In six months, one game has already made nearly half a billion dollars — and the complete version isn’t even out yet.
That game is the bizarrely named “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” (“PUBG”), a unique shooter game that pits 100 real players against each other on an abandoned island. As each match progresses, the game forces survivors into closer and closer quarters. Whoever survives — and there can only be one — is crowned the winner.
There is no story, and no mode other than the one described above. It may sound like a bare-bones game, but the way each match plays out is what makes it so impressive.
Though “PUBG” itself has no real story, the insane tale of how it rose from obscurity to money-printing machine is fascinating.
That's in just six months.
Brendan 'PlayerUnknown' Greene launched 'PUBG' on March 23, calling it a 'very special day.' But he released the game in what's called 'Early Access,' which meant that while consumers could buy and play it, it wasn't yet complete.
Six months later, Bluehole, the South Korean game company Greene joined to make 'PUBG,' is still selling the 'Early Access' version of the game. Bluehole has promised to release the completed version of the game by the end of 2017. But it hasn't yet announced a release date.
That 'PUBG' is still incomplete hasn't seemed to affect its sales. Bluehole had topped the 13 million figure by the end of September.
That's just a snapshot from the middle of the day on Tuesday. At one point in the past 48 hours, over 1.6 million people were playing 'PUBG' at once. That's an absurdly high number for any game, including widely popular ones such as 'Minecraft' and 'League of Legends.'
'PUBG' is so popular that it has become the most actively played game on Steam, which is a big deal, considering that the Valve-owned PC gaming service is huge, with more than 200 million users and thousands of available games. It's even set an all-time record on Steam for the most concurrent users on the system.
We don't know the exact amount that 'PUBG' has made so far, but we do know that Bluehole has sold more than 13 million copies. At $US30 apiece, that's at least $US390 million gross revenue in just six months -- a ton of money to make on a game that isn't even finished.
And that's just a rough guestimate. That figure doesn't include the money the company's made by selling in-game items.
To be sure, that's sales, not profit. It doesn't take into account Bluehole's costs, including the commission it pays Valve -- which is typically around 30% for most games -- or what it's spending to run its studio and continue developing the game.
Still, that's a ton of money to make on a game that was built by a relatively small team (fewer than 100 people), in a relatively short time (about 18 months).
So far, 'PUBG' is only available for the PC. That means there's a potential market of around 100 million PlayStation 4 and Xbox One owners that have yet to be served.
Given that, it was no surprise when Greene -- 'PlayerUnknown' himself -- showed up on stage at Microsoft's annual Xbox press briefing in Los Angeles in June to announce that 'PUBG' was heading to Xbox One later this year.
Microsoft will have a limited exclusive on the game; the Xbox One will be the only console that will have it for a while. Bluehole will eventually make a version for the PlayStation 4 as well, but it's uncertain when that will be available.
Bluehole was already doing well before 'PUBG' became a massive hit. But its valuation has spiked since it launched the 'Early Access' version of Greene's game.
The South Korean company sees a big future for 'PUBG.' It recently spun off the division that works on the game as a subsidiary company called PUBG Corp. PUBG Corp is now establishing offices around the world, including in the US, Europe, and Japan.