PUBG Corp is in a miserable double-bind. On the one hand, it released one of the most fresh and exciting games in years, revamping the shooter formula and starting a conversation that’s dominated games ever since. On the other, that game is an incurable abomination of poor programming with an ever-dwindling player base and an ill-conceived esports scene.
When PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS blew up, the company followed the natural path for a developer in its shoes. It worked itself ragged trying to patch all the holes in the PUBG experience and tried, as quickly as possible, to scale along with exploding popularity.
That effort has led to an increasingly jaded fan base. Players have begun to expect a finished game, one that doesn’t crash constantly, match players onto servers across the ocean or drop them through the floor after a year of updates. By promising this minimal standard and failing to meet it, PUBG Corp has backed itself into a corner. Its game will never be stable enough, and its players will never be happy.
But there was another path. PUBG’s early days were dominated as much by hilarious glitches as by pro-level plays. PUBG should have leaned into that humor, making the game stable but leaving the fun bugs of its rough edges. While this would have turned off some of the more hardcore players, it would have allowed PUBG a niche group of players. Players who would have as much fun jamming their characters’ heads through the ceiling as they do picking up 10 kills in a game. Players who loved it for what it was, rather than what it could be.
Yes, this would have made the company less money. There would have been fewer sales, fewer corporate sponsorships, less esports competition. But the game would have lived the lifetime it was meant to live, rather than shambling along corpse-like while PUBG Corp desperately prevents it from collapsing completely.
Now, of course, this niche has been filled. Totally Accurate Battlegrounds, a game made entirely as a joke at PUBG’s expense, has had its viral moment and moved on. PUBG continues to shamble.
Not every game needs to last forever. PUBG Corp should have understood that. It should have let PUBG be what it always was: broken, buggy and beautiful.
Photo courtesy of PUBG Corp