Anyone who so much as (metaphorically) brushes up against the world of video games has heard of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, a.k.a. PUBG. Since releasing on Steam in March 2017, PUBG has taken the gaming world by storm. The game sold ten million copies in six months alone, and its player count grows by the day. Few would guess from looking at it that PUBG is still in Early Access, but developer Bluehole plans to give the title its full release by the end of 2017.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is a deathmatch game played on a battle royale scale. Up to 100 players can participate in a match, spawning into a huge map and using whatever tools or weapons are at hand to kill other players while trying to stay alive themselves. There’s no respawn for players who get killed; everyone only gets one life, and the last person standing wins the match. The concept has earned PUBG its place at the top of the Steam charts. There’s only one other shooter that consistently ranks as high on those charts as PUBG: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. That’s not a coincidence.
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It’s worth wondering what, exactly, has made PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds so popular. The answer lies in the game’s brutal challenge: staying ahead of 99 foes is a feat for any shooter fan, newb or vet. There’s a primal satisfaction that comes with using tactics and subtlety to stay alive, pick off foes, and avoid getting killed by players who are also being sneaky. This interplay also creates a delicious tension; only horror games are more suspenseful than a round of PUBG, and it’s because of the knowledge that players only have one shot at being winner winner chicken dinner.
That same one-shot tension is what makes CS:GO popular as well. With respect to the fact that CS:GO and PUBG are very different games at face value, both titles thrive on the tension of getting only one chance to win a match. Even though CS:GO is a game about navigating small maps in first-person and PUBG is all about being in huge worlds in the third person (unless you opt for the FPS mode), both games challenge players to stay one step ahead of their peers. They’re the ultimate tactical survival challenges, and they’re both addictively fun because of it.
To be fair to PUBG, CS:GO has never touched the battle royale concept. The game also didn’t invent the concept of the one-life shooting challenge… but it sure as heck popularized the concept on PC. The tension of having one life to give on the battlefields of CS:GO is as much a part off the game’s brand as its logo or its knife skins, and players were drawn to that challenge for years for the same reason they’re drawn to PUBG now.
CS:GO made deathmatch permadeath popular, and now PUBG is presenting a new take on the concept. That concept is what binds them together, and why both games frequently swap first and second positions on the Steam charts.
Both games, of course, are fun to play and worth playing consistently. Bluehole has done a tremendous job keeping in touch with its community and staying on track for PUBG’s Q4 2017 release date. Come to the games for their gunplay and stay for the chance to best dozens of other people. The opportunity to prove that kind of glory, and the tension undertaken in its pursuit, is irresistible.