The Rise of PUBG’s popularity, and its esports scene


The hit Battle-Royale inspired game Playerunknown’s Battleground continues to draw more players into it, despite not yet leaving Steam Early Access.

Playerunknown’s Battleground has the polish, playability and stability that is sorely missing in games from a similar vein such as H1Z1, Day Z and others. People have probably become used to the treatment that big early access projects receive: plenty of promises left unfulfilled with a barely playable but still enjoyable game. What sets PUBG apart, and probably the reason why it has been enjoying such massive success, is its initially good and refined product, devoid of signs of neglect from developers, packaged into a game that is easy to grasp and delightful to watch.

Over PUBG’s first half-year’s availability, the game has been greeted with tremendous success. Its sales continue to grow, as well as its fanbase. In fact, PUBG has just recently topped the charts in the total number of concurrent players playing the game, beating both Valve staples Dota2 and CS:GO.

There has been a massive drop in Dota2’s playerbase recently, which allowed PUBG to overtake it in the charts, but the drop could be attributed to one of two things. First, Dota2’s Battle Pass has just recently expired, which could mean that a lot of players have temporarily stopped playing in some form of recuperation period while waiting for the next Battle pass. Or it could be because of its players becoming preoccupied playing a different game altogether, which could be its brethren CS:GO, what with Operation Hydra extending its deadline for its missions and rewards. But it could also be PUBG.

Granted, playing one game doesn’t entirely mean you’re gonna leave the other, but the rate at which players have been adapting PUBG as their regular game has been increasing. It’s easy to understand why. It’s easy to learn how to play PUBG, even if you’re a complete beginner in shooter games. It’s fun to watch, so a lot of streamers have started playing the game, increasing its popularity even further. The game’s not dirt-cheap, but it gives good returns in its looting system. After selling ten or so crates, which aren’t that hard to come by if you play a lot of PUBG, you would have earned enough money to buy yourself another copy. Players can even win the game out of sheer luck – when they simply didn’t encounter anyone dangerous enough to kill them, or if they end up looting a house full of powerful weapons and body armor. It is accessible enough for beginners but it hooks you in for repeated play, making it easy to drain hours down without you noticing.

Another great thing about PUBG is that it’s barely committal, making it almost stress-free to play. Sure, in the heat of the moment, you’d feel your blood rushing and your eyes twitching. But for the most part, quitting the game is just as easy as starting one. Most of the stress in CS:GO and Dota2 comes from the commitment you put into the game, the long matches, and sometimes even the long queues. PUBG doesn’t have any of those, making it a convenient go-to game for casual players.

It’s noteworthy that PUBG have similar roots to Valve’s greatest video games. Just as how DotA can trace its roots to Starcraft, Counter-Strike and Team Fortress on Half-Life, PUBG too, traces its roots to ARMA 2. Just like Dota2, CS:GO and TF2, PUBG is also beginning to become one of Steam’s mainstays, increasing in popularity and becoming one of Steam’s most played games. But the similarities might not end there. CS:GO and Dota2 went on to have very successful professional scenes, and it looks like PUBG is also heading towards that direction.

However, what is missing from PUBG that was present in both CS:GO’s and Dota2’s success is the structural support Valve gave its two flag-bearers. Valve’s handling of the pro scenes of CS:GO and Dota2 have had its own share of controversies, criticisms and backlashes from the community, but nevertheless, Valve’s support enabled CS:GO and Dota2 to become the esports giants that they are today. Going outside of Valve, League of Legends have been successful thanks to Riot’s system, and Blizzard has also been experimenting on their own model with Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch. PUBG doesn’t have anything of the sort as of now.

But the game has shown its potential in esports. Back at Gamescom, PUBG’s developer Bluehole Studio worked with ESL to host the PUBG Invitational. A hundred players competed for that event, with five digit figures as rewards for the winners. Big esports brands have been creating teams around PUBG already, even before the game’s actual full release. It might only be a matter of time until PUBG itself becomes an esport.

Even if that happens, surely Dota2 and CS:GO will still stay for at least a couple more years. It’s not like the fires that they started will suddenly get snuffed out because of the emergence of PUBG’s esports scene. But sooner or later, Dota2 and CS:GO might go out of fashion, and they’d have to pass the torch to a successor game. Whatever game that ends up to be, one thing’s for sure: PUBG’s poised right now to become one of those contenders. If you’re one of the many gamers who are looking into entering the professional scene, PUBG is definitely worth trying your luck on.

Author: Neutral

Neutral has been playing video games since he was a little kid. He started being competitive when he and his brother would bet favors for each other depending on who wins at the PS2 game Naruto Shippuuden. Recently he has been playing Dota2 and Animal Crossing on his revived 3DS. It is his dream to be part of the formation of the eSports version of UAAP through UP Gaming Guild’s Impetus Intercollegiate Dota2 League.

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