PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds officially released a year and a half ago. In that time, competitors like Fortnite Battle Royale and Apex Legends have arguably surpassed it for popularity. But PUBG has quietly persisted, and the developers continue to address player concerns. In the last month, it’s drawn back popular streamers and breathed fresh life into the game.
Beyond popularising the battle royale format, the initial appeal of PUBG was its deliberate pace. As Fortine Battle Royale leaned into faster and more frantic gameplay, PUBG remained the more tactical battle royale. Even as copycats like Ring of Elysium kept the same basic combat, they added flair like snowboards and ziplines. PUBG suffered from a lack of identity outside of being a military-sim shooter. Now? The fact that it’s remained true to that identity has turned out to be its major strength. Fortnite competitors are common. Many of them, like the ill-fated Radical Heights, crash and burn. The field is awash in battle royales. The genre is tired, but there’s been nothing else quite like PUBG. And where it initially had a reputation for being clunky and glitchy, fixes to the overall experience have made things much smoother.
After launch, PUBG tried to spice things up with a variety of new maps and limited-time game modes. It was a decidedly inconsistent endeavour. Fast-paced maps like the island-themed Sanhok allowed PUBG to grab some of the action that competitors had cornered, but larger maps like the desert Miramar were so unpopular that some players deleted files from their game to avoid playing. Features like a battle pass and a slew of cosmetics gave PUBG the gloss that other games had but also created confusion and controversy. These efforts have died down since the end of last year. Instead, PUBG has turned inward to find a second wind.
The largest project was a total overhaul of the game’s original map, the forest-laden Erangel. Early in PUBG’s life, players craved variety, but Erangel held interest long after Miramar and Sanhok offered a change of pace. Since Erangel was implemented before movement tweaks like vaulting and ledge-grabbing, the developers had to adapt the map to PUBG’s new design. This meant adding more outposts, ridgeline encampments, and revamped villages. They also added a fresh coat of paint to new locations.
The continued overhaul extended to the biggest thing holding PUBG back: performance. While the early jankiness made for silly highlights and had an off-beat charm, PUBG’s rough spots after launch were a huge problem. The developers’ “Fix PUBG” campaign, a long-term long project to improve performance, increased the game’s stability and reduced framerate dips.
That’s been more than enough to draw back streamers. Megastars like Shroud or YouTuber jackfrags have returned to PUBG, posting more videos alongside content from Apex Legends or Hunt: Showdown. There’s a sense that PUBG is worth playing again.
Where the story of PUBG might have been a complete fall from grace, there’s been a redemption arc. It’s not going to upset Fortnite or ever have the ubiquity it once did, but now that it’s not a jumbled and broken game, there’s a path forward for the once-troubled leader of battle royale games.