(Bloomberg) -- This year’s biggest independent game sensation, Palworld, was crafted from the outset to be a conversation starter, according to its creator Takuro Mizobe.

Being fun to play is not enough for a game in the modern social age, the 35-year-old said in an interview. A game must also be fun to watch, include multiplayer elements and encourage people to talk about it. That was the premise from which Pocketpair, a small 55-person studio in Tokyo that Mizobe founded in 2015, started when crafting Palworld.

The cute Pals in the game align with Mizobe’s goal of arousing online chatter — as they are recognizably inspired by Nintendo Co.’s Pokémon — but they wouldn’t get far if the game were merely a copycat. Mizobe’s team also borrowed ideas from other hit games in crafting the game’s design and system, including ARK: Survival Evolved, Factorio and RimWorld. The key was to balance those elements and add in a few deliberate, unique quirks.

“In Palworld, the bodies of defeated Pals remain in the game, meaninglessly,” Mizobe said. “Typically, when you kill monsters or enemies, they either disappear or linger to be looted. Colleagues were against leaving useless bodies in the game, but I pushed it through because I thought players would find a way to play with and talk about it.”

There’s a certain humor to the game’s splicing of genres that is evident in the shorthand description it quickly gained: “Pokémon with guns.” Combining gameplay from disparate genres tends to lead to contradictions that would typically break a game’s enjoyment — but Pocketpair has made a habit of pulling from the most popular genres and trends with its three prior games and turned that into its strength, Mizobe said.

None of Pocketpair’s earlier games could have prepared the studio for the runaway success of Palworld. The $30 title registered more than 25 million players in just a month — one of the fastest debuts in the industry’s history — and delivered a major hit for Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox Game Pass subscription service.

It has cartoony monsters, called Pals, in an otherwise photorealistic environment. The unusual art combination was a happy accident, Mizobe said. The team started with anime-style creatures from Unity Technologies Inc.’s asset store and then transitioned to Epic Games Inc.’s Unreal Engine, where most visuals were realistic. Blending the two seamlessly was one of the toughest parts of the game’s development, the studio chief said, and the end-result was a fresh visual mix that players weren’t used to.

For now, Pocketpair is content to remain an independent studio and maintain the intimacy of its small team. The company is in talks to bring Palworld to more platforms, beyond Steam and Game Pass, and it’d be open to consider offers for partnership or acquisition, Mizobe said. It has not, however, engaged in acquisition talks with Microsoft.

“We are and will remain a small studio,” he said. “I want to make multiple small games. Big-budget triple-A games are not for us.”

Mizobe, who is chief executive officer and owns the entire company, sees small studios as the biggest pioneers in game design.

Palworld cost less than ¥1 billion ($6.7 million) to make and has returned tens of billions of yen in profit, an amount that is “too big for a studio with our size to handle,” Mizobe said. The company doesn’t plan a spending spree on more staff or fancier offices, said the CEO, who’d previously been a tech engineer at JPMorgan. Mizobe doesn’t plan to offer shares in Pocketpair on publicly traded markets.

The CEO isn’t confident that Pocketpair can create another game as wildly popular as Palworld, which had more than 2 million people simultaneously playing at one point, rivaling the biggest and best titles on PC. But he’s sure about the winning recipe for games today.

“Games are most fun when playing with friends,” Mizobe said. “A game without a multiplayer mode just doesn’t feel right in the era we live today.”

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