In 2017, one game took gaming by storm. A multiplayer game born from mods and tweaks to existing games, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds became a huge success on Steam. Millions of players logged in to be the last one standing, working against ninety-nine others to taste that sweetest of dishes – the Chicken Dinner. There were rough edges, sure, but the game was a resounding success. So much so that at E3 2017, Microsoft announced that it had obtained console exclusivity for a port of PUBG. It was seen as a coup – who wouldn’t want to play the hottest game on the planet?
PUBG launched on Xbox One in December of 2017, just about within the calendar year it was scheduled to land in. It was a mess. Buildings wouldn’t load, vehicles somersaulted from little to no contact, and the game would drop players back to the dashboard at the drop of a hat. Throughout this, PUBG was still special. There was nothing that came close to that feeling of flanking an enemy with a shotgun or sniping from a hilltop to earn that tasty Chicken Dinner.
Except there was something similar.
Fortnite Battle Royale is as ubiquitous as a game could ever be, but back in September 2017 it was a curiosity. A free-to-play Battle Royale game which worked within PUBG’s own ruleset, this time in a cartoony world where building structures was key to surviving the endgame. After some teething issues, Fortnite became the de facto Battle Royale game on console – long before the disappointing Xbox One release of PUBG. The low barrier of entry (it’s free) and a more colorful aesthetic meant it was something anyone could jump into, and over a year on it runs on your phone, tablet, PC or console with Cross-Play and Cross-Progression.
So why this article?
PUBG on Xbox has made strides to reach its V1.0 release, but it still lags behind Fortnite for polish and content (as most games do – Epic’s release schedule of updates is nothing short of incredible). While these two aren’t alone in this new shooter sub-genre, a new challenger has emerged.
Call of Duty Black Ops 4 is fast becoming a Battle Royale juggernaut. Despite the full retail pricing (admittedly alongside two other very good modes), its Blackout mode takes the best of PUBG and distills it through the Call of Duty franchise’s penchant for fluid running and gunning. Where Fortnite features building which has caused a significant learning curve, Blackout is built for speed – within minutes of landing (which is itself a quicker process than it is in its competitors), you’ll be sprinting, sliding and throwing yourself through windows. Fortnite’s diverse weapon selection (iterating constantly, to Epic’s credit) feels strangely pedestrian next to Blackout’s Ray Gun and Zombie-infested map areas.
You’ll notice that I’m comparing two Battle Royale games out of three here, and PUBG simply cannot compete with the polish of Blackout or Fortnite’s depth of strategy. In any given match, PUBG can be the most pulsating of the three – waiting for a bullet to break the tension, sweaty palms, countless nights spent awake reminiscing over what you could’ve done differently – and while steps have been taken to improve the reliability of the game, it still feels like you’re moments away from disaster, and not in a good way.
Millions of people still play PUBG, and with time perhaps the progenitor of the Battle Royale craze will receive enough polish to make it competitive in the console space. The question now is, does PUBG have a market share on the Xbox platform anymore? The much-touted console exclusive is now lagging behind a multiplatform sales juggernaut and the free-to-play game that has taken the world by storm. What next for PUBG?
Are you playing any Battle Royale games at the moment? If so, what’s your poison? Let us know in the comments below.