Palworld has biggest 3rd-party Game Pass launch ever as players near 20 million

Palworld’s Pokémon pastiche is Xbox Game Pass’ biggest-ever 3rd-party game launch


The unexpected success of Palworld continues to be one of the biggest gaming stories of 2024 so far, as developer Pocketpair says the game’s sales and Xbox downloads have exceeded 19 million, with 12 million in sales on Steam and 7 million players on Xbox. Microsoft has also announced that the game has been the biggest third-party launch in the Game Pass service’s history, as well as the most-played third-party title on the Xbox Cloud Gaming service.

These numbers continue a remarkable run for the indie-developed Pokémon-survival-crafting-game pastiche, which sold 5 million copies in its first weekend as a Steam Early Access title and had sold 8 million Steam copies as of a week ago. There are signs that the game’s sales are slowing down—it’s currently Steam’s #2 top-selling game after over a week in the #1 spot. But its active player count on Steam remains several hundred thousand players higher than Counter-Strike 2, the next most-played game on the platform.

Sometimes described (both admiringly and disparagingly) as “Pokémon with guns,” Palworld‘s unexpected success has driven some Internet outrage cycles about the possibility that it may have used AI-generated monster designs and allegations that its designers copied or modified some of the 3D character models from the actual Pokémon series to create some of the game’s more familiar-looking monsters.

The latter allegations circulated widely enough that The Pokémon Company issued a statement last week, saying it would “investigate” an unnamed game that matches Palworld‘s description; as of this writing, no actual legal action has been taken against Palworld or Pocketpair. Third-party modders who have tried to put actual Pokémon creatures into Palworld have apparently gotten some cease-and-desist letters, though.

Regardless, the game wears its influences on its sleeve. Aside from the Pals that look like Pokémon, the game’s progression and crafting mechanics owe a lot to games like ARK: Survival Evolved, and the actual monster-catching mechanics have a more-than-passing resemblance to Pokémon Legends: Arceus.

If you count the Xbox Game Pass numbers as “sales,” Palworld‘s combined numbers are on track to overtake those of the two main-series Pokémon titles on the Nintendo Switch, Sword/Shield and Scarlet/Violet. Nintendo says these games have sold 26.02 and 23.23 million copies, respectively, making them the sixth and seventh bestselling titles in the entire Switch library.

Nintendo doesn’t break out sales figures for each title individually, counting each sale of Sword or Shield toward the same total—this makes sense because they’re the same basic game with slightly different Pokémon, though it does mean there’s some double-dipping going on for fans who buy both versions of a given game for themselves. You have to look at proxies like Amazon reviews to get a sense of which individual version has sold better—Violet currently has more reviews than Scarlet, while Sword has more reviews than Shield.

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