PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds has been free-to-play for almost two weeks now and the switch appears to have paid off in a big way.
According to PUBG's parent company Krafton (via GameSpot), the game has enjoyed a 486% increase in new players this week. The company adds that the player count on Steam peaked at 690,000 total active players.
The tutorials were the most played content in the whole game (obviously due to the massive surge in new players), with the Taego and Erangel maps being the most popular ones.
Krafton is celebrating the achievement by rewarding players with special content, as long as they play for at least one hour between January 27 and January 30. Anyone who logs in before February 17 will also receive the new Orbital Vanguard skins.
Why not play? It's free
There were already signs that adopting a free-to-play model was beneficial to PUBG from the start. The number of concurrent players doubled following the change and while some players who paid full price for the game initially took issue, those same players were offered automatic access to Battlegrounds Plus.
As for why it has been so successful, well, the obvious answer is that it is now free. Players are far more willing to give the game a try to see if they like it without needing to drop $30.
It also makes sense since rival battle royale games like Fortnite, Call of Duty: Warzone, and Apex Legends are all free-to-play as well. Those games were simply made more enticing because players never had to spend money just to play them.
PUBG is by no means the first premium game to switch to a free-to-play model post-launch and reap the benefits. Fortnite did the exact same thing, adopting the model once the battle royale aspect of the game proved to be the most popular thing about it.
While PUBG and Krafton are enjoying this newfound popularity, being free can't be its only merit. They will still need to offer meaningful content and a solid gameplay experience in order to maintain players, otherwise they will abandon it in favor of other free-to-play games.
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Michael is a freelance writer with bylines at the Metro, TechRaptor, and Game Rant. A Computer Games Design and Creative Writing graduate, he's been passionate about video games since the Game Boy Color, particularly Nintendo games, with Xenoblade Chronicles being his favorite game ever. Despite everything, he's still a Sonic the Hedgehog fan.