Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds is an online, multiplayer survival game on the PC where you and up to 98 of your closest friends — and probably at least one Twitch streamer — skydives onto an island where you look for weapons and equipment that is then used to kill everyone else.
That’s a short explanation of what the game is, but if you’ve been curious about why it’s so popular or confused by some aspects of this phenomena, this is a great place to start. Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds is a strange and idiosyncratic game, but it’s not an overnight success and there’s a reason it blew up in the way it has.
Let’s dig in.
Why is everyone talking about Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG)?
Because it’s a very popular game. SteamSpy estimates 6.5 million players have purchased the $29.99 game from Steam, and it has been reliably camped out in the top 10 best-sellers for Steam since its launch in March 2017.
It’s also a hit among streamers and YouTube personalities, due to both its general popularity and its ability to reliably serve up interesting moments in each round. It’s often in the top five most popular games on Twitch.
So the short answer is that everyone is buying it or at least watching it, which leads to people talking about it.
Why is it called Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG)?
We agree it’s a silly name, somehow managing to combine something very specific with the very general in the most boring way possible, while also not providing a good acronym. That’s hard to pull off.
Brendan Greene is the game’s creative director, and he goes by “Playerunknown” online. He’s built up a following under that name creating the “Battle Royale” game mod for Arma 3 and then consulting on H1Z1 to create official Battle Royale-inspired modes.
The Battle Royale mode, named for the Japanese movie the Hunger Games is often accused of ripping off, pits a bunch of players against each other to be the last person left alive. That idea served as the basic structure for PUBG’s standalone release.
But you can’t name a game after a movie without paying someone to use the copyrighted phrase, and the word “battlegrounds” is also a copyright nightmare. So here we are.
“It's only called PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds because ‘Battlegrounds’ you can't get a copyright on,” Greene told Business Insider. “You just can't. So calling it Playerunknown's Battlegrounds [makes sense] because it was Playerunknown's Battle Royale before that.”
The official name is actually PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS, but few publications use the caps.
“It's all caps because it looks better as all caps,” Greene said. “No other reason. I'm not shouting it.”
Most fans just call it PUBG, with differing levels of capitalization. Verbally, it usually sounds like “Puhb-Gee” or, less often, like “Plunkbat.” We’re fond of “GunCarBackpack” around the office.
What systems have Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG)?
The game is only on the PC for the moment, and only available through Steam or on the game’s official page. The non-Steam link on the page will give you a download code that has to be activated on Steam, however, so it’s essentially a Steam exclusive.
There has not been any kind of physical release, and likely won’t be until the game is out of early access.
There will be a release on the Xbox One in 2017, using the console’s Game Preview (early access) program. PlayStation fans are out of luck for the time being, but the game’s developer said that they continue to look at other platforms without providing any solid details.
What this likely means is that Microsoft has paid for timed exclusivity on consoles, but a PlayStation 4 version will eventually be released. There’s just nothing official yet.
Wait, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) isn’t out yet?
Correct! The game is in Early Access on Steam, which means you’re paying for a game that isn’t finished. New features are announced and added regularly, with custom servers and player-controlled zombies being two recent examples.
You’ll sometimes see bugs, may notice some weird physics and the game feels oddly unoptimized for an Unreal Engine 4 release. But overall it’s a very stable game that’s only getting better; you shouldn’t be afraid to jump in now.
Can you play Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) by yourself?
Yes and no. You don’t need to know other players to have a good time — playing by yourself can be a lot of fun, in fact — but it is a multiplayer-only game that requires a constant connection to the internet. Each server can include up to 99 players.
There is no single-player game or campaign, nor is there any kind of lore or narrative reason for any of this to be happening.
Does Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) have microtransactions?
Yep, and they’re pretty controversial right now. You earn Battle Points based on your rank, amount of damage done to the other players and number of kills, and you use those Battle Points to buy crates that include cosmetic items.
While crates have historically been free to open, the Gamescom Invitational Crate will require the purchase of a $2.50 key on top of the price in Battle Points. The money will increase the prize pool of the Gamescom PUBG Invitational, and some of it will also be donated to charity.
The addition of microtransactions before the official launch of the game angered some members of the community, due to Greene’s earlier statements about for-pay items not being added until the game reached version 1.0.
A statement from Greene apologized for the poor communication, and explained this was part of the testing process for the full version of PUBG:
The idea of testing, prior to full implementation, is at the heart of adding every new game feature in our game, and this includes the crate and key system which we believe will serve as the foundation of a healthy economy after launch. This is an economy that would and should benefit all players — both who are willing to pay and who are not willing to pay for vanity items. It is important that all our players are able to enjoy the various items that will be provided for customization, and it is even more crucial that we have a stable self-sustaining economy that maintains the value of the items you have purchased or gained.
I do understand your concerns about the system, but I feel testing for a sturdy economy on the Steam Marketplace is necessary at this stage and ultimately beneficial for the game.
There is a busy, and potentially lucrative, secondary market where players are selling rare items to each other on the Steam Community Market as well. Items can sell for hundreds of dollars. The good news is that you can’t buy guns or anything that dramatically impacts your ability as a player.
So how do I get guns and level up?
There is no persistent leveling system or player progression in PUBG. You may level up, but it only happens in your heart, and the only indication of a higher level player is their skill while playing. Everyone drops onto the same map with the same abilities and equipment — minus their cosmetic items — and goes after the same weapons and gear once they hit the ground. Everyone begins each round with nothing except clothing carrying over from the rest of their time playing.
You have to look through the abandoned structures on the map to find guns, med kits, armor and scopes, and it’s up to you to choose when to begin to actively look for other players.
Some people like to jump in, find a gun quickly and go hunting, while others wait until they have armor, a backpack, medical equipment and a good selection of guns with multiple add-ons before they engage the other players in combat. You can choose if you want to stretch each round out, or put yourself in high-risk situations that could end your round quickly. It’s up to you.
If you’re playing with a group, be sure to ask what kind of loadout they’re trying to build so you can share pickups and ammo. A well-armed and loaded up squad of players that compliment each other’s long- or short-range skills is going to have an advantage in a firefight.
What’s up with the chicken dinner?
Your reward for being the last player standing, outside of a lot of Battle Points, is the phrase “Winner, winner, chicken dinner” showing up on your screen.
The phrase has been around for a very long time, but was historically used as a way to celebrate a win in some form gambling. The legend says that inexpensive chicken meals were common at casinos, a win meant you could afford to eat … hence the term being used a generic celebration while gambling. It was used in the movie 21, for example:
The phrase was also used in Greene’s previous Battle Royale game modes, and now it’s just kind of a thing.
Players will often talk about going after the chicken dinner as a hopeful way of saying, “Maybe this time I won’t be shot in the head by someone I didn’t hear coming because I don’t know how to shut doors behind me.”
So is PUBG easy to learn?
It’s not as complicated as learning something like League of Legends, but PUBG does require a bit more dedication than most first- or third-person shooters before you build up your basic skills.
Learning how to skydive effectively, not to mention figuring out where to go, takes time. And that’s before the combat even really begins! We have you covered if you’re just starting out, though.
The good news is that PUBG is a fun game, even if you don’t make it very far in your first few rounds. And remember: Cowering inside a house with the door shut is a valid strategy … although it’s unlikely to get you that chicken dinner.
On the upside, there’s only one map to learn so far.
Wait, there’s only one map in PUBG?
Yep! The map is 64 square kilometers, broken up into squares that are eight square kilometers each. With a bit of time and study, you can learn where the towns are located and where the action is likely to be heavier versus where you will likely be left alone. You can also drop markers on the in-game map to tell your group where to meet up.
Map knowledge is key, and the plane’s path over the land combined with a play area that shrinks to a middle point that changes from game to game means that you’ll be forced to play on different parts of it from round to round.
More maps are on the way, as well.