January 25, 2024

Palworld Launch Analysis: A Deep Dive into Follower and Wishlist Impact on Game Success


Palworld has taken the game development world by surprise. This Unreal Engine Open World + Survival + Crafting + Pokemon game managed to do something incredible: In a very short period of time it managed to sold an astounding amount of copies as well as appear everywhere on the internet.

Part of it it's due to it's theme and way it has used word of mouth to have a viral launch, that being said, looking only at key indicators, could we have predicted such a successful launch? 

Let's find out.

Steam Wishlists and Followers

When you are planning to launch a game on steam, before your game is live your main Key Performance Indicator is the amount of Wishlists that your game gets. More wishlists means that you are on a good track.

This happens in part due to steam sending a mail to every single person that withslisted the game, causing a huge spike of traffic to your steam store if the amount of wishilsts you gathered is big enough.

When analyzing other games, one of the issue you can have as an indie developer is that wishlists numbers are not public, so you need to extrapolate a little bit based on other factors, the two main factors you can use are the following:

  • Number of Followers: This is a public value that you can check and can correlate with wishlists on a ratio between 10-20
  • Position in steam Top Wishlisted games: If you know some other game wishlist numbers you can extrapolate the number of wishlists based on a game's position in the Top Wishlist ranking

How many Steam Wishlists did Palworld have at launch?

We can not know for certain the exact number of wishlists the Unreal Engine game Palword had at Launch, but we can theorize, so let's do just that.

First let's see the data we have:

Checking historical data we can see that Palworld was the 9th most wishlisted game on steam on the 15th of January and it had 123.956 followers

If we check SteamDB for followers data at launch we will see that Palworld had gathered 176.165 followers, so whatever we do we need to take this into account

Based on my rough personal model, a game in the 9th position should have at least 1.3M of wishlists.

So with this data we can now start doing some calculations.

If we take a conservative 14x multiplier of Followers to Wishlists we would get 1.735.384 Wishlists on the 15th of January, which is in check of the value being above 1.3M for being on the 9th position.

From the 15th until launch the number of followers increased by 1.42x, so we are gonna assume Wishlists did the same, leaving us with an estimate of roughly 2.464.245 Wishlists at launch.

Of course this numbers are estimates so it would be safer to take int account the typical 10-20 follower to wishilst ratio and assume that at launch Palworld had between 1.761.165 and 3.523.300 Wishlists at launch.

So what we get from this is that Palworld had a lot of steam wishlists at launch.

Analyzing Palworld Launch Success

Seeing this numbers, we could perfectly expect Palworld to sell at least 1M copies on the first month. But as we all know, that is not what happened. It sold more.

Seems that the true marketing success of Palworld did not come with the marketing that happened before the launch, but with all the virality and word of mouth that spread after the launch.

Combining all the streamers playing it, people recommending it to each other and the multiple controversies it generated due to it's character designs, it seems that Palworld presence has spread like fire.

If we look at the number of players, it continues to rise instead of having the typical initial peak and falloff that other games can have.

At the same time, this Unreal Engine game seems to prove once again that if you are an indie developer you should treat your early access release like if it were your actual launch, as that is exactly what it is in reality.

As of the writing of this article, Palworld has already surpassed 7 milion sales, and it seems it will continue to sell more, specially if we take a look at the growth of its followers.


So what can we learn about this as Indie Game Developers?

The first thing is that the initial success of your game can be predicted based on the number of wishlists it has ( of course it can then explode as we have seen here ).

So it's really important to gather as many wishlists as possible before the launch of your game. If you launch your game on steam with no wishlists, the most likely outcome is that no one will buy your game.

The other thing we can learn is that players seem to value the experience that the game delivers more than it's actual "developer perceived polish".

This can be difficult to accept as a developer, but unfortunately markets work in mysterious ways, and what a developer perceives as a "quality that should make the game sell" may not be perceived the same way by the end player.

Finally, we can learn that even though we can try to estimate a little bit the performance of a game based on previous data, it is not until the game releases and players play your game that you can see the truth of the product you have created.

I hope this article has been helpful to you, and if you have any doubts don't hesitate contacting me.