It's not difficult to see why PUBG was released on the Xbox One this month. Microsoft has endured a particularly barren year for console exclusives, so one of the most popular PC games making its way to their platform is a major boon for the company. However, Bluehole's Battle Royale game has launched on the console in a frustratingly incomplete state, stretching the limits of acceptability for a high-profile Early Access game and transforming one of the Xbox One's most exciting releases into another blemish on the console's lacklustre year. Despite this the game has sold like hot cakes, launching alongside reduced critical coverage as a result of it technically still being in development, and presenting a potential problem for console gamers as a result.
PUBG on Xbox One suffers from a variety of technical issues that make it irritating at best and fist-clenchingly infuriating at worst. On Xbox One X, the frame rate routinely dips below the 30 fps mark, with this inconsistency making it highly difficult to engage other players in firefights with accuracy. When I'm in a one-on-one confrontation and find myself missing shots because the game is stuttering wildly, the whole experience of being able to play PUBG on a 4K TV in the comfort of my living room is nullified. On Xbox One and Xbox One S its performance is much worse, with players reporting that they've suffered through routine disconnects, terrible frame rate problems and issues with blurred textures.
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PUBG being released on the Xbox One was clearly intended to drive up sales of the console around the holiday period, and it has certainly seen financial success. According to Microsoft, the game has already sailed past the 1 million sales mark, a number bolstered by its immense popularity on PC rather than the quality of its console port. However, while Microsoft will undoubtedly be very happy that the game's launch has proven to be a commercial hit, this isn't exactly great news for console gamers who have thus far mostly managed to avoid the perils of Early Access that have blighted Steam.
Released on Xbox Game Preview, a service that mimics Early Access but has yet to host any major releases, PUBG was clearly rushed onto the platform in order to meet its holiday release date. While the PC version of the game is poorly optimized, at least players have the option of upgrading their rig if they wish to smooth out that frame rate or make it look less drab and muddied. With the Xbox One, players are stuck with these problems and have no way to resolve them until Bluehole releases patches and updates.
But despite PUBG on Xbox One being a mess while simultaneously selling by the bucket load, the nature of it being a Game Preview release means that this is technically all above board. While PUBG has shifted enough units for Bluehole to develop a perfectly functional Xbox One release, slapping that Game Preview sticker on there ensures that they can launch a game with a myriad of performance issues, while deflecting any criticism on account of the game still being a work-in-progress.
Early access games on console have yet to take off as much as they have on Steam, but PUBG's success could see that change. If PUBG had been touted as a full release, its problems upon launch would have undoubtedly garnered much more negative attention than they have, with many willing to overlook its issues on account of its status as a Game Preview title. But therein lies the problem — if PUBG can drive in as many sales as it has while still being incomplete, what's to stop this scenario from repeating itself in the future? PUBG is now the poster child for successful early access games on console, and that it's so flawed on so many levels could be an unfortunate sign of things to come for Xbox Game Preview and services of its ilk.