PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, or PUBG for short, has become the biggest multiplayer game in the world since it launched on early access at the beginning of the year. No game before it has risen to fame so quickly; and this is all despite the fact it did not release until December, a whole eight months since it became available to buy at retail.
PUBG has a huge player base with 100 player matches and it has become incredibly popular to watch on both YouTube and Twitch. Its popularity can be credited to the game’s design, the sprawling map that gets smaller and smaller as the match goes, and for creating a sense of urgency and tension until only a few players are left. The idea that if you die you can just quit and jump into the next match without wasting any time is genius. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has also stood out in the way it handles gunplay. A new player can pick up the game and get to grips with the mechanics but having a great aim is still a valuable tool.
So why, with all its popularity could PUBG’s future be in jeopardy?
How PUBG Handled Their XBOX Port
When Microsoft was first granted an exclusivity deal to bring PUBG to early access on the Xbox One and Xbox One X, it was a huge milestone for the game and it meant that millions of more players could jump on board. With the PC version leaving early access, Xbox players believe they would be getting the best PUBG experience, especially with the developers’ promise of the game running at 60fps on the Xbox One.
It is not breaking news anymore to say that the Xbox port is in an embarrassing state, nearly unplayable at certain points with heavy lag issues, constant crashes, and the game struggling to keep up at 30fps. It also does not seem to take full advantage of the hardware especially on the Xbox One, draw distances are also a problem. All of this really affects other aspects of PUBG like the excellent gunplay we mentioned earlier. You could almost say that all PUBG did was use the unreal engine’s built-in compiler to compile it for Xbox One.
Even though the developer put off PC updates for 11 weeks to make sure that the Xbox version was complete, the game feels like it was rushed and that there was no effort to optimize the game for the console. This would not be an issue if PUBG was the only battle royal game on consoles, but games like Fortnite, which also has a battle royale mode is currently outshining PUBG.
Delivering PUBG to Xbox One in this way paints a bad picture for PUBG and with a $30 price tag, it makes the game’s port feel like nothing more than a cash grab to capitalize on the hype.
How PUBG Handles Their Competition
Bluepoint games responded to their competition in the worst way. When Epic Games’ Fortnite introduced a battle royale mode the company released a press release, accusing the game of copying PUBG’s signature battle royale format, and the statement ends with a foreboding note about possible “further action” being taken against Epic.
Chang Han Kim, Bluehole’s vice president, said in a prepared statement:
“After listening to the growing feedback from our community and reviewing the gameplay for ourselves, we are concerned that Fortnite may be replicating the experience for which PUBG is known.”
She continued on stating,
“The PUBG community has and continues to provide evidence of the many similarities as we contemplate further action.”
The issue is that PUBG is not the first game to have a battle royale mode or use this format.The original idea came from the Japanese film Battle Royale, where the genre gets its name from. Games like Arma 3 and H1Z1 all had popular battle royale modes. Therefore calling out their competition is pretty hypocritical.
It’s unclear if PUBG will sue their competition or if this is just a scare tactic. Even if they do sue it’s very unlikely they would win. Other games are going to copy the idea (take a look at Minecraft) and it will not be the last. Attacking and threatening to sue your competition will be nothing but a bad PR move.
How PUBG Handles Streamers And Prioritizing
If you have never heard of Stream Sniping, it’s when players watch a Twitch stream of a game while playing it themselves. This is so they can get the jump on the streamer and take them out. It is a form of cheating and a pain in the ass for a lot of streamers.
According to PUBG’s official rules of conduct, this is not allowed and if this rule is broken you can be banned. However, this is a nearly unprovable offense, unless the suspects themselves are streaming or are active in the streamers chat.
A report by Polygon told the story of Lotoe, who during a game killed popular streamer Shroud. When Lotoe later tried to play the game he was greeted with a ban screen which told him he had been suspended.
“The only way people are saying I was stream sniping them was because the devs surely banned with evidence, but in reality, they banned me within 1-20 minutes,” Lotoe told Polygon. Whether Lotoe was stream sniping or not is not the story here.
The story is that PUBG seems to be giving preferential treatment to streamers. A streamer can undoubtedly ban anyone they like without any evidence. The report mentions other instances of gamers being banned on accusations alone. PUBG has shown that it prefers to take the word of an online entertainer over other players who bought the game.
This is understandable in the marketing sense. In PUBG’s early days, they needed streamers and gaming personalities to build on the hype of the game. Now, giving streamers preferential treatment just because they are an online entertainer is a bad move. It pushes regular players away and in the end, streamers are going to eventually move onto the next big game that comes out. Fans who feel like second class players will switch to the games biggest competitors, like Fortnite.
PUBG is a great game and has popularized a whole new genre of multiplayer gaming and it will forever be known for that. Though as PUBG grows and moves away from the early access playpen and into the real commercial world, with a wider audience, it needs to be careful.