PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds: The Past, Present & Future of Battle Royale

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds: The Past, Present & Future of Battle Royale

Rounak Jain

Bruce McAvoy

What began with a mod on ArmA has now become one of the most popular games worldwide. More game developers than ever are now embracing Battle Royale as a gaming format after the success of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. Most recently, the battle royale genre was adopted by Epic Games for Fortnite and we recently saw the trailer for EA's Battlefield V that gave us a glimpse of its battle royale mode.

Apart from titles that have roots in the Battle Royale genre such as H1Z1, Islands of Nyne, Fear the Wolves, Darwin Project among many others, some famous titles have also jumped the bandwagon and will be deploying their own take on battle royale gameplay. Popular games like the Battlefield series and even the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has a Battle Royale mode and is scheduled for a global launch on October 12. Currently, the game is being beta-tested and we have to say it does look promising so much so that we are finding it difficult to wait!

However, this is the story of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, its genesis and the future it might hold.

PlayerUnknown- The Beginning

The story begins with Brendan Greene, the lead designer and director of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. But before that, let's decode the origin of the name PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. 'PlayerUnknown' is the online handle used by Brendan Greene and he kept it for his battle royale inspired game. So in more ways than one, Brendan 'PlayerUnknown' Greene is the real MVP here.

  Brendan 'PlayerUnknown' Greene  
  Brendan 'PlayerUnknown' Greene  

In his earlier days, Greene came across a Japanese movie called Battle Royale in which 42 students were dropped on an uninhabited island and were forced to kill each other until only one player survived. Though the movie never made it out of Japan, the idea of battle royale as a genre once again gained traction with The Hunger Games that followed a similar concept--- and we all know how that went for Katniss and President Snow in the series.

The Irishman at the time in 2013 was working as a photographer, graphics and web designer in Brazil. When usual days disappointed him, he used to find some solace in playing ArmA 2 and started working on a mod as he wanted to play a survivor game. This mod gained a lot of attention from the gaming community and then broke free into a standalone game called DayZ. "I didn't really leave my room all that often. I didn't go out on weekends. I spent most of my time shooting some events and working on the mod. It definitely wasn't a highlight of my life. It was tough at times. But everything happens for a reason," Greene told the Rolling Stone in an interview.

Sony Online Entertainment, now Daybreak Games noticed the success of the open world survival game and hired Greene as a consultant for H1Z1: King of the Kill. Later, Chang Han Kim a game designer with Bluehole Inc contacted him to make a Battle Royale game.

Within a month, Greene was promoted as the creative director of Bluehole and in collaboration with Chang, he started working on a Battle Royale game that was supposed to go live within a year. The development began in early 2016 and it was in March 2017 that PlayerUnknown's Battleground was available as an 'early access' game with the Erangel map, classic mode and selected weapons.

This survivor game was launched for $20 (Rs. 1,400 approx.) and within the first three days, the game made over $11 million (Rs. 76.85 crores approx.). In a month, the game was bought by over a million users and by June the number rose above 4 million. During this period, more than 10 million rounds were played by the users, that summed up to over 2.5 million rounds per month on an average.

As a piquant landmark in the game's timeline, it became the most played game on Steam in terms of concurrent players. In September, it took over Dota 2's record of over 1.9 million concurrent players with its 2.4 million and above concurrent players. Another milestone for the game was to become the most popular game in South Korea, leaving behind League of Legends that was ruling the Korean gaming cafes for a long time.

After selling 2 million copies on Steam, Bluehole hosted an invitation tournament, and three months later, the game received a huge platform in the form of a tournament organized by ESL. While the game was still not esports material, it had every potential to become one.

PUBG is a new experience with every match

With this PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds attracted professional gamers to this genre. However, pro players are still apprehensive about the game and its increasing popularity in the esports domain. These gamers who have been champions of titles like Dota 2, Counter-Strike and League of Legends find it hard to adopt the battle royale style of gameplay. One reason being the pace of the game. In PUBG, more than tactics, a player needs to make the right decisions for in a fraction of seconds either you could be shot right in the head or you may take a delicious Chicken Dinner to home.

The game is not about a player getting lucky, as much as it is about the choices that they make and the repercussions that follow. You can go in with guns blazing, your level 3 backpack overflowing with 5.56 ammo and still die in a shootout or you can just stay hidden inside the blue zone with your maiden streak, only to kill the last remaining player and win the session. That's the beauty of PUBG, it is a new experience with every single match.

Tencent decided to launch a mobile version of the game in its home country China and PUBG Mobile was born. Microsoft also announced a console exclusive version of PUBG at the E3 2017.

The Present

After its success on PC and Xbox, the game was introduced for Android and iOS after a soft launch in Canada, making its way to many countries including India, earlier this year. At present, Season 3 of PUBG Mobile has begun. Last season had introduced Royal Pass and the paid Elite Pass which allowed users to complete daily and weekly missions to claim rewards in the form of battle points, achievements, weapon finishes, clothes and crate cards.

On the darker side, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is plagued by hackers and game altering bugs. While some bugs are as small as delayed render, some result in players being killed suddenly due to an enemy appearing out of nowhere.

This led to many players mocking the developers and asking them to fix the game. PUBG Corp. earlier this month announced a campaign called Fix PUBG that is dedicated at making PUBG better, more stable, and a fairer game. As part of this campaign, PUBG has come up with a website containing the roadmap and over the next 3 months, it will work on to improve the game.

In addition to fixing the bugs, Fix PUBG also intends to bring several life improvements and tackle the issue of cheating. This campaign takes PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds closer to what was envisioned by PlayerUnknown 2 years ago.

The abridged version of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds

With PUBG Mobile, the game has landed into uncharted territories. Developed by Lightspeed & Quantum Studios, the game started as an abridged version of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds but the current version on Android & iOS feel a lot more similar to the PC version of the game barring a few features. More than that, PUBG Mobile hit 10-million-daily-active-users mark in May 2018 and it's only been exponential growth forward. While the game attracts players from around the globe, the USA, India and Indonesia make it to the top three countries, it is played in.

With Jio becoming a prominent name in the telecom industry in India, it has made high-speed internet accessible to the users, fulfilling one of the requirements for the game. Players have started streaming their gameplays onto Twitch and YouTube Gaming which wasn't a thing until PUBG Mobile. Memes and replays of the game have made their way into our news-feeds and stories and there's just so much content around the game itself, that people have started playing the game under peer pressure or the fear of missing out.

However, the best part is that you get to play with different players who are largely real and exist in your world. For instance, we have seen long lost friends from school reintroduced by a mutual friend over a session of PUBG. It's that kind of user experience that makes people comfortable to play the game and meet, which gives it a kind of Ready Player One vibe.

As season 2 introduced Custom Room passes now players have the option to create their own version of battle royale. WhatsApp groups and Facebook communities are bringing players who love the game together. PUBG Corp. recently announced PUBG Mobile Lite that is designed for budget smartphones. In this version, the map is considerably smaller than Erangel and instead of 100 players, only 40 players will enter the arena for the delicious Chicken Dinner.

The Future

At the PUBG Global Invitational 2018 (PGI 2018) held in Berlin last month, PUBG Corp. revealed its five-year plan for sustainable future of the game. Changhan Kim, CEO of PUBG Corp told the media that 2018 is the year when they will strengthen the groundwork and subsequently their presence in the global esports community. The company aims to draw more players by starting amateur and regional event qualifiers hosted by third-party partners, making it into the final world championship event every year.

As for the players, PUBG has plans to assist teams regularly via prizes, merchandises and in-game content. The game will also improve consistency in rules and regulations, point system and features among others to make it universal for players to play the game.

The rumor has it that a major addition to the mobile game in the form of the Sanhok map is being prepared for a September launch. (BTW in the midst of all this, I am trying to win the Chicken Dinner. It's been two days now.)