In a mostly pre-rendered trailer at The Game Awards, Krafton announced that PlayerUnkown’s Battlegrounds will adopt a free-to-play model starting January 12.
Until now, PUBG has been a $30 purchase, a notable exception in a genre dominated by free-to-play games like Apex Legends and Fortnite. Although it remains popular, there used to be a time when PUBG was the battle royale game. That ubiquity is a distant memory now, and even PUBG’s early success pales in comparison to the schoolyard-dominating juggernaut Fortnite has become. By removing the cost of admission Krafton might make up some of its lost ground.
If you’ve already shelled out full price for PUBG, fear not. In addition to the sort of “founder’s edition” freemium cosmetics you might expect, ranked and custom gametypes will remain locked behind a $13 paywall, a frugal move but also one that will help tamp down on cheaters trying to avoid bans. Making a fresh account to get around a suspension is a lot less enticing if it costs 13 bucks. As for additional monetization, the mind boggles at the potential for new tacticool leather dusters and brightly colored assault rifle skins.
An expanded player base should be beneficial for PUBG’s fans as well as its developers, injecting new life into this uniquely simulationist and unforgiving battle royale game. PUBG has formed the basis of Krafton’s success and identity, but the announcement also follows the release of their most recent game, Thunder Tier One, a top-down “tactical” shooter with a similar aesthetic to PUBG.