Can Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds Save the Xbox?

Whenever you refer to the Xbox One as a failure, it’s important to put that statement into context.

No, the Xbox One’s reported 26 million units sold doesn’t make it a failure. It doesn’t make it the top selling console in the world, but it certainly doesn’t make it a failure. Neither does the Xbox One’s lack of exclusives, Microsoft’s curious promotion of the upcoming Xbox One X, or the Xbox One’s notoriously botched reveal and launch.

It is only when you combine these qualities that the Xbox One starts to look like a failure. Indeed, there are times when it seems that Microsoft just cannot get ahead with the Xbox One. Every step forward is immediately accompanied by two steps back.

There is, however, one step forward the Xbox brand has taken which some believe Microsoft can parlay into a giant leap forward in the console sales race; the exclusive rights to a  little game called Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds.

If you’re not familiar with Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, now is the time to familiarize yourself with what is by far the biggest sleeper hit of 2017. PUBG drops 100 players – sometimes less – onto an island. There, participants will find weapons, vehicles, clothes, and other supplies. Their task is to use whatever they find to become the last man standing.

It’s been called the video game version of the Hunger Games by some, but those in the know realize that PUBG is really just another example of a sub-genre of games that has existed for several years now.

However, none of the previous games in this genre have come close to achieving what PUBG has achieved in such a short amount of time. We’ll skip right past the various player base milestones the game has achieved and jump right to the fact that PUBG has sold roughly 10 million copies thus far.

Some are already speculating that PUBG may add an additional 5 million players to its user base when the game’s Xbox version launches later this year. Others say that is a conservative estimate.

While that might prove to be true, it’s highly unlikely that the Xbox version of PUBG will do much to turn the Xbox’s fortunes around in the long-term.

The truth of the matter is that there is no one game that is going to help Microsoft bridge the sales gap that keeps them from overtaking Sony and the PlayStation 4. The best that PUBG can do is help Microsoft move more Xbox One’s this holiday season.

Even then, the game’s impact may not be as great as some are speculating. It’s important to keep in mind that PUBG still hasn’t been officially released – it’s in that ever-awkward “Early Access” period on PC – and that the game has succeeded thus far in spite of some significant technical wrinkles which developer Bluehole cannot seem to iron out fast enough to keep up with the game’s massive player base.

Assuming that the Xbox version of the game is technically flawless, it still remains to be seen how many – if any – PC gamers are going to make the jump from PC to Xbox to play this game. If that number is low, then will there be enough Xbox PUBG players to ensure that the game’s matchmaking doesn’t become a logistical nightmare? For that matter, can Microsoft retain the exclusive rights to the game long enough to both show console players that this version of the game is worth experiencing and that it can only be experienced on Xbox?

PUBG for the Xbox is a lot like the Xbox itself at this time. The individual concerns surrounding it don’t form the full picture. Start piecing them together, though, and you’re left with a view into an uncertain future.

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Matthew Byrd

Matthew Byrd

Matthew Byrd covers the gaming industry including indies, consoles, PCs, iOS and Android apps, as well as topics related to entertainment and technology. He also writes for IndieGameSource and DenOfGeek, and has his own blog at PixelCritique.com.

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