In a market where presentation can mean the difference between success and failure, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds doesn't bother combing its hair or brushing its teeth in the morning. Its awkward name not only gives a bad first impression, but it's resulted in a large number of obtuse nicknames that its community can't agree upon. Meanwhile, its official art gives the appearance that anyone who buys it is a sucker.
Yet, behind this facade is a game with outstanding entertainment value. Thankfully for developer Bluehole, gamers took notice to this quickly and didn't mind telling their friends.
Just over a month after launch PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is a hit no matter where it walks. On Twitch it was one of the three most popular games of April 2017, with more than 80,000 viewers at any given time. On Steam it's been a top 10 best-seller since its launch on March 23rd, accumulating more than 28,000 reviews. On YouTube it's responsible for tens of millions of views, serving as the daily driver for some of the most popular gaming YouTube channels.
Most importantly for its developer, it has already sold over two million copies.
Selling two million units of a game is a praise-worthy feat, especially in the case of platform exclusives. In this case, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds stands alongside the best-selling PC exclusives during the past half-decade. However, unlike many of its peers it's just the second game to be made by its developer.
Bluehole Inc. is a development studio based in Korea that was established almost exactly 10 years ago. It began as a reasonably small operation that would spend four years working on TERA before its release in 2011. Within months the title earned back its investment, and has since performed well enough to encourage the hiring of several hundred more employees, and the studio's expansion into mobile, console, and VR.
Bluehole had no experience making shooters, and certainly not last-man standing shooters, when it began development of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. To make up for this, it made every attempt possible to ensure that its game would not only feel great to play, but only consider Early Access when its product was technically sound. And therein lied its greatest strength.
For all the potential that last-man standing shooters have, developers who have previously entered the genre have fallen well short of making high quality experiences. Games like H1Z1 and DayZ have been argued as unintuitive and technically woeful by most players, leaving a lot to be desired. But for gamers who wanted to play a game in their style, they had no other choice. And thus, these games made tens of millions of dollars despite having sub-par critical reception.
Bluehole is now enjoying the spoils of its victory. PlayerUnknown's Battleground might still be in Early Access, but it has continued to grow its active player base over a six week period. This will likely continue into the foreseeable future as it approaches an official launch.
To celebrate its success, Bluehole will be hosting a 2017 Charity Invitational that will match all donations up to $100,000.