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Battlegrounds is the new survival shooter blowing up on Twitch

The father of the “battle royale” shooter makes a statement in an already crowded genre

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

At first glance, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds seems like just another entry in the already crowded survival shooter genre. Thing is, the man behind it already perfected its most entertaining variant, the so-called “battle royale.” Battlegrounds is his first attempt at a standalone game.

So far, it’s going pretty well. Today is Battlegrounds’ launch day, and it’s already the third most popular game on Twitch. That means there are more people watching it being played than are watching Mass Effect: Andromeda, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch or the last game he consulted on — a little title called H1Z1.

Brendan “Playerunknown” Greene is the man responsible for the Arma 3 mod known as “Battle Royale.” The mode’s provenance is a bit complicated. The original Arma 2 mod that grew into the modern-day, standalone DayZ didn’t exist in a vacuum. Around the time it launched, many aspiring modders took its potent multiplayer formula and riffed on it. Four years ago when Arma 3 came on the scene, they immediately got to work porting the best of those mods over. One of the most successful variants was Playerunknown’s Battle Royale. It’s still being played to this day, and currently has more than 375,000 subscribers on the Steam Workshop.

“Inspired by the book/movie Battle Royale,” reads the mod description, “it provides a unique game-play experience and provides an intense, always changing game for the player. The rules are simple. There can be only one winner. Everyone else must die!”

If you’ve ever played the original H1Z1’s Battle Royale mode, or watched a few matches of the wildly popular spin-off game H1Z1: King of the Kill, then you have Greene to thank for that. He consulted with the team at Daybreak to build them from the ground up.

Now, Greene has partnered with a South Korean game developer called Bluehole, best known for their flagship MMO, Tera. Greene has been leading the development of Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds since early last year, and the game is live on Steam’s Early Access program as of today. Multiple players drop onto an eight-kilometer square map with nothing but the clothes on their back. They have to scrounge up supplies and weapons and keep a low profile, while killing everyone else by any means possible.

Bluehole has done a bangup job at getting fans excited. Today’s press release crows about a Twitch stream with 120,000 concurrent viewers. We’ll see if they can keep that momentum going. The survival shooter genre is littered with half-finished, Early Access titles. Bluehole has gone on record to say that they’ll stay there for no more than six months.

The next level of puzzles.

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