Over 700% surge in Palworld searches signals upbeat 2024 for video game industry.

Over 700% surge in Palworld searches signals upbeat 2024 for video game industry.

Palworld searches soar by over 700% as the video game market anticipates a strong recovery in 2024

  • Palworld sees a 708% search increase and 4 million sales in days at the start of 2024.
  • Palworld‘s launch brings rapid success and AI debates.
  • The video game industry eyes growth in 2024 driven by console sales.

Palworld is really making waves – big time. Searches for ‘Palworld‘ skyrocketed by 708% during the first weekend after it launched worldwide.

Palworld‘s rise in popularity

On release, Palworld quickly achieved a milestone by selling 4 million copies within the first three days, alongside reaching a peak of 1.29 million concurrent players on Steam. This prompted an in-depth analysis of its rapid online popularity growth.

Gaminggadgets.de conducted research on Google Trends data over the past month, uncovering a significant spike in searches for ‘Palworld‘ right after its launch on January 19, 2024, and during the first weekend it was accessible to the public.

The search interest for ‘Palworld‘ soared by 708% in just three days and is expected to continue its upward trend over the next week, driven by the extensive coverage it’s getting on streaming platforms such as Twitch.

TwitchTracker data illustrates this trend, showing that Palworld livestreams attracted a peak viewership of 432,308 on the platform on launch day, with an average of 123,047 viewers over the past seven days.

Developed by Pocketpair, Palworld is an action-adventure survival game set in an expansive world filled with animal-like creatures called ‘Pals.’ Players engage in battles, capture Pals, and utilize them for various activities, including base building, moving around, and fighting.

A representative from Gaminggadgets.de commented, “It is incredible to see just how quickly the player base for Palworld has grown in such a short period of time. Influences from Pokémon, Ark: Survival, and a multitude of recent open-world games are evident throughout its gameplay and general design, so it is likely drawing attention from all over the place.

The sudden exposure to it from popular channels on Twitch and YouTube, with some receiving early access to show off gameplay ahead of its public release, has surely helped its successful debut. It will be interesting to see whether Palworld can maintain these high player counts in the upcoming weeks or whether it will fade in popularity as the trend comes to an end.”

Google Trends data for Palworld in 2024.

Google Trends data.

Controversy and success: the Palworld phenomenon at the start of 2024

Recently, Palworld has been embroiled in controversy due to its similarities with Pokémon, particularly regarding AI usage. This controversy has reignited concerns over deceptive AI practices. Allegations of plagiarism in Palworld‘s character designs, which closely resemble Pokémon characters, have sparked debates on social media, with users scrutinizing Pocketpair’s history with generative AI tools.

Despite these controversies, Palworld achieved impressive success in early 2024, selling 2 million copies within the first 24 hours of its early access release on PC and Xbox. However, this success has also brought renewed attention to the similarities between Palworld‘s ‘Pals’ and Pokémon characters.

Key takeaways:

  • Takuro Mizobe, Palworld‘s director and CEO of Pocketpair, issued a statement urging an end to online abuse towards the game’s artists.
  • In the same statement, Mizobe acknowledged the influence and inspiration from Pokémon.
  • The controversy is further fueled by Pocketpair’s previous engagement with generative AI tools.

“AI usage continues to draw scrutiny, raised attention, and consumers eager to point out each and every perceived act of deceptions,” states Chelsea Alves, a consultant at UNmiss. “This has been made evident by the recent AI misuse callouts from other renowned businesses such as Sports Illustrated and the New York Times lawsuit against OpenAI. It’s becoming more clear than ever before that companies must become attuned to the needs and desires of consumers around AI usage to avoid negative media attention.”

Pocketpair has previously faced criticism for using generative AI tools in its earlier game, AI: Art Imposter, which heavily relied on an AI image generator. Historical posts by Mizobe, where he lauded the potential of AI image generators for content creation and discussed using AI to generate Pokémon designs, have added to the speculation.

While these posts don’t confirm the use of AI in Palworld‘s designs, they have fueled speculation, particularly considering the relatively inexperienced team behind Palworld, some of whom were just beginning their careers before joining the project.

Despite the plagiarism accusations, Palworld, billed as an “action-adventure survival game,” has garnered very positive reviews on Steam. Players engage in battles and capture “Pals” for various activities, including base building and combat.

In the context of the EU’s move to regulate generative AI in Europe and Valve’s recent policy change on disclosing AI-generated assets on Steam, the gaming industry faces increasing pressure to judiciously use AI amid growing concerns about such technologies.

The video game industry will continue to evolve

The video game industry is set for a rebound in 2024, bolstered by robust console sales, despite recent setbacks, including the controversies surrounding Palworld and the unfortunate layoff announcement from Riot Games. Reuters, citing a research report from NewZoo, predicts a promising upturn for the global video-game market, fueled by strong sales from Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation 5 consoles.

This year, the market is poised to expand by 2.8%, reaching a total value of US$189.3 billion. This growth follows a modest increase of around 0.6% last year, signaling an end to the post-Covid downturn that led to job cuts across various video-game companies, according to NewZoo‘s analysis.

The gaming market, which experienced a surge during the pandemic, witnessed a 4.3% decline in 2022. An earlier report by NewZoo attributed this downturn to high interest rates, persistent inflation, and a scarcity of major game releases, all of which impacted gamers’ spending.

However, the recovery seen in 2023 was largely driven by the launch of several major titles. Notable releases included Electronic Arts’ Star Wars Jedi: Survivor and the FC 24 football game, along with Hogwarts Legacy from Warner Bros. Discovery.

NewZoo‘s latest report indicates that while the lineup of new releases in 2024 might not be as packed with eagerly awaited titles as the previous year, the growth in console sales will be propelled by live-service games and ongoing sales of existing game catalogs.

This projection aligns with Sony’s expectations, which anticipate selling 25 million units of the PlayStation 5 in the 12 months ending in March, thanks in part to the release of a new, slimmer version of the console.

Live-service games like Epic Games’ Fortnite have emerged as significant contributors to gaming revenue in recent years. Their free-to-play model and continuous content updates attract and retain a large user base.

However, NewZoo‘s report notes a shift in user preferences. Engagement data from 2023 suggests a trend from live-service games to premium games.

The report also points out that the growth of gaming subscription services such as PlayStation Plus and Xbox Game Pass, which offer users access to a wide range of titles for a fee, is expected to decelerate this year.

“2024 should not be marked by as many major disruptions and should instead remain in a form of continuity with what has already been observed recently,” Romain Bingler, market strategy manager at Ubisoft Entertainment, commented on the report’s findings.