From: PUBG Corp.
Who it's for: Shooter fans who think they can be the last one standing
It used to be that players would wait until a game was finished to buy and play it. Then came demos and beta tests, allowing interested gamers to get a taste of the game before its release.
Now, there's early access on Steam, the most popular service for PC gaming. Early access allows players to jump into an early version of the game and play while development finishes up, sometimes more than a year in advance of final release. It also gives developers a chance to receive some cashflow while finishing their game.
The program has found modest success overall, but one recent game exploded in popularity, surpassing even the wildest expectations of what is possible with early access.
"PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds," (commonly referred to as "PUBG") is a Battle Royale shooter that amassed more than 25 million players on PC prior to its official launch date of Dec. 20, 2017. The PC early access version proved so successful that Microsoft launched a "Game Preview" edition for the Xbox One that now tops more than 5 million players.
Over its nine months on early access, "PUBG" gave players a unique insight into late game development. New weapons and items were constantly being introduced while the developer balanced the gameplay and squashed the bugs that popped up. Instead of being bothered by any glitches or rough gameplay, players were savvy enough to sit back and enjoy the ride.
For those unfamiliar with Battle Royale games, the premise is fairly simple: Much like in the "Hunger Games," everyone tries to kill each other until only one is left standing.
In "PUBG," 100 players parachute onto a secluded island where they must scavenge for weapons, armor and tools. It's a race to find the best equipment and find a way to leverage it to eliminate the competition. You don't have to play solo at the start, though that's an option. You can enter the island in teams of two or four and work to whittle down the competition before turning on each other.
If you're in a group, you can revive fallen teammates, though the process makes you a sitting duck to possible attacks. Still, playing in a small group lends itself to interesting strategies and often provides an advantage for those who can capitalize on the situation.
What makes "PUBG" so successful is the consistent level of tension. There's a thrill when you happen across a great weapon — say a sniper rifle or a shotgun — and play your strategy to take advantage of it. Rounding a corner and finding another player exposed sends a thrill as you level your weapon and attempt to eliminate a threat. Likewise, you may round that same corner and find four players devising their world-conquering plan and end up a fresh notch on their tally. You never know what is going to go down or how, and that is repeated constantly through every match.
While there are currently only two maps, both are massive, offering nooks and crannies to explore and discover. However, as matches progress, the maps shrink. If you're lucky enough to last until the final half-dozen or so, you'll find yourself in a much smaller space, forced to confront those trying to kill you.
On PC, the game has been polished to a fine sheen. Every system works nearly flawlessly, and it's beyond easy to find a game with as many as 3 million simultaneous players from around the globe. The graphics are sharp and the sounds precise, allowing observant players an ear up, so to speak, listening for approaching players and areas of conflict to avoid.
The game's appeal is undeniable. No two matches are the same, and when you come out on top, the thrill is enormous.
It must be noted that while the PC version has officially launched, the Xbox One edition remains in its preview state, with lots of rough edges. Not that it isn't fun — it's just not finished yet.
As long as you know what you're getting into, early access gives players a chance to see a game grow while getting in some practice that could pay off later. And with the success of the amazing "PUBG," you can expect to see more big games taking advantage of these previews in the future.