Why Over 1 Million People Are Playing PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds
PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds is DayZ without the wait.
For the past month, PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds has taken Steam by storm. The unusually-titled multiplayer shooter earned a whopping $11 million dollars during its first weekend on Early Access and has already sold over one million copies. It sits comfortably among the most-watched games on Twitch, next to streaming staples Hearthstone, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and League of Legends. The reason for this oddly named games sudden, meteoric success is simple: its really, really good.
PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds does what many games like it struggle to do: make large-scale, competitive multiplayer survival gaming exciting and accessible. The premise is straightforward. Up to 100 players parachute out of an airplane onto a huge island, where they must immediately arm themselves withany weapons they can scavengefrom its abandoned towns, factories, and military bases. Over the course of each match, the size of the battlefield rapidly shrinks, as does its pool of survivors as players begin taking each other out. This imposes an increasingly player-dense playground for shoot-outs. By the end of each game, the last player standing or the last team standing wins.
Few of the ideas in Battlegrounds are new. A handful of survival games and mods have explored similar concepts: The Culling, Hungercraft, H1Z1: King of the Kill, and of course, the Arma 2 mod DayZ: Battle Royale, developed by PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds creator Brendan Greene, aka PlayerUnknown. The core gameplay isnt new or even innovative, but when condensed down into something more polished than whats on the market and easily consumable for new players, you do end up with something great.
Forces a steady stream of thrilling encounters with other players.
So much of PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds success is owed to its refusal to waste the players time. Barring a brief free-for-all period as all 100 participants load in, players are afforded very little room to mess around. Failing to find a weapon in the opening minutes is often a death sentence. A deadly shrinking force field consistently compels players into the center of the play arena. Frequent airstrikes, marked with red on the map, encourage even more player movement. Its a brisk pace that forces a steady stream of increasingly thrilling encounters with other players without totally sacrificing the moments of terrifying solitude that make games like this great. In a way, PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds feels like its taken a very specific part of DayZ and condensed it down into its purest form, which makes sense given its origins in DayZ: Battle Royale.
Screenshot from the 2013 DayZ standalone.
Another online, open-world survival game, the zombie-themed DayZ (both the original mod and standalone) was made popular thanks to its focus on unpredictable and intense emergent experiences. DayZ lacks an ultimate goal, so encounters with other players in its Soviet-inspired setting can end a multitude of ways: mutual fear and awkward fleeing, nerve-racking long-distance stand-offs, extended games of apocalyptic cat-and-mouse you name it.
Its DayZ at a faster pace, and with much higher stakes.
But because of its aimless nature, DayZ can also be slow, boring, and empty. A single session is often filled with long, weighty periods of absolutely nothing. As someone who enjoys the tension that can come with this approach lying prone on a hill overlooking a town for 10 minutes, waiting for any sign of movement, slowly starving to death I dont think its pacing is a bad thing. Some of my favorite gaming memories are deeply rooted in the terror created by DayZs dreadfully sluggish pace and potentially traitorous social interactions. But it certainly isnt as accessible to a wide audience in the same way a Battle Royale-style deathmatch is.
Screenshot from PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds.
PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds solves that problem by creating just enough space between encounters to avoid diluting their intensity, without letting those periods dominate the experience. Youre always on the go, but you also always have a purpose: setting mini goals, meeting small milestones, and overcoming hurdles that become deadlier and deadlier in nature. Its DayZ at a faster pace, and with much higher stakes. It forces you to be more observant. You learn how to check for traces of other players at a mere glance: open doors; a weapon on the floor, but no ammo; a fallen players loot crate. Or something more obvious: movement in a window orthe sound of a distant vehicle.
Already feels like a fully-realized game.
There are also so many little things that PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds does that make it a smooth experience, even in Early Access. You can move while checking your map and inventory. Looting items off the floor is as easy as right-clicking or a quick click-and-drag. It retains the clunky feel of a military sim, but does away with useless functions that would clutter up the experience. It feels balanced and relatively bug-free. It also takes mere minutes to get back into a game. Getting eliminated from a match sometimes happens faster than you can even realize, but its never a chore to get back in. The survival genre has become synonymous with Early Access and all the rough edges that come with it, but at launch Battlegrounds already feels like a fully-realized game.
Screenshot from PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds.
PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds could certainly be more polished, but as it stands, theres no wonder this intense online survival shooter has taken off so quickly. In a genre dominated by buggy, rigid sims or explosive shoot em ups, the thrill of simplyoutliving 99 other players on one life aloneis hard to pass up.
Chloi Rad is an Associate Editor for IGN. Follow her on Twitter .
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The Biggest Game Releases of March 2023
The mad dash of February games is finally behind us, but that doesnt mean there arent some great games still on the horizon for March. From Wo Long (which is hitting Game Pass on day one), to The Last of Us Part 1 on PC, to the long-awaited Resident Evil 4 remake - theres going to be a lot to keep you busy. So ride along as we go through all of the biggest video game releases youll be able to play on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC in March 2023.Also, you can browse the IGN Playlist of all the biggest titles launching in March. Add your favorites to your own playlist!
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