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The Strategy Behind ‘Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds” Runaway Success

Character SHot from PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds

By | May 23, 2017 |

Brendan “Playerunknown” Greene didn’t start as an avid gamer or programmer. In fact, he spent most of his life as a photographer and graphic designer who never played classic titles such as The Legend of Zelda and has stated in interviews that games like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed didn’t appeal to him. Then one day, after playing Arma and DayZ, he set out to make a one that did, starting with a game mod called Battle Royale, which would later become the name of a genre he helped originate. That led to a drastic career change, as he went on to work on high-profile games such as Arma 3 and H1Z1, which both helped to build a strong fan following.

Brendan “Playerunknown” Greene, creative director at Bluehole Inc.

Greene is now a creative director at Bluehole Inc., the South Korean development studio behind the MMO game Tera, working on Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds—a game that has sold over two million copies in under two months on Steam Early Access despite still being in development. The concept behind a battle royale game is fairly straightforward: a group of players are dropped onto a giant map with no weapons or armor. They then have to gather resources in an effort to outwit, outmaneuver and outgun the competition until only one survivor remains. The concept was integrated into games such as H1Z1, which spun its battle royale mode off into a standalone title called King of the Kill.

Speaking with AListDaily, Greene differentiated Battlegrounds from other games in the battle royale genre (some like DayZ and H1Z1: King of the Kill, he helped develop) by stating: “[Battlegrounds] is more than just a battle royale game—it is a platform for both that game-mode and many others, official and those created by content creators! Our game provides the player with a rich tactical battlefield, and the freedom to have a lot of fun while playing. Along with our custom game feature, we provide content creators and players the ability to create new experiences using our game as the platform.”

Much like the tactics behind battle royale games, Battlegrounds seemed to come out of nowhere to grab success, and it may even become a big esports hit. Greene recounted the events that led to a tremendous Early Access launch period.

“From the outset of development, we wanted to enter Early Access with a stable product,” said Greene. “We also wanted to be very open about the development of the game, and had multiple month-long alpha and beta tests, alongside weekly dev blog updates about what we had been working on. This allowed us to launch into Early Access with a great deal of confidence, as we had upwards of 50,000 players that helped us test the game before the public got their hands on it, which enabled us to have a stable server infrastructure in place to handle the demand.”

As for the impressive sales, Greene admitted that “we are a little shocked ourselves at the tremendous support the gaming community at large has shown our title. Though, I think this is a testament to the hard work our team has put in over the past year. We have an excellent EP in Changhan Kim, and his planning and production have ensured we had a great game to bring to market.”

When it came to getting the word about the game before releasing on Early Access, Greene received a lot of support from the gaming community. “During our alpha and beta periods, we had a lot of interest from content creators and players that were fans of my work in Arma 3 and H1Z1,” he said. “Via platforms like Twitch, the game also received a lot of interest from players looking for something new in the battle royale genre.”

However, success in Early Access isn’t without its challenges. Many players tend to lose interest in Early Access games as development continues. We asked Greene how he intended to keep players engaged while working to further refine his vision for the game and its gameplay.

“We have always been very open about our development, and this won’t change now that we are in Early Access,” Greene replied. “We believe as a team that a solid stream of updates published on a daily, weekly and monthly basis is the key to both continued player engagement and success at full launch.”

How will Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds continue to grow its audience after such a meteoric start? “We are aiming to create a great platform for our players,” said Greene. “With two new maps in production, custom games, 3D replays and modding in the future, I believe that giving tools to content creators will help grow our player base.”