Only five days post-launch, Palworld has sold over seven million copies and become the second game ever to log over two million concurrent players on Steam. Its unexpectedly absurd level of success has led to much speculation over the source of its appeal—as well as some condemnation—but the simple notion that it’s “Pokémon with guns” must be at least part of the answer.
Finding someone to design Palworld’s firearms was apparently a big challenge for Japanese developer Pocketpair, though.
“Japan makes a ridiculous amount of RPGs,” said Pocketpair CEO Takuro Mizobe in a lengthy blog post last week (translated from Japanese). “But how many Japanese-made shooters are there? The only one that comes to mind is Resident Evil, and that didn’t have guns as the main focus. I decided that Palworld would be a shooter at the very beginning of the project because those are the most popular games globally.”
There are other Japanese-developed shooters out there—you could count Splatoon and the Earth Defense Force games, for example—but it’s certainly not the most popular genre to develop in Japan, and Mizobe said it wasn’t easy to find a developer with experience in the genre.
“We wanted someone experienced in FPS/TPS game production. If we couldn’t find someone in Japan, we’d have no choice but to hire someone from abroad—but none of us are fluent in English, which would make things tough.”
A miracle occurred when, while browsing Twitter, Mizobe stumbled upon an anonymous account filled with gun-reloading animations (see the video below for an example). After exchanging messages, it was revealed that the mystery artist was a 20-year-old part-time convenience store employee from Hokkaido with a middle school diploma and zero industry experience.
The artist had taught himself how to animate entirely by watching YouTube videos. He had also become near-fluent in English by playing FPS games, according to Mizobe.
“Sure, the team could have learned how to do these animations given time. But I wanted someone working on Palworld to be obsessed with guns. I’m so glad that I met him.”
Pocketpair invited the artist to join the company full-time, and found him housing in Tokyo—an offer that the artist wasn’t expecting, Mizobe says.
“A small, unknown game studio asking a junior high school graduate with no experience to quit his convenience store job and move to the capital as a full-time employee? I would have thought it was a scam, too.”
Palworld is technically in early access, which it’s easy to forget given how successful and controversial it’s already been, and its development roadmap includes PvP, raid bosses, and more.