PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), despite that mouthful of a title, is one of the most popular video games at present. Released on the December 20, 2017, this online multiplayer game was inspired by the Japanese cult classic Battle Royale. Its name was derived from Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene, an Irish video game developer and modder. The game was created with Unreal Engine 4 and runs on Windows, Xbox One, Android, iOS, and PlayStation 4.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Game Plot
Here’s a brief summary of the game plot:
- Players jump from a plane onto a playing area.
- The playing area has safe zones that gradually contract.
- Players must go to safe zones while scavenging for supplies, weapons, and equipment to be used for survival.
- The players must kill other players to survive and win the game.
Known for being inspired by Battle Royale, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds starts with up to a hundred players aerially descending onto a secluded island to compete with each other for survival. The playing fields can be approximately 64 square kilometers, 36 square kilometers, or 16 square kilometers. The plane from which the players jump fly across the areas with varying paths. It’s up to the players to decide the best time to jump.
The players wear nothing but their customized outfit (selected before the game starts) and parachutes when they drop into the playing field. They then have to collect weapons, equipment, and supplies they can use to fight and sustain themselves. They can scavenge these from buildings, ghost towns, and several other sites in the game. It’s even possible to obtain vehicles. High risk places tend to have better or more useful equipment.
Players who have been killed can also be a source for supplies, weapons, and equipment. Occasionally, planes may also fly over the game areas and drop packages that contain special items that are usually not acquirable by looting buildings, sites, or dead bodies throughout the game. These special packages can be easily identified because of the conspicuous red smoke they emit.
Just like the controversial 2000 Japanese flick Battle Royale, players have to kill each other in the game. To win, there’s no choice but to kill other players. There are safe areas on the island, but these gradually contract, bringing players into smaller areas where encounters become inevitable. The shrinking of the playing field happens randomly. Shimmering blue walls indicate the boundaries of the safe zones.
Players must strive to be always within the safe zones. Otherwise, they will inevitably sustain damage and eventually get eliminated from the game. Areas beyond the safe zones get randomly bombed or attacked.
The duration of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds game sessions is usually not that long. Games are divided in rounds, which are typically take only around 30 minutes on average. After every round, players accumulate in-game currency depending on how they performed during the game. This currency can be used to buy crates that have items for customizing the appearance and weapons of the game characters.
The concept of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is not exactly revolutionary although it is regarded as the game that made the battle royale genre popular. Some even describe it as the game-changing battle royale game. It stands out for the kind of thrill it delivers. The game rounds are enjoyably short but the entire duration of the full game is just long enough to hook players without boring them with repetitive acts and senseless sequences.
The game is largely appreciated by critics even with its technical flaws. It offers refreshing types of gameplay that are suitable for all players regardless of their skill levels. The game’s graphics are far from impressive let alone stunning. However, most players willingly select the lowest graphics settings for this game for the sake of the FPS boost (frames per second).
Metacritic’s verdict for the game is “generally favorable reviews” on all platforms. The game is rated 9.5/10 at Game Informer, 8/10 at GameSpot, 9.5/10 at IGN, 9/10 at PCGamesN, and a perfect 10 at Polygon. It also received 4 out of 5 stars from Eurogamer spinoff video game site USgamer.
Attributing the game’s success to a large marketing budget would be inaccurate since it’s not an aggressively promoted video game. The game’s success is arguably anchored more on its design and the kind of distinctive gameplay it offers. While the game received a significant push from nontraditional promotional channels such as the streams of Twitch users, its strongest claim to popularity is its ability to provide a uniquely engaging gaming experience.
Andy Moore wrote on Glixel, Rolling Stone’s video gaming website, that the game’s popularity can be associated with how it encourages players to fight because of the situation they are in, and not necessarily because they enter the game with the mindset of killing. Moore compares this to the Stanford prison experiment, a controversial social psychology study that explored the effects of perceived power.
Another notably positive review of the game is from Rock Paper Shotgun, which described it as a combination of a horror game, a story generator, and a tactical shooting sandbox. The review points “freedom” as the key factors that make the game engaging and immersive. Every turn in the game is a decision making point for the players. Every decision can lead to a different consequence.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has become a massive success that numerous clones or straightforward copies of the games have emerged. The rapid release of clone games bothered Brendan Greene (the game’s developer). In a BBC article, Greene expressed his desire for the battle royale game genre to grow, but pointed out that lazy clones are not the way to go. What’s needed is for the development of new and interesting spins of the game.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is an undeniable commercial success. The following are just some of its most important commercial achievements.
- According to statistics from Korean video game developer Bluehole, more than 10 million rounds of the game were played in just four months.
- On the online video game platform Steam, the game managed to surpass the concurrent player counts of highly popular games such as Grand Theft Auto V, Fallout 4, and even Dota 2.
- PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds overtook League of Legends position as the most played game in Korean Internet cafes as of October 2017.
- In just the first three days of its Windows release, the game already made $11 million.
- As of June 2018, the game already sold 50 million copies and amassed more than 400 million players, around 350 million of which are playing the game on mobile.
- PUBG Corp claims that over 87 million players play the game across all platforms.
- PUBG Mobile earned the record of being 2018’s second most downloaded mobile game with close to 300 million downloads.
- China is the game’s biggest market where around 29% of the game’s downloads come from.
- The game holds the record for being the battle royale game with the most number of installations for 2018 with nearly 300 million installs, multiple times higher than Fortnite’s numbers.
- The game earned multiple accolades including the award for the Best Multiplayer Game at The Game Awards 2017, the Best Multiplayer Game and PC Game of the Year at the 35th Golden Joystick Awards, and Breakout Game of the Year at the PC Gamer’s 15 Best Games of 2017.
Bans and Restrictions
The game is not without criticisms, though. In fact, it has been banned in a number of countries. India, Nepal, and Iraq banned the game for supposedly being extremely addictive and violent. The Indian state of Gujarat considered the game to be “an unnecessary distraction during the exam season.” Several students were consequently apprehended. Nepal and Iraq deemed that the game was harmful to children and teenagers that a ban had to be implemented.
These bans, however, failed to temper PUBG’s rise to popularity and massive earnings. The game continues to amass more players and break records. PlayerUknown’s Battlegrounds is a video game a multitude of players worldwide know and enjoy. Even the game’s difficult-to-pronounce name failed to dent its potential for success.
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Video games generally have a universal appeal. People who play them come from all walks of life, ages, races, nationalities, or genders. However, the language barrier can make a video game less marketable to players who speak certain languages. As such, it’s only logical to have them translated or localized to entice new players who speak different languages. Also, as Greene asserted, making slightly modified or counterfeits of popular video games does not help. What’s needed is for the development of new game spins or approaches that may then be localized to be made suitable for different gaming markets.
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Image Copyright: Bluehole Studio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons