An incredible video game is dominating the attention of millions, having sold over 4 million copies and amassed over $US100 million in revenue — and it’s not even out yet. The game in question is named “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.”
How does a game that’s not out manage to make over $US100 million in three months? Through something called “Early Access.” It’s a section of the PC gaming storefront Steam — used by hundreds of millions of people — specifically made for game makers and publishers to sell incomplete games.
The idea is simple: A game maker puts out a game that’s playable, but still in development; players pay for the game early, knowing they’re going to see the game change over time as it’s in development. It can be an amazing experience, offering a means of funding for a game developer before their product is complete while also enabling players to see (and sometimes influence) the game’s progress.
“PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” is one of these games — a so-called “Early Access” game on Steam — and it’s sold for $US30. The current plan is to have the game “complete” and out of Early Access by later this year.
But the game is also coming to game consoles. More specifically, “Battlegrounds” is coming to the Xbox One exclusively later this year. And that means that the 60-plus million PlayStation 4 owners either have to play it on Xbox or on PC.
But the Xbox One is owned by approximately half the number of people who own the PlayStation 4. It stands to reason that it would make more sense for Bluehole Games, the studio that makes “Battlegrounds,” to release the game on PlayStation 4 first, given its audience size advantage. At very least, it makes sense for the PlayStation 4 to get the game at the same time as the Xbox One.
But there’s a good reason that it’s only headed to the Xbox One for now: “The Xbox has the Game Preview program,” the game’s creative director Brendan Greene told me during an interview earlier this month at the annual E3 video game trade show.
To be totally clear, it’s entirely likely that Microsoft also paid Bluehole Games for exclusivity of “Battlegrounds.” But strictly from a logistics perspective, the Xbox One is the only home game console with a program anything like Steam’s Early Access. And that’s particularly appealing to Greene and his team.
“It allows us essentially to do Early Access on a console,” he said.
The game’s executive producer, Chang-han Kim, echoed Greene’s sentiment. “Our approach is to talk with our community as often as possible, to gain their feedback and iterate based off of that. That’s one of the main reasons we chose to go with Xbox One,” he said.
Indeed, that’s how “Battlegrounds” has been developed thus far. The game launched in Steam’s Early Access program back in March, and it’s received regular updates ever since — many of those updates based on player feedback.
The plan for the game on consoles is similar, and there’s a good reason for that too: It allows the developers to tweak subtle elements of the game on that platform. There are huge differences between playing a game on a console and a PC — from control input (keyboard/mouse vs gamepad) to where you sit (2 feet away from a PC monitor vs 10 feet away from a TV).
It’s these differences that Bluehole is aiming to minimise, and it’s going with the Xbox One first as a testbed — and it’s only able to do that because of Microsoft’s Game Preview program.
“That’s one of the main reasons we chose to go with Xbox One. We definitely do have plans for other platforms, but no details have been finalised yet,” said Kim. Stay tuned, PlayStation 4 owners!
Get the latest Microsoft stock price here.