PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has been the biggest gaming story of 2017 cracking over 20 million downloads despite being still being in early access. It shows no signs of slowing down with an Xbox One release coming in December and it being announced that the game will be coming to mobile (in one form or another).
We spoke to Brendan ‘PlayerUnknown’ Greene about the future of the game and how he has made some pretty crucial decisions around the game so far.
You’ve worked on battle arena games before, why is PUBG different?
Brendan: It’s not. I’ve been asked this so much ramping up to the release, people asking “what makes your battle royale different to everyone else’s?”, like, nothing. The battle royale in Battlegrounds is very similar to the Arma III battle royale mod that I did, it has most of the features of that mode. So that battle royale mode that I created has sort of been set for the last three-ish [sic] years. So now, getting finally into it’s own standalone game with Battlegrounds, I don’t know what makes us different but people seem to like it. I think it’s the freedom we give people, right? It’s land, loot, survive, that’s it, there’s nothing else to it but how you do it is up to you, you can run around naked with the frying pan, that’s up to you – and I swear there’s probably one guy that tries to win all the time with just underwear and a frying pan.
As you say, PUBG is such a great spectator sport, do you think Twitch has played a vital role in its success?
Brendan: For sure, I think Twitch and YouTube and all of the other content creation platforms, we’ve had really strong support from streamers and I have personally since Arma II days, four years ago. LIRIK, when he was at 12-15k viewers, was coming and playing my game and growing with them has been amazing. Twitch really has helped get the game in front of more people. It’s a very powerful marketing tool if you know how to use it right and we were really lucky, we never had to pay anyone. We paid nothing to the streamers who just came to the game organically, it’s something we tried to do was this snowballing organic growth, we’re not trying to force you, we’ll make a game, if you like it and want to play it, we’re not going to force you.
It’s super popular here, obviously but we have noticed that when the game gets updated, the Oceanic region is the last in line.
Brendan: That’s Steam. The Stream distribution, I can’t do anything about that. I’d love to. We want to reduce the size of the updates, as well, so they’re not so big but just give us time.
This is a marathon for us, it’s not a sprint. We want to be doing this for the next ten years, we’re building this as a service, not just a game. We might be moving slowly on things but it’s because we’re trying to build a firm base to build a great platform on.
You’ve said that you want the game to last for ten years, will you pick up other projects in the meantime?
Brendan: As much as I would love to work on it for the next 5-10 years, I have other games that I would like to make. Right now, the focus is on Battlegrounds and until I feel that I can leave hands off, even now, at this stage, I have such a great team, I could leave it hands off, they understand the vision, they understand what we want from the game. So, I’m lucky to have them. I keep saying I’m the face of the game but they’re really the heart and soul, they’re the ones that make it work. So yeah, I want to do other projects but not until Battlegrounds at least has its first major release.
Is there anything you can tell us about other projects you’re wanting to work on?
Brendan: I want to make a survival game, I have an idea for a survival game that I think could work quite well. Again, it’s a game that I want to play, I’m making it for myself more than anything else, it’s like I want to play this game, if other people want to play it, fantastic but you know, I don’t think I’m ever going to get 2 million CCU again, I mean you never know, but I don’t think so. We captured lightning in a bottle and that’s very hard to do twice.
It certainly has been a phenomenal year for you guys, what do you expect for 2018?
Brendan: Well as we develop our eSport out and make a better platform for content creators and teams and try to build those leagues, I really think that’s where I see a blossoming eSport and I really want to see that happen because I do think it could make a great spectator sport, I think it could be a great eSport because everybody from my daughter to my grandmother could understand what’s going on. It gives us a very good chance at being a very good eSport.
Why did you choose to release PUBG on Xbox over other console platforms?
Brendan: Because they have the game preview program. Essentially, because we really believe that building a multiplayer game with Steam early access allowed us to build with the players, build with the community and that’s the same with Game Preview. It allows us to build a console version with the community and to get their feedback about how the game feels and that’s super important for a multiplayer shooter and especially for anything competitive that we want to do. We need that feedback, so that’s why we went with Xbox, the Game Preview we saw is a great way to do the similar development cycle as we did on PC.
How do you find the distinction between early access and the finished product?
Brendan : For me, the 1.0 release is feature complete, it has the custom games, it has vaulting, it has 3D replays, it has everything we’ve said we’re going to add to the game. We may miss some of those and we’ll add them in later but really, that’s what I see the 1.0 as, it’s feature complete and then we just move on to really just polishing off the optimisation.
Are there going to be any surprises for 1.0?
Brendan: We’re showcasing the new desert map, vaulting will be in, 3D replays will be in. So, yeah, I can’t wait for people to see the new desert map. It’s a new environment, it’s a completely different experience, same starting way and stuff like that but the height of the buildings and the barrenness of the terrain, at times, it makes it interesting. When I say barren, it’s not really barren, there’s less cover but there’s more cover in that the world the terrain generator that we’re using now gives much more texture. The field may appear more flat but it’ll have more dips in it, so you will have cover in the middle of nowhere. I can’t wait to see what people do on it, just offering a new environment for people to have fun in.