Galen Reich and Emma Kent discuss how the as yet unfinished Battlegrounds has nevertheless become the world’s hottest game
It is a well established fact that the British enjoy a cheeky Nandos, but now a new chicken dinner craze is taking the world by storm. By this, of course, we mean accomplishing the near-impossible task of winning a game in PlayerUnknown’s: Battlegrounds (affectionately known as PUBG).
For those who are confused, PUBG is a battle royale game by Bluehole studio, in which up to 100 players parachute onto an 8km square island, called Erangel, and battle until a champion is crowned (and presented with the ‘winner winner chicken dinner’ victory screen).
As the playable area (the ‘safe zone’) shrinks over the duration of the game, surviving is no mean feat, particularly when the area closes to an unpredictable location every time, often leaving players sprinting huge distances across the map with minimal regard for their personal safety.
Since launching in March, PUBG has become the most-played game of all time on Steam (a digital games platform), with 1.9 million current players and over 10 million copies sold, grossing over half a billion dollars for a game that is still incomplete. On top of this, it overtook League of Legends, a more established online multiplayer game of 8 years, as the second most streamed game in August, on live streaming platform Twitch. But what makes this game appeal to both players and viewers alike? Galen Reich, a player and Emma Kent, a stream viewer investigate the crucial ingredients of PUBG’s success.
How has PUBG become so popular so quickly?
Galen: Confession time, I am terrible at shooters. PUBG seemed good to me because it appeared to be pretty straightforward to play, and as someone who doesn’t really play shooters, the idea that I could jump right into a competitive multiplayer battlefield and not die instantly really appealed!
On top of the simple ruleset, PUBG also gives players lots of scope to develop their own tactics for moving around the map and engaging enemies, particularly when playing with friends in the sociable ‘Squad’ or ‘Duo’ modes. These team-based modes are a great opportunity to catch up with friends, although the relaxed chatting is regularly interrupted by frantic cries for help when another team jumps out from behind a rock.
Emma: One of the great strengths of PUBG is its simplicity and watchability. Unlike many of the games streamed on Twitch, almost anyone can watch PUBG and understand how the game works, even if they have never played it before. This has made it far more accessible than games such as League of Legends and Dota 2, which can take months to understand and years to master. This may help explain why it has shot to popularity in such a short space of time.
In addition to its accessibility, PUBG makes for great entertainment. The constant possibility of a surprise attack keeps viewers on their toes as much as the players! I’ve also found that the ‘squad’ mode works particularly well as a streaming format, and has been used to brilliant effect by gaming groups such as The Yogscast and Hatfilms. Due to the fact that PUBG rounds begin fairly slowly while people collect loot, streamers have the opportunity to engage in podcast-style banter before the game evolves into an all out fire-fight. It is quite amusing to watch squads bickering about which tactics to use, or whether to rescue a team member who went too gung-ho and landed themselves in a sticky situation.
If this is such a simple game, then why do you keep coming back?
Galen: The intensity and pacing of the rounds is addictive and every death leaves you wanting another chance to prove your skills. Short and fiery rounds feature lots of action and a swift death, and are a great way to let off steam between the longer rounds, which come to a head after 30-35 minutes of tense crawling through the barren fields of Erangel. PUBG does an excellent job of building tension as you travel through the landscape, with distant bushes looking suspiciously similar to a crouched enemy with a gun. I am not saying that it is deliberate, but it is a pretty big coincidence!
Emma: Every time you watch a PlayerUnknown’s: Battlegrounds (PUBG) stream, you get an entirely different story. In one round a streamer will stealthily build up their weaponry from the outskirts, while in the next, they will dive straight into a massive fire-fight to battle for the best gear. On top of this, the moving ‘wall of death’ means players are funnelled into different areas in each round, making for really varied matches. This means streams never get boring, as no two rounds are the same!
Some critics have said that PUBG is just a fad that will die out soon. What are your thoughts on this?
Galen: With PUBG exploding so dramatically onto the gaming scene there is a risk that it will be a passing fad, but it also seems that the developers know this and have lots of things planned for the game. A new map set in a sprawling desert is on the horizon, which will provide new vehicles, weapons, play-styles, and places to discover. A work-in-progress version of the new map was slyly data-mined from a recent update and it contains a range of new ideas, such as craters, an abandoned railway line, and the ominously-named settlement of ‘Zombie’. This naming probably refers to the planned inclusion of a zombie mode, another new idea, in which most players on a server will play as weaponless sprinting zombies with the goal of hunting down a single squad that’s armed to the teeth. So although it will be hard for PUBG to sustain the growth it’s seen so far, Bluehole has clearly put some thought into how to keep the gameplay varied and engaging for players well into the future.
Emma: PlayerUnknown’s: Battlegrounds (PUBG) creator Brendan Greene recently said that he wants to make the game ‘as big as League of Legends’, which I think is possible if the developers play their cards right. Firstly, they need to avoid irritating their fan base. A few weeks ago PUBG was ‘review bombed’ on Steam after placing adverts on one of their Chinese servers, so in light of this, they need to be more careful with their PR and avoid alienating their fans. Secondly, they need to create a framework to establish PUBG as a legitimate eSport. There have already been a few invitational events organised by Bluehole, but they need to organise a more sustainable tournament as quickly as possible to capitalise on all the interest, drawing up a calendar of events to keep viewers interested throughout the year. If Bluehole are successful in doing this, I think PUBG will be here to stay for a long time.
Despite a few bumps in the road, it seems PlayerUnknown’s: Battlegrounds is still en route to becoming one of the biggest games of all time. With some big developments in the pipeline, it looks like we will be tucking into a lot more tasty chicken dinners in the foreseeable future.