2017 has proven to be one of the most crucial years for video games in modern history. From Nintendo’s spectacular return to form with the Switch, to controversy surrounding micro transactions. On top of all that, we’ve seen an extraordinary amount of critically and commercially successful game releases. But nothing has been in the zeitgeist as much as PLAYERUNKOWN’S BATLLEGROUNDS; an incredibly addictive game that has garnered over 20 million players in under a year and slighted giants such as DOTA 2 and CS: GO in concurrent players on Steam. Whilst the game is still in early access, it will be recognized by multiple outlets (including Geoff Keighley’s The Game Awards) as a contender for Game of the Year. And like most news in the gaming world, this has proved to be an extremely polarizing topic. Technically, the game is unfinished, with some believing that offering it a GotY award is premature. We’re big fans of PUBG at Zyte Heist, so let’s break down why it should not only be nominated for Game of the Year, but should probably also win.
The first element to consider is the name of the game. No one, and I repeat no one, simply calls it Battlegrounds. It is either known by its affectionate moniker PUBG or by its full name. PlayerUnknown is the online handle of Brendan Greene, a photographer/graphic designer who liked to mod games in his spare time. He created a mod for DayZ, which funnily enough began as a mod for military simulator ARMA 2. Greene actually new very little about programming, and became self-taught as he went. The mod was known as Battle Royale, and shared a similar premise to the film of the same name. DayZ would eventually go on to become its own video game, at which point Greene began development on the mod for Arma 3. This caught the eye of several publishers, and he spent some time as a consultant for a similar game to DayZ known as H1Z1. It wasn’t until he was made creative director at South Korean studio Bluehole that Greene began development on a stand-alone game. The very nature of PUBG is heavily tied to its creator in a way that no game before it has been, which is why its name includes his handle.
As previously stated, 2017 has been a tremendously bountiful year in regard to quality videos games, and I’m sure multiple outlets will have wildly varying Game of the Year lists. For the sake of ease, lets look at The Game Awards five options which I’m sure will be replicated a few times by online publications. PUBG is going toe to toe with Horizon Zero Dawn and Persona 5, two PlayStation 4 exclusives that were highly rated across the board. In addition to that, we also have The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, two Switch exclusive titles that were not only highly rated but awarded a 10/10 by multiple publications. A year ago we knew about the releases of the other four games and I’m sure many expected these titles to appear in GotY lists. This year more than any other, PUBG is without a doubt the underdog. The very fact that it’s being held in such high regard almost elevates it to the best the year has to offer. And whilst any one of those other games would deserve such an honor, none of them have received the amount of attention that PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUND has. Compound that with the sheer commercial success of the game and you have a scenario unlike anything that has come before it.
The other side of the coin is Microsoft. As stated in our article last week, Xbox is in a tough spot when it comes to its exclusive titles, something that has almost damned the system from the get go. However, it was announced at this year’s E3: PUBG would be coming to the Xbox One as a timed exclusive. Furthermore, Microsoft stated at Gamescom later in the year that they’d actually be publishing the console version of the game. It’s absolutely bewildering to think a company once heralded for game series such as Halo and Gears of War would be heavily relying on a mod spinoff to sell units. But here’s the thing: PUBG is going to be a unit seller. You only have to look at the anticipation online as well as those 20 million copies sold in 9 months to tell you so. It’s one of the few things Microsoft has up its sleeve that Sony doesn’t, and they are banking on using it as ammunition in the coming months.
Early Access is both an interesting and sometimes infuriating concept, but regardless of what you think of it, it has become a staple of what video gaming is today. The problem is no one has seemingly nailed its execution, with games such as Ark: Survival Evolved botching it by releasing DLC before addressing other issues with the title. PUBG is one of the few, if not the only game, to get Early Access right. The team is intently following feedback from the community, and executing updates not only consistently but appropriately. Its status as an Early Access title shouldn’t detract from its prospects, but rather enhance them. This is a game truly formed by its community, making it in a lot of respects a game that belongs to gamers in ways the other GotY nominees do not.
PLAYUNKOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS is a product of its time, when game development has never been richer and gamers have never been more involved in the process To make PUBG the game of the year would be a definitive statement that the industry has been forever changed.