Right now, the undisputed biggest game in the market is PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. At the time of writing, PUBG averages over a million concurrent players each month with the total numbers for its player base still on the rise. So right now Microsoft’s exclusivity deal to bring PUBG to Xbox consoles is one of the biggest exclusives the company could have going for it. At least, theoretically. Because, so far the console release of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has been a highly-criticized mess across the board.
While the PC version of the game has never been known to run especially well and is still very much a work in progress, console players have come to expect a bit more from their games upon release. Instead of that, what greeted console players who got the game to eagerly see what all the hubbub was about was a game that was all at once unpolished, clunky, and poorly optimized. Almost immediately players were assailed by poor textures, awkward, unintuitive controls, and a frame rate that manages a consistent 20 FPS with it maybe hitting 30 once in a blue moon. Regardless of whether you’re playing on an Xbox One or the much more powerful Xbox One X.
For players coming from the PC version or worse yet, players who’ve never played PUBG before, the game is underwhelming to say the very least. It remains impressive that the game is on consoles at all, but that hardly matters when the product players have is markedly inferior and a hassle to play. Though the question then becomes, how will this affect PUBG’s popularity and effectiveness in the console market? The short answer? It’s going to be one steep uphill battle.
In the era of modern gaming, players have become used to buggy or unpolished games. They are also used to patches to address these issues and PUBG will no doubt continue to be updated both on consoles and PC until both are considered satisfactory experiences. Though for PUBG on Xbox One, it may be a case of too little too late.
The game has already used up its first impression with console players and that first impression is not good. Worse yet, there is competition that not only does what PUBG does on consoles, but it does it for free. While being criticized by some as a shameless PUBG clone, Epic Games’ Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode offers the quintessential PUBG experience with an improved frame rate, better visuals, and a more intuitive control scheme. Did we also mention that it’s free? Because that’s gonna be a big deciding factor.
When there’s one game that is unrefined and cumbersome that costs money to play, versus a game that is fun and established while also being free, well, there’s no real debate as to which one customers will go for. It’s too early to say with absolute certainty how things will go, but with the way PlayerUnknown himself talks about his competitors it does seem like PUBG is at least a little bit concerned about the competition.
Though what is the bottom line here? People play PUBG and realize it’s maybe a bit more early-access than they think and then…what? Well, the safe bet is one of two possible outcomes.
One safe assumption is that the developer team will continue to patch and fine tune the console version; and as it continues to improve and get support it can steadily accrue more players and become a fun game, competing with rivals like Fortnite. The other is that the game has basically lost the race by tripping at the starting line and will spend its time playing catch up to Fortnite, never quite achieving the major success either Microsoft or PlayerUnknown wanted for it.
Either way, any hopes of the game becoming the same sort of unrivaled powerhouse on consoles as it is on PC are looking rather unlikely. The world has seen the console version of PUBG and so far it is thoroughly unimpressed. Though the game does remain an unprecedented success on PC to the extent that, short of a mass exodus of players, it’ll remain the biggest game on the market in spite of a botched console launch.
This is, of course, ultimately speculation. PUBG could turn things around and surprise console players with its growth the same way it did PC players. Though for now, it’s looking a lot like PUBG shot itself in the foot right out of the gate and will suffer in the console space because of it.