In the grass ahead lurks a cotton-ball puff of a creature with stubby appendages, round, yellow eyes, and a macaroni-noodle smile. Appropriately named Lamball, it is one of many island creatures that can become your pal, with the right touch: smashing it over the head with a big wooden stick (to weaken it, of course), then trapping it in a Pal Sphere, a colorful ball that will act as the creature’s new home.
Does that sound familiar? It’s the same formula (minus the battery) the creators of Pokémon built an empire on. It’s no surprise, then, that people have been calling Palworld “Pokémon with guns” pretty much since it was announced in 2021. On January 19, the game launched on Steam Early Access and Xbox Game Pass. In just a few days, the game has quite literally achieved overnight success for little-known developer Pocket Pair: 5 million copies sold, according to its creators, since its release. It’s a chart-topper on Steam, with more than 1.5 million concurrent players as of this writing, as well as on Twitch, racking up more than 340,000 viewers on PalWorld streams since its launch. It’s been so popular that the game’s servers have been struggling to keep up.
Despite the nickname, Palworld is more open-world survival game than a traditional creature collector. One where you’re better off if you eat your cute little friends when no other food is readily available. You’ll need to build a base camp, start fires to keep warm and, eventually, equip your pals with guns to stay alive. The premise has been so outlandish for some that, ahead of the game’s launch, Pocket Pair felt the need to confirm “it is not a scam and will definitely be released.”
If you’re wondering why it’s so popular, you’re not alone. On Reddit, users have offered a variety of explanations pointing to a perfect storm: the allure of a survival game like Rust, paired with the cute pet-like nature of Pokémon; the desire from traditional Pokémon players for more open-world games; the utterly bizarre nature of Palworld itself. “You know when you’re scrolling on a website and you see an absolutely insane ad for a game and it’s like “C[L]ICK HERE TO PLAY NOW!!l” and you know it’s a scam,” wrote one user. “Well this game is like those ads, but real. It’s absolutely nuts.”
The game’s success is not without complications. On X, users continue to share photos of Palworld characters who bear striking similarities to various pokémon. In an interview with Automaton, Pocket Pair CEO Takuro Mizobe said the company takes its games “very seriously, and we have absolutely no intention of infringing upon the intellectual property of other companies.” (Nintendo, which publishes the Pokémon video games, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on this story.)
That hasn’t stopped players from modding Pokémon into the game, giving pickaxes to Pikachus and putting a bow and arrow in the hands of Ash Ketchum. It’s not exactly Petilil with a pistol, but it’s pretty close, and it brings the darkly funny allure of Palworld to the fore.
In 2022, I interviewed journalist Mariana Ayrez, who opened my eyes to the relevance of Perifacon. She reiterated that “while other events promote pop culture and bring together artists and the public, they have a lot of incentive from private business players. Meanwhile, Perifacon delivers geek culture, love, and fun to all involved independent of their budget. Their main goal is accessibility.”
Delgado believes that while Perifacon calls attention to social inequality, it also promotes artists from those marginalized communities and showcases their products to a public that wants them and can’t get them in any other way. Favela influence is everywhere in Brazilian art, culture, and sports.
“The favela is the powerhouse that people already know. However, brands and enterprises are still after the same profile of people that already have access to everything. We know this because of the lack of support to unfavored areas,” Ayrez explains.
Meanwhile, for the young people growing up in the favelas, the convention is an event to look forward to. “Perifacon is everything that the 12-year-old Eduardo dreamed of being part of, as he grew up being bullied for liking ‘weird’ things,” says Marques.
“My experiences outside the hood with people from other social classes showed me how prejudice operates in a systematic way, he says. “The simple fact that I come from the favela and I like comics fascinated the rich kids. My experiences as a nerd were marked by a series of contradictions, stereotypes, and conflicting images. However, at the same time, it is an honor to be able to affirm myself as a hood nerd even with those setbacks.”
Delgado and her colleagues have plans to keep Perifacon going, and to expand access to tech and gaming in the future to the communities that need it the most. “My dream is to take Perifacon to other Brazilian states and that we’ll be invited by the local authorities to work toward it. I’d take Perifacon to any place in Brazil.”
Meanwhile, Ayrez expects the event will grow to the point that the brands and private sector actors will compete to see who can support it. “I hope that they keep this amazing work that discovers talents in each edition, that brings joy to many people who for many reasons can’t go to the mainstream events.”
Ramos cites the work of Hong Kong philosopher Yuk Hui and his concept of technodiversity as one way of thinking about what the team wants to do with Perifacon. “I think that Perifacon is part of a movement of a non-colonized innovation that, in the future, may become part of the overall cultural industry,” she says. The convention will ultimately become a product on its own, but one that shows the world that “besides gaming and nerd culture, the favela has untapped talent in fashion, cuisine, and so on.”
E3 is finished, for good this time. The Entertainment Software Association confirmed today that the event will not be happening in 2024 or any time thereafter, bringing 28 years of the video game industry’s most prolific trade event to a sudden, unceremonious end.
E3’s demise isn’t wholly unexpected. The annual event, a three-day pageant (with press conferences leading up to its showfloor opening a day or two before), was once the pinnacle of showcases for companies’ forthcoming titles and consoles. As platforms like Twitch grew more popular, however, gamemakers and publishers no longer needed to rely on a trade show to make a splash. With the show’s poor attendance at what would be its final in-person event in 2019, and the ESA’s troubles with reviving the show post-pandemic, the writing has been on the wall. In April, following news that the ESA was again canceling the summer event, the reason was obvious: Streaming killed E3.
“Thanks to streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube, companies now have the power to deliver news to consumers in-person and online simultaneously, without the need for public relation firms or journalists,” I wrote at the time. “Nintendo, for example, has perfected this with Nintendo Direct, its series of hyped and tightly controlled prerecorded marketing events. Similarly, [The Game Awards creator Geoff] Keighley’s [Summer Game Fest], built during a time when no one could safely gather, is envisioned as a digital-savvy event that can run without the need for a physical presence. Between game companies creating their own events and Keighley’s growing chokehold on the streaming space, thanks to the popularity of The Game Awards, E3 is largely redundant.”
ESA president and CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis said as much in his comments to The Washington Post announcing the end of the event, adding that although fans were invited to attend in E3’s sunset years, it was more of a business and marketing confab. Companies, he said, now “have access to consumers and to business relations through a variety of means, including their own individual showcases.”
The gaming world just doesn’t need E3 the way it used to. The Game Awards and Summer Game Fest are now associated with big announcements and trailer reveals. E3 hasn’t been relevant in nearly five years.
I started covering the video game industry in 2012 and attended my first E3 the following year. At the time, E3 was the pinnacle of gaming events—an all-hands-on-deck affair where videogame journalists routinely filed several stories per day while running from big-hype promo events to big-hype meetings with game companies. (During my first year, I filmed a video wrap-up with a 101-degree fever I’d developed by the week’s end.) Gamers expected such coverage, and they read it devoutly.
Following two years of preproduction, game developer 10 Chambers finally announced its new heist game—Den of Wolves—Thursday during the 2023 Game Awards. Set in 2097 in a highly corrupt city located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it is, according to narrative director Simon Viklund, the kind of game “where you’re supposed to feel like a badass.” For Viklund, who also serves as the game’s composer (he did the compositions for PayDay: The Heist and PayDay 2, too), that means “the music needs to, like, [grunt noise].”
True to its name, Den of Wolves’ fictional city is a place where basically anything is legal as long as it is done in the pursuit of supercharged innovation and groundbreaking technology. Imagine PayDay meets Cyberpunk 2077 set in a metropolis that’s a mixture of Venice and Hong Kong. The concept is quite different from 10 Chambers’ previous work with horror game GTFO, but it structurally plays to the studio’s core strength: four person co-op games.
A lot is on the line as the studio works on its second release. 10 Chambers received an investment from Chinese tech and entertainment conglomerate Tencent to build this game and expand from a small staff of around 10 people to nearly 100. Viklund emphasizes that the game will have a highly detailed environment but that gamers should not expect an open-world experience. The overall vibe, Viklund adds, pulls from a litany of sci-fi and thriller movies, like Heat and Judge Dredd (the Stallone one, not the 2012 reboot).
While he enjoyed working on horror game music for GTFO, Viklund is excited to move away from that genre and back to a PayDay-esque heist experience. “My wheelhouse is this power fantasy type of music,” he says. Never played that franchise before? Give “Razormind” from PayDay 2 a listen any morning you forget your coffee at home and need a quick jolt of adrenaline.
So, what can players expect from the music in Den of Wolves? “So, there’s going to be elements, of course, that are similar to PayDay,” says Viklund. “But I’m keen on taking it somewhere else in terms of tempo. Making it heavier, slower paced.” He also looks forward to incorporating different elements of percussion inspired by the Pacific Ocean setting.
Since the game is still in early development and won’t be released for a while, WIRED did not see any actual game footage during a recent preview event 10 Chambers held for the title. Similar to the launch of GTFO, the company plans to release the game at first to players through Steam early access. Den of Wolves doesn’t have a release date yet, but PC gamers can anticipate receiving it before their console counterparts.
Fans of GTFO may be disappointed that their game’s content updates are ending, but Viklund points to 10 Chambers’ first game as critical for building the company’s confidence around design. “It was very freeing to be able to have a project where we could have that ‘fuck it—we’ll just do it’ sort of attitude,” he says. This type of confidence is a driving force behind 10 Chambers’ decision to develop something fresh for players rather than relying on a franchise concept that already exists.
The first trailer for Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto VI has arrived, and it’s promising a new female protagonist. More of a teaser than anything, the trailer introduces viewers to Lucia, a woman who blames her incarceration on “bad luck, I guess.”
To say Grand Theft Auto VI is hotly anticipated is an understatement. Rockstar’s last car larceny game dropped more than 10 years ago, and despite a circus of speculation and some leaks in 2022, fans have seen almost nothing official from the franchise.
Today’s trailer doesn’t offer much in the way of details. A series of flashing scenes set to Tom Petty’s “Love is a Long Road” feature beaches, late-night parties, and a lot of butts, as Lucia plans a robbery with a partner. It’s the first time Grand Theft Auto has included a female antihero, and it appears players will be returning to Vice City.
Rockstar says GTAVI will be the “biggest, most immersive evolution” of the series yet.
The game is currently set for release in 2025 for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. A Bloomberg report from 2022 suggested that the game would feature a Bonnie and Clyde-esque duo in a fictionalized version of Miami.
Rockstar released the trailer for Grand Theft Auto VI, which it had been teasing for Tuesday, December 5, a day earlier than expected after it leaked. “Please watch the real thing on YouTube,” the developer tweeted. A video briefly surfaced on TikTok with what appeared to include debug footage of the game. It was quickly taken down.
It’s not the first time Rockstar has dealt with GTA VI leaks. Last year, a hacker released a huge trove of data from the game, including 90 videos of unfinished development.
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