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Palworld is making headlines for more than one reason. The video game has taken the gaming industry by surprise, breaking multiple records on gaming platform Steam. With controversy around issues of Pokemon comparisons, a bigger monster has emerged and threatened to cause chaos. Does Palworld use AI art?
Does Palworld use AI art?
Palworld fans allege that old tweets dug up from the Pocketpair CEO prove that Pals are AI-generated. Pals are the in-game characters that typically resemble real-world animals but with creative characterization. The tweets in question claim that the CEO’s interest in AI, specifically relating to Pokemon and copyright law, is tantamount to generating the in-game Pals with artificial intelligence.
Takuro Mizobe, CEO of Pocketpair, has previously discussed the generation of Pokemon characters using AI. Specifically, he was impressed at how indistinguishable AI-generated Pokemon-like characters can be. He also shared his curiosity about copyright infringement in the age of artificial intelligence. He’s not the only one, of course; we’ve collectively seen the public test the limits of intellectual property law in the case of last year’s AI Disney movie posters trend. Here are Mizobe’s tweets:
The AI has evolved so much that I can no longer tell which one is a Pokemon. . . [sic]
← Left Pokemon-like monster generated by AI
→ Right Real Pokemon (Illumise, Minomadam, Harisen, Karikiri)Takuro Mizobe (@urokuta_ja on X),December 14th, 2021. Translated from Japanese by Google Translate.
If you pass it through the filter of AI, the image is often not of a specific thing, so maybe the copyright issue will be resolved?Takuro Mizobe (@urokuta_ja on X), November 28th, 2022. Translated from Japanese by Google Translate.
Of course, these tweets, while on the nose, do not at all confirm that Palworld uses AI art or that it was used in development.
Palworld AI use denied and ‘slanderous’
Indeed Mizobe has since offered an outright denial of allegations regarding the production of the titles. In comments made to with Automaton, Mizobe offered a clear sign that suggestions that Palworld uses AI art are considered slanderous. Additionally, he has stated that he has received death threats concerning the false claims:
“…all productions related to Palworld are supervised by multiple people, including myself, and I am responsible for the production. I would appreciate if you would refrain from slandering the artists involved in Palworld.”
Steam and Reddit users question AI Art in Palworld
While it’s clear that the potential of AI art generators has caught the attention of Takuro Mizobe, fans have not found direct evidence that the Pals in the release version were generated by AI – even though there are accusatory discussions on Steam, as well threads calling the game into question in regards to AI art on Reddit.
But ideation is not equivalent to release. The moral argument against AI art typically centers around two things. Firstly, that real human artists produce work. Secondly, that they were being paid a fair wage for their work. In this case, it seems that real human artists did indeed produce the Pals of Palworld despite unverified claims to the contrary.
Controversy over AI generation in video games is not new. However, this does represent a significant moment in the zeitgeist of the gaming community. This would be the first time that a new IP has been immediately received with this level of commercial success, despite such allegations.
What is Palworld?
The popular video game Palworld was released on January 19th, 2024. Following a launch of near-unprecedented success, it today crossed 5 million units sold. With approximately 86,000 copies sold per hour over the weekend, it is now one of just six games ever to cross one million concurrent players on Steam. Surely that’s enough to justify all the headlines? It absolutely would be, if there weren’t other factors at play.
What are Palworld pals?
The Pals of Palworld can fight, farm, or work in factories. Unlike Pokemon, “you can even sell them or eat them!” In a distinction you absolutely wouldn’t hear from The Pokémon Company or partial owner Nintendo, “there are no labor laws for Pals.”
I promise I’m not pulling quotes to paint the philosophies of the game in a certain light. This is immediately followed on the Steam purchase page by the suggestion to “build a factory, place a Pal in it, and they’ll keep working as long as they’re fed—until they’re dead, that is.” This macabre indulgence in capitalism, while odd, isn’t related to the controversies currently making headlines.