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Can PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds Remain Popular Long-Term?

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PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is already a huge part of the gaming scene. The multiplayer title has gone from record to record, smashing through various concurrent user records on Steam and achieving the unthinkable: outdoing Valve's own games on the distribution platform that it created. Since the game's launch, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds has gone from a surprise hit to a game of the year contender, and that's nothing to be sniffed at.

Although there's no denying the game's popularity, it's fair to say that the game remains something of a raw experience. Players have ridden over the bumps of poor optimization and various glitches, as the title goes through tweak after tweak to try and get its Battle Royale-esque gameplay pitch perfect. That's certainly to be expected of a title built in the games-as-service model, even from games within AAA development, but when it comes to PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds there are still areas where it is really ropey.

Related: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Developer Reveals Its Next Game 

This puts the game at something of a crossroads. At the moment, it's unimaginable for such a hugely popular game to slip from the public eye, but the title needs to consolidate its place at the top of gaming, and needs to do so quickly. Nowhere is it harder to make a prolonged impression in gaming than in the online multiplayer scene, and although the spoils of victory are great the drop offs can be astronomical.

With that in mind, PUBG Corporation will be thinking about ways to not only maintain PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds' position, but push it even further, and turn the game into an essential landmark of video games as a whole. As World of Warcraft shows, some games can become more than just games, particularly when it comes to building something around online play, but doing so requires a level of quality that few games can reach - and a smidgen of luck.

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There's plenty that is still in the control of PUBG, though. For starters, the game's technical issues need to be addressed, and fixes need to be put in place sooner rather than later. After all, the game has now left the bubble of early access for PC, and now needs to stand on its own two feet as a finished product. Although PC gamers often have plenty of patience while a game is in early access, that can wear thin when the title is supposed to be a complete experience.

This is even more important when it comes to the console version of the game. PUBG is currently available through Xbox's Game Preview Program, and from a commercial perspective it has been incredibly successful by selling over 3 million copies in an incredibly short amount of time. However, the Xbox One version of the game has suffered tremendously from technical issues, and PUBG Corporation will have to carefully balance sorting out these serious limitations with further tweaks for the PC version of the game.

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The importance of solving continued technical issues is not just down to delivering a satisfying gaming experience. Keeping promises to early supporters of a multiplayer game is extremely important, because it helps build a level of trust with a community at large. Conversely, failing to fix bugs and glitches (particularly those that are performance-related) can be extremely damaging to a game's brand.

One recent example is Friday the 13th: The Game. Although the title did not reach the heights of PUBG, the game was still a big financial success, with approximately 2 million units sold as at August 2017 which is nothing to be sniffed at for a horror-based game from a small studio. However, the game's ongoing bugs have proved to be its undoing, as the title slowly but surely lost player trust amid apologies from Illfonic and Gun Media. To make matters worse, the constant delays for the game's much-lauded single player mode have damaged its reputation further, leaving a permanent cloud over a game with plenty of potential and a large community of players.

PUBG could need to look over its shoulder in this respect, too. Fortnite has been making waves with its own Battle Royale-style gameplay, and its free-to-play status and comparatively more stable gameplay has led to players not only giving it a go, but sticking around too. The game is unlikely to be the only major competitor for PUBG's crown, either, and if PUBG continues to have major success it is going to have to fend off competitors on a constant basis.

Part of this will be down to delivering a gameplay experience superior to those that try to emulate it; after all, why try a knock-off when the original is so good? But this is not the only trap that PUBG will need to avoid.

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One pitfall that PUBG will need to watch out for is not to become too niche or difficult for players to get into. At the moment the sheer potential and power of PUBG is enough to keep new players coming and old players sticking around, but that's not going to last forever. Eventually, players will drop off as they are enticed by new games that hit the market. That doesn't mean purely direct competitors to PUBG, but games across the board - some of those highly anticipated games of 2018 will take PUBG players away regardless of whether they offer similar gameplay at all.

In order to solve this, PUBG will need to remain inviting to new players beyond its current hype. Thankfully the core gameplay dynamic of the game is simple enough for new players to grasp while the metagame is yet to become overly convoluted, and the game's developers will need to walk that fine line between delivering new content and making sure said content does not make it difficult for players to get into the game.

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