PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is coming to the Xbox One on Dec. 12 through Xbox's Game Preview program, expanding the wildly popular game's audience beyond just PC players.
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) came out on Steam early access in March of this year and has seen regular updates with new and improved features, with an expected full release on PC coming later this year. Its addition to the Xbox One family was announced at E3 this summer. Now we have a release date.
I was able to talk to developer Brendan "PlayerUnknown" Greene and C.H. Kim, CEO and executive producer of PUBG Corp, about the current state of PUBG and what we can expect from the game in the future.
The PUBG that's coming to Xbox One is pretty much the same PUBG we've seen on PC, except it will include one extra feature that is expected to come to the PC version soon: The ability to vault yourself over obstacles.
As both versions move toward full releases, they'll continue to receive updates, including the new desert map, and a new 3D replay feature. The goal is to make the PC and Xbox One versions of PUBG as aligned as possible.
"We want to unify them eventually, we want to give the same experience across both platforms," Greene said.
Part of that same experience is the similar beginnings on the Early Access/Game Preview programs, which allows the developers to continue improving the game while getting valuable feedback from players before its full release.
Greene and Kim mentioned that this sort of early access for players is very important for game development — developers can show off the core of the game to players and get their feedback to help evolve the game. This was a success for the team on Steam and they expect similar results through Xbox's Game Preview program.
Player feedback has sometimes had a direct result in changes to PUBG, Greene said.
"We made a change to the way that you interact with loot about a month and half ago now, where we changed the interaction on the inventory looting or [picking loot up from the ground]," Greene said, "And the community — I wouldn’t say revolted about this — but they made their voices heard that they didn’t like this change and they pointed out that for one of these methods, you could learn to be faster as a mechanical skill, and we didn’t really think of that. But then once they made this point, it was like, ‘You know something, they’re right.’ So we reverted the change and it made the game better."
Kim said that he hopes PUBG's success could inspire more people to develop games in a similar way.
Despite the conversation around the game and its copycats, Greene is actually a fan of developers that seem to be inspired by the success of PUBG by making their own battle royale-style game modes.
"You know how they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? It’s great to see a genre I helped pioneer grow with more and more games."
"When I saw [Grand Theft Auto V] launched Motor Wars — I remember playing GTA, the original on LAN with friends — and seeing a franchise like that adding a game mode that I helped conceive is crazy to me," Greene said. "You know how they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? It’s great to see a genre I helped pioneer grow with more and more games. It’s exciting to see."
PUBG's publisher, BlueHole, isn't quite as excited about these flatterers, though. In September, BlueHole accused developer Epic Games of replicating the idea of PUBG in Fortnite's Battle Royale mode. BlueHole said it was contemplating taking further action against Epic, but there's been no word on that since.
Once the full versions of PUBG make their way onto their respective platforms, Greene made it clear that this doesn't mean the game is done and the developers are wiping their hands clean.
"We really want to continue refining, polishing, and improving the game over the next five, ten years," Greene said. "We’re building this as a service, not as a bought and done game."
“We’re committed to really making the best version of Battle Royale we can, whether that’s adding (in the future) more maps, 4K textures... all this kind of constant improvement, like, for example, [Counter-Strike:Global Offensive does]," Greene said. "Dust has been remade many times now and I’d like to think that we’ll do the same with our maps."
Greene referenced one of the most iconic maps in multiplayer gaming, Dust, which first appeared in the original Counter-Strike mod in 1999. Since then, the community-made map has been retooled and remastered nearly a dozen times, and is currently referred to as Dust2. Greene aspires to work in a similar style with PUBG's only map, Erangel.
Along with a continuously updated game, Greene and Kim would like to see the competitive side of PUBG grow.
"I always wanted from day one — four years ago creating Battle Royale in Arma 2 — I’ve always thought it would be a great esport," Greene said.
Of course, he acknowledges that in order to have a successful esport, it has to grow from the community, and that it's not something that can be forced onto people.
Kim also acknowledges that PUBG is a pretty unique game in the esports space, given the high number of participants in single matches, whereas most other popular esports are 1v1, whether with individual players or teams. PUBG's unique format hasn't given it a clear path to a specific competitive format yet.
"What we want to do now is figure out which is the best fit for PUBG and then grow together with the community," Kim said.