The Reign of PUBG: An Accident or a Planned Stratagem?
Unless you are living under a rock you are probably aware of the multi-player battle royal online game that broke the internet when it was first launched for mobile phones last year. It took quite a toll on everyone’s social life when the recent trend of playing PUBG short for PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds came out of nowhere to take over the world.
The game has acquired players at an incredibly rapid pace and it is tough to overstate how wildly successful PUBG has been especially given how different its path to the consumers’ hands has been. PUBG was once an upstart rival to other large-scale online survival games like Minecraft and ARMA 2, but it took no time for the student to become the master. The game is a best-seller with over fifty million sold by mid-2018 and is the first of its kind in the genre. In fact, it spawned its own genre and is the standalone defining game of the battle royale- style mode. Regardless to say, it’s an absolute monster.
A hundred people are loaded into a cargo plane as it closes in on a large island. The players can now choose where to land on the island in their respective parachutes. After touchdown, they have to scrounge for weapons, ammo, armour, bandages, first-aid kits, energy drinks etc. (for their survival), in abandoned buildings and houses — hoping to remain alive until a ticker in the top-right corner of the screen declares them the lone-survivor. The players are engaged in a last-man standing death match who wins the game and a virtual chicken dinner!
As a game, Battlegrounds is fairly simple — a smartly designed, well-made combination of shooter and survival simulator. As a phenomenon, though, it’s fascinating because it shot to overnight (well, not literally) fame even after a lack of traditional PR and marketing. Let us look at some of its simplistic yet clever strategising that established PUBG as a global online-gaming giant right from its launch.
DECODING ITS MARKETING STRATEGIES:
Video games are a multi-billion-dollar industry- major titles are released with marketing budgets and campaigns that rival Hollywood movies. Battlegrounds somehow managed to skirt this entire process. It didn’t release a barrage of trailers, trickling out minor details over the course of months, nor did it leak details or give access to a gaming news site for a major pre-release feature.
So, what did it do?
Live Streaming and Selective Audience Outreach:
PUBG designed and developed by Brendan Greene in collaboration with Bluehole studio steered clear of conventional marketing. They released beta-versions of their game to only a handful of select audiences. Rather than game journalists or having big Titans in the shopping-malls like Titanfall 2 did, much of its momentum came from big streamers — pro and semi-pro gamers who stream their lengthy game-playing sessions online. This is a double-dip marketing technique which means giving the game to lots of streamers for playing on their Twitch and YouTube channel. Since, streamers loved the game a lot, it spread amongst them and then made the other gamers and viewers want to play. This was the best move that made PUBG what it is today.
Their word-of-mouth distribution method brought millions in revenue without a traditional PR blitz. This is a dramatic shift in how games are sold, and how they are played. Distributing the game amongst a handful of streamers for a beta test and the feedback loop created between the developers and streamers allowed coders to make tweaks and modify bugs that directly benefitted their customers. Personal brands and one-man (or woman) media operations can now move the needle in ways unimaginable even five years ago. This can give smaller developers, who don’t have marketing or PR budgets a chance to shine.
The decision to make the game free and available for both Android and iOS users to enjoy PUBG Mobile was again a good one. The easy accessibility of the game for high-end as well as mid-tier consumers and its universal compatibility on android and apple devices, all alike, contributed to its overnight popularity with more than a significant boost in no. of downloads.
The creators earn their revenue from the in-app purchases (like Elite Pass, crates etc.) made by the players to enhance their character outlook on the game.
Forming Connections and Interactive Communities:
The developers realized just how important community is to the game. You don’t have to play PUBG Mobile alone, you can invite your friends, send them chat messages, and take on other teams for all the glory! This is one of the reasons it garnered much love, drastically increasing the adoption for the game as one person could bring in three more. Whether you’re playing PUBG Mobile squads or duos, Battlegrounds is always more fun with friends. Inviting or adding your compatriots also gets you more points! Additionally, the Facebook friend list feature further eased this by allowing people who already knew each other to play together.
To keep the momentum going, the creators poured a significant amount of time into developing the game’s online community by devising a partner program to let streamers create their own unique servers to play on with their viewers.
Realistic Gaming Aesthetics and Weaponry:
The level of realism in PUBG is admirable. Creators present quite a believable representation of the battleground that is both aesthetically and visually appealing to the players. The imagery, mechanics and overall style of the game is much more realistic and raw, compared to the cartoon-style visuals seen in other video-games. This realism, which extends to its combat and its depictions of firing different types of guns, invokes a greater sense of urgency as the player runs from gunfire, scavenges for supplies and does all that they can to stay alive.
Their in-depth weapon styling is also the source of much intrigue and captivation. You can’t just put any bullets or ammo you collect into your weapon. You have to loot parts of the same weapon to have the most accuracy. For e.g. Inspired from real life, the gun-specific recoil forces the shooter to adjust their aim after each shot, and reloading speed varies widely between weapons, and isn’t instant with the press of a button. This made the game all the more interesting.
The game for small screens was kept identical to the game for desktop, except the controls. This boosted the player-base because of the familiar desktop and mobile gaming experience. The game uses similar elements to PC and Xbox game, but uses on-screen controls. You can customize the layout of these virtual buttons by sliding them around and changing their size and transparency. You can even save multiple layout presets. Finding the control layout to suit the size of your device that you are most comfortable with helps you bring your best game to the table.
Now, it is up to you to decide how an unfinished online game came out of nowhere to be such a massive global hit. Is it because of its more immersive, mature and intense gaming experience? Or is it the unconventional marketing and the execution of well-thought out steps that made Brendan Greene (who was previously living on welfare in his home country of Ireland) the mind behind 2017’s most popular video game.
Till then, The Hustler Collective hopes to meet you at Pochinki!