More than just a bizarre name, “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” is a brilliant concept. It’s no surprise that the game — which still hasn’t officially launched — has already racked up over $ 100 million in revenue. This is a game that’s exclusively available on PC and isn’t even finished with development, yet it’s already being played by over 4 million people.
There’s a simple explanation for why it’s doing so well: It’s an unbelievably good game.
Here’s how the average match of “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” goes:
You’re jammed in a crappy plane with 100 other people, flying above an abandoned ex-Soviet island. You can jump whenever you want, knowing that as you plummet to the ground, 99 other people are plotting your imminent death. Of course, you’re plotting theirs as well, just as soon as you can get your hands on a weapon.
Bluehole Studios via SideArms4Reason/YouTube
Thankfully, though the island is uninhabited aside from you and the enemy players, the island — including all its houses, hospitals, and gas stations — are packed with P9s, AKs, and plenty of body armor.
As you scramble to put together a small arsenal and supplies for survival, you’re also contending with the other 99 people doing the same thing. Sometimes those folks want to fight, and sometimes they’re unarmed and just as terrified of you as you are of them. Every interaction with another player in “Battlegrounds” is a gamble.
So, where in the world did this game come from?
It was created by a studio in South Korea named Bluehole, and its creative director is an Irish man named Brendan Greene (AKA “PlayerUnknown”). Though Bluehole was already an established game developer, most famous for having created a successful MMO called “Tera,” the company has found sudden outrageous success with “Battlegrounds.” For a game that’s not even complete yet, to have already racked up over 4 million copies sold is extremely rare — more akin to the explosive success of something like “Minecraft” than standard game launches.
Given that sudden, extreme success, I wondered how Greene and co. were handling things. Were they partying non-stop? Taking lavish vacations? Buying gold toilets? Outbidding Jay Z and Beyoncé for luxurious LA abodes?
“No, f— that. I’m a simple man, and I’m happy when I have internet and a nice bottle of wine,” the game’s creative director Brendan Greene told me in an interview at the annual video game trade show, E3, in mid-June. “I have five pairs of the same Bermudas. I have a Converse problem, but they’re my guilty vices. I don’t want a fancy car. A nice house would be good.”
So, no Ferraris then. Instead, Greene is focusing on setting up his daughter for life. “For me, personally, I have a daughter. I do this for her. I don’t want to spoil her, but she’ll never need to worry,” he said.
Unbelievably, Greene doesn’t seem to be freaking out at all with the sudden infusion of cash. He’s a friendly, charismatic gentleman. He speaks excitedly about the game he’s making, and is seemingly trying to avoid confronting its potential as a behemoth. Though the game has only been available since March, it’s already sold over 4 million copies — it’s still in “Early Access,” which means it’s not complete. Bluehole is planning a “1.0” version for later this year, and an Xbox One version of the game by year’s end.
All of which is to say one thing: “Battlegrounds” is, if anything, just getting started. It’s entirely possible that Greene is just at the start of a wild roller coaster ride. But he’s staying cool.
“Apart from a few more smiles around the office, the focus is on making a good game,” he told me. “That hasn’t changed. Sure, we’ve been super successful, but it hasn’t really affected me or the team that much.” The focus, he said, is on making the game as good as possible. “I have a goal in mind for Battle Royale as a game mode, and ‘Battlegrounds’ as a game, and — until we get there — I’m not celebrating just yet. This could all be gone in a second, as is the way with the internet. We want to finish it, and get it done, then we’ll relax for a bit.”