The Hottest Videogame of 2017 Isn't Finished Yet
By Sarah E. Needleman
The hottest videogame right now spends no money on marketing, has raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in sales and isn't finished being developed.
"PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds" -- or "PUBG," as fans call it -- caught the videogame industry off guard this year with its twist on the time-worn shooter genre. Rather than rack up the highest kill count, 100 players parachute onto an island with nothing and do whatever it takes (hiding included) to be the last one alive.
It resembles the "The Hunger Games," and players are snapping up the $30 game. More than 13 million copies have sold world-wide since March, according to its publisher, Bluehole Studio Inc.. a privately held company in South Korea. That puts Battlegrounds in a league with blockbusters such as Electronic Arts Inc.'s "Star Wars Battlefront" and Activision Blizzard Inc.'s "Overwatch."
Battlegrounds' rise from a constant work in progress to the buzziest title of the year challenges the conventions of how modern blockbuster videogames are made.
An early playable version was created in a year for less than $5 million by a team of 40 developers and sold at a discount since March on a site for "early access" games that aren't polished. The only marketing came from players on live-streaming sites such as YouTube.
A tent-pole game from a big publisher, meanwhile, often takes hundreds of employees years to make and can cost tens of millions of dollars if not more, plus additional spending for marketing. It can be akin to producing a Hollywood popcorn flick.
Battlegrounds, available for PCs, is launching on Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox One consoles later this year. Big publishers should take heed, industry watchers said.
Bluehole "effectively disrupted the market," Benchmark Co. analyst Mike Hickey said. The game's success shows developers don't need deep pockets to create a blockbuster, he said.