Palworld Falls Into A Tiresome April Fools’ Trend


April Fools’ Day is a nightmare for news writers. This morning, I woke up to an Overwatch Cavalry post about an Overwatch 2 x Valorant crossover, and it took my brain at least eight seconds to catch up to the date posted underneath the graphic. April Fools’ Day is the annual “make fun of dating sims” celebration for many brands, because it seems that the only way top-level executives will even entertain making a dating sim is if it’s as a joke. Such as Riot making mock-ups of a Valorant dating sim or Square teasing a hypothetical Nier one.

Palworld, Pocketpair’s survival game known colloquially as “Pokémon with Guns,” is the latest brand to jump on the trend.

The Palworld dating sim trailer has horny and drooling Pals

The 90-second April Fools’ teaser for the fake Palworld dating sim called Pal♡world! ~More Than Just Pals~ has a lot of tropey genre concepts you’d expect. The Pals (yes, the not-Pokémon) you can date all fit into some dating sim archetypes, from the stuffy Chillet who shies away from PDA to the busty and very forward Lovander. The latter makes some sense because, according to Lovander’s lore, its sole driving motivation is chasing Pals and humans around for some “debauchery.”

There is at least one datable human in this hypothetical dating sim in Zoe, who is shown playing somewhat hard to get and also, somehow, in love with you at the same time. The trailer also leans into dating sim staples like intimate scenes (Chillet goes full Ahegao at one point) and an interaction with Katress that implies something sinister is happening underneath all the flirting and, uh, petting.

Pocketpair

I’ve been around the Pokemon community most of my life, so I’m keenly aware of how this is playing on some of the seedier sides of animal-taming game fandom. This, on top of Palworld’s general edgy leanings (it has guns and horny monsters, after all), is another reason why the popular game has always felt a bit off for me. But fans are eating it up, so, mazel tov, I guess. My real issue is less with Palworld’s take on dating sims, and more how this is another example of the genre too often being used as the butt of a joke.

Why make dating sim trailers when you could make dating sims?

I’ve played a fair bit of dating sim games over the years, and really enjoyed other games that include dating elements, so It’s frustrating to see a genre that has brought a lot of people joy be used as a gag for social media engagement. But Bungie’s Max Nichols tweeted something on March 31 that struck a chord with me.

“We all agree that ‘dating sim version of AAA game’ april fools jokes are bad,” he wrote. “But a thought: One reason these jokes happen is because there are folks in every AAA studio who desperately WANT to make a dating sim, but have no institutional support, EXCEPT when framed as a joke.”

Sega released a detective game set in the Sonic the Hedgehog universe last year, and told Kotaku the team was passionate about the project and wanted it to be more than just a joke. Pitching it as an April Fools’ surprise is what helped get the game out the door. To me, I think that is the difference: the follow through.

Making a mock-up trailer of a dating sim for a silly little holiday because it’s a gag sucks. But using April Fools’ Day to get some executives to sign off on an actual playable project is the big brain play that passionate developers, artists, and writers can utilize to get a smaller project out the door. I have to respect the kind of move that positions something made with love and sincerity as something that will spark social media engagement on the least sincere day of the year.

Palworld isn’t the last game to only make the joke and not the punchline, and Pocketpair seems open to the possibility that it will make the Pal-fucker simulator a real thing, however weird that may be. I’d like to see some companies actually make these dating sims they dangle in front of fans for guffaws and chuckles—and then keep them online instead of removing them from the internet like Overwatch did. Er, maybe not Palworld, though. I don’t think anyone needs to see Chillet drooling like that again.





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