash. A game hasn’t captured this much attention this quickly since the battle royale shooter craze of 2017, when PUBG and Fortnite collectively captured worldwide attention.

And that’s because it’s basically Pokémon—but with guns.

Palworld is an open-world survival game where players roam terrain, capture colorful “Pals,” harvest materials, and build bases where they can put their pals to work as… let’s call them “indentured servants.” It immediately grabbed the attention of Pokémon fans because, well, it’s basically Pokémon—but with guns, cannibalism, and indentured servitude.


The game has garnered a ton of controversy, with some players insisting that a Nintendo lawsuit is surely inevitable. And Nintendo is definitely paying attention. While the gaming giant hasn't filed any suits against the game’s creators, it did file a takedown strike against a popular streamer who created a Palworld mod that lets people use actual Pokémon in the game.

In crypto, we call this a vampire attack. Palworld has “vampire attacked” Nintendo’s player base by scratching an itch that Pokémon itself hasn’t been able to scratch for its fans.

Apparently, it’s the itch of strapping an RPG to your water-type Pokémon.  

After launching, Uniswap was the main on-chain destination for swapping your tokens, and the decentralized exchange (DEX) dominated the market. Their community wanted a token, but Uniswap was hesitant to give it to them.


Enter SushiSwap. It saw the demand for a decentralized exchange with a token, and filled it. The team copy-pasted the Uniswap code base, launched a token, and airdropped that to Uniswap users—a vampire attack. For a while, it worked. SushiSwap saw a large uptick in users who were more interested in using a DEX that would pay them to use it. 

Palworld has essentially done the same thing. Many people, myself included, have grown up with the Pokémon franchise—I have played every Pokémon game ever made. As we’ve grown older, we’ve hoped for the Pokémon brand to grow with us. And they’ve tried, but Nintendo is notoriously bad at listening to the desires of its fans. It’s still mostly a winning formula for Nintendo, but I’m looking for something more too.

Palworld has taken a demand that Pokémon players didn’t realize they had—the demand for a more adult, unhinged version of the monster-catching experience—and filled it. When I watch Twitch streams of people playing Palworld, half the time they even call the creatures they’re capturing Pokémon instead of Pals.

While some gamers may feel a hesitance to play Palworld out of a loyalty to Nintendo, Palworld’s move to essentially deploy a hard fork of Pokémon reminds me of why I love the crypto industry so much.

In a permissionless industry, people tend to value the quality of the product over a brand's equity. It’s interesting to see game developers take a similar approach to winning over players, just as token-powered protocols do with speculators.

Edited by Andrew Hayward

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