When PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) launched in 2017, it revolutionised the battle royale genre. Although it wasn’t the first battle royale game to ever hit the market, it was definitely one of the most popular. Within the space of a year, some 50 million players had entered the arena, but recently, people have been asking one clear question… Is PUBG dying?
Since PUBG first launched, several huge battle royale titles have stormed onto the scene. They have effectively capitalised on the massive success of the battle royale genre, and even games that don’t fit the traditional formula have fielded their own interpretation of it. For instance, in 2019, iconic racing sim Forza Horizon took on a car-based battle royale mode, featuring high-speed, high-octane action.
It’s easy to see why gamers are suggesting it, but seriously – is PUBG dying?
Why PUBG Is Dying
That sub-title might seem pretty open-and-shut, but there are plenty of angles to look at when answering this question. Firstly, we can put out the point that almost every game ever made has a lifecycle – eventually, it just dies. As technology evolves and trends ebb and flow, the industry shapes itself to accommodate the changes.
With PUBG, it was one of the first true titles in a genre that is now relatively oversaturated. When we’re asking the question, ‘is PUBG dying’, this is where we start. As we write this piece, PUBG is four years old, and while updates have been consistent, it’s still roughly the same game as it was on day one. That’s the first step to killing a game – stagnation.
Since 2017 (and the launch of PUBG), fans of the genre have enjoyed:
- Fortnite (2017)
- Garena FreeFire (2017)
- Path of Exile: Royale (2018)
- Call of Duty: Blackout (2018)
- Apex Legends (2019)
- Fallout 76: Nuclear Winter (2019)
- Call of Duty: Warzone (2020)
- Hyper Scape (2020)
Now, you’ve almost certainly identified some immensely popular titles on that list – and there’s your next reason as to why PUBG is dying. There’s just too much high quality, entertaining, and exciting competition out there. As titles like Warzone and Fortnite grew exponentially in popularity, older, weaker games like PUBG slipped down in the ratings.
Although, in 2021, PUBG’s developers were fighting frantically to retain the playerbase by pumping content into the title. But was it enough to stop the best PUBG players from leaving the platform?
Is PUBG Mobile Dying?
Let’s look at this from a different perspective, and incorporate all of the PUBG universe. In 2018, barely a year after the main platform had launched, a mobile version of PUBG hit the market – to great success. It was pushed out by Tencent, one of the largest technology conglomerates in China, giving it a massively stable foundation.
Owing to the easier accessiblity of the mobile platform, PUBG Mobile became a smash hit. According to data aggregate sites, PUBG Mobile became the highest grossing game in 2020, generating an incredible $2.6 billion in revenue. At the start of 2021, it was reported that more than a billion downloads of the game had been completed, making it one of the most popular games of all time.
However, there was something of a slump experienced following a blanket ban of the game inside of India. Before this ban was thrown down, more than half of PUBG Mobile’s player base hailed from the country. In response, a South Korean developer announced what was essentially a re-launch of PUBG Mobile in India, under the name ‘Battlegrounds Mobile India’.
There’s a reason why some of the best esports teams in India focus heavily on PUBG Mobile.
Are PUBG Esports Still A Thing?
So, is PUBG dying?
As a general platform, it might be, but PUBG Mobile is still relatively strong, and enjoyed by millions. In November of 2021, the PUBG Mobile World Championship will begin, running through to January and boasting a prize pool worth $6 million. That’s one of the most valuable prize pools in esports today, rivalling platforms like the Call of Duty League and the League of Legends World Championship.
But what about console or PC-based competitions? Well, the PUBG core esports environment almost doesn’t exist outside of South-East Asia. There are very few tournaments that take place across Europe or North America, with the bulk of players in these regions opting to compete on other titles. It’s a fair question to ask, ‘why is PUBG PC dying?’
Since it first launched, PUBG has been a staple title on the PC platform, but according to SteamCharts.com, it has seen a lack of positive performance for over a year. In the last six months, there has been a steady decline, with a massive drop off taking place quite recently. As many esports are competed on the PC platform these days, it stands to reason that a drop in PC popularity for PUBG means that esports for the franchise are almost locked to PUBG Mobile.
And that is very harmful for the franchise as a whole.
Can PUBG Ever Recover?
If PUBG is to ever recover, something drastic must happen. In 2019, the developers tried to launch a free-to-play, low-quality version of the game called PUBG Lite, but it was closed down in April of 2021. Is PUBG Lite dead? It most certainly is – and it takes a huge chunk out of PUBG’s potential across the board.
When you look at the numbers, they don’t paint a pretty picture for PUBG in general. On Twitch, where the best PUBG streamers operate, the title barely breaks into the top twenty games, by viewership numbers. At present, Apex Legends, Fortnite, and Warzone all outrank PUBG in the battle royale stakes.
So, let’s ask the question, one more time: is PUBG dying?
Unfortunately, it looks like it is.