PUBG is one of the most famous games on the planet. The name is renowned among a large percentage of the population on planet Earth, ranging from young children to senior citizens. It has an ardent fan base that often spends hours each day enjoying the in-depth gameplay it offers.
Furthermore, it is also among the highest-grossing games each year. Take the list of the highest-grossing video games released each year, and you will most likely find PUBG at one of the top positions on this list.
But how does PUBG achieve it? How does PUBG make money in the millions?
Let’s have a comprehensive look at it. But before that, let’s trace the origins of the game.
PUBG, or Players Unknown Battlegrounds, is a battle-royale game. It is the type of game where you have to eliminate all the opponents in an area and be the last one standing.
In the game, the player and 99 other players are dropped on an island and forced to parachute down. Once landed, the players have to scavenge for supplies. As time ticks on, the playing area shrinks and forces you to come in contact with other players and battle them. Once all the other players are eliminated, the last man standing is crowned the winner and receives the message ‘Winner Winner Chicken Dinner.’
What’s more? You can play either as a single player or form your own group and battle against others.
The creator behind this gameplay structure is Brendan Green, a former web designer and photographer.
A few years prior to the development of PUBG, Greene created a DayZ mod for the game Arma 3 called DayZ: Battle Royale. The gameplay was inspired by the 2000 Korean movie Battle Royale which featured a story where a group of students were dropped on an island and forced to combat each other and survive. Later, Greene worked on a similar battle-royale concept for H1Z1: King of the Hill by Daybreak Company.
Post this, the game development company Krafton approached Greene to work on a similar project for them. He joined Krafton as the creative director and thus began the development of PUBG with an internal team.
PUBG was initially released for Windows on December 20, 2017. A mobile version of the game was released on 19th March 2018 for both Android and iOS.
Upon its release, PUBG became an instant hit.
The biggest testament to this is the 7 Guinness World Records that it set, including being the first Steam Early Access game that sold 1 million units, a feat the game achieved in mere 16 days.
Likewise, the game was the recipient of numerous Game of the Year awards. This included the PC Game of the Year and Best Multi-Player Game awards at the 35th Golden Joystick Awards and the Best Multi-Player Game award at The Game Awards 2017.
In addition, the game also inspired other top games from top gaming companies. Epic Games announced a battle-royale mode for their game Fortnite 6 months after Fortnite’s original release, inspired by the popularity of PUBG. Similarly, Activision released Call of Duty: Mobile, a game that combined the classic elements from CoD with battle-royale gameplay.
Both games were hits and continue to earn millions. In 2021, the revenue of Fortnite stood at $5.8 billion. Since its launch, Call of Duty: Mobile has amassed a lifetime revenue of $3 billion.
PUBG has also hit high numbers since its release. It is the fifth best-selling game of all time across all platforms. This puts it behind games like GTA V and Minecraft but ahead of modern classics like RDR2 and Witcher 3.
It is also the best-selling video game on PC and Xbox, with 42 million and 9 million copies sold, respectively. Likewise, on mobile, the game hit 1 billion downloads in 2021.
PUBG has been among the top-grossing games each year ever since its release.
In fact, in both 2020 and 2021, the game was the highest-grossing game in the world. In 2021, PUBG generated $2.4 billion, and in 2020 $2 billion. Even in 2022, PUBG is the second highest-grossing game in the world behind Honor of Kings.
In terms of lifetime revenue as well, PUBG has witnessed tremendous growth. The game hit $8 billion in lifetime revenue in the first half of 2022, $9 billion in the second half of 2022, and eventually $10 billion in 2023.
PUBG also has a high revenue per day compared to many other games. Based on the latest reports, this figure stands at $8.1 million per day.
The answer is the revenue model that PUBG follows.
Before we get into that, let us explain the basics of the in-game economy of PUBG and some of its currencies.
The core of PUBG’s revenue model is its cosmetic-based economy. You can buy costumes for your characters, such as shoes, hats, shirts, and pants, to dress up your character, and buy skins for your weapons, such as your gun, pan, and grenades. None of these items provide you any advantage to you during gameplay but merely exist for the cosmetic reasons that set you apart from other players.
In fact, there are no pay-to-advance monetization strategies in PUBG. You cannot purchase special weapons or consumable items that provide you an advantage over other players. To obtain any of these, you have to grind during the gameplay.
Furthermore, the monetization model of PUBG is centered around Battle Points (BP) and Unknown Cash (UC).
BP is won through in-game performance. The game calculates BP after each match, taking into consideration the number of kills you have completed during gameplay, the amount of damage taken to health, the total duration of the session, and the final rank. BP can be used in the game to make different purchases.
Meanwhile, UC is not won but purchased using real money. You can buy UC bundles for a pre-set amount of cash and then use the number of UC obtained to purchase items in the game. Some items can only be obtained using UC and not using BP. UC also has a higher purchase value compared to BP.
There is a reason why PUBG’s revenue model is centered around virtual currencies in contrast to real money. Because when you spend using real money, you are bound to make a lot of calculations and will also be less hesitant to spend money. But when the money is converted to virtual currency, the hesitancy is reduced. You start to think that you are not spending real money but virtual money.
Casinos employ a similar trick with poker chips, which also drives you to spend more.
PUBG is a game that does not rely on a single monetization model but makes money from the game through multiple revenue-generating strategies.
Let us explain each of PUBG’s monetization models in-depth:
Battle Pass is an event that lasts for a specific period of time. During this event, you are given certain challenges to complete and are provided certain rewards upon completion. For instance, you might have to complete five kill shots during a single session, and the game will reward you with a set of points and a new set of rare weapon skins.
You have the option to opt for the free battle pass that costs you nothing. Or you can purchase the premium battle pass. The premium battle pass provides you with better rewards, and many skins will only be available for premium users. You can also switch from the free tier to the premium tier at any point during the event.
A lot of players opt for battle passes over other forms of monetization. Battle passes provide better value for money than IAP bundles, and certain skins are restricted to battle passes and hence unavailable for direct purchase.
You also have the option to improve the battle pass experience using add-ons. For instance, the RP activity pack converts all the points you gained during gameplay into premium currency. Likewise, the RP EX Mission License rewards you with more progression points and unlocks newer missions faster.
However, you have to purchase these add-ons on top of the battle pass. But it also allows you to customize your purchases based on your preferred playing style.
All these implementations as part of PUBG’s business model have positively impacted how much money PUBG makes. In fact, after the implementation of the battle pass system, PUBG had a 365% increase in its overall revenue.
Loot Boxes are virtual crates with items inside them. You buy these with the in-game currency and receive rewards.
But the caveat of this type of monetization is that you will have no idea what is inside the crate until you open it. Only once you open it do you see what items are contained inside the crate. This creates uncertainty. You can receive items that are rare and of high value, or you might end up receiving regular items.
This uncertainty creates more engagement because of a concept called Operant Conditioning. The concept states that unpredictable rewards create better engagement. These prompt the person to try again and again in expectation of better rewards.
The loot box revenue model of PUBG initially received some criticism for being predatory. But the game studio behind PUBG has listened to the feedback, learned from the mistakes, and improved the loot box monetization strategy.
PUBG mobile monetization also includes standard in-app purchases (IAPs). You have the option to purchase bundles of UC for real money from the in-game store. Then, you can use the UC to, in turn, purchase skins and cosmetics.
There are marked differences between IAPs, battle passes, and loot boxes. Unlike a battle pass, an IAP purchase is not restricted to a particular period of time but can be exercised at any time. Also, the contents within IAPs are not random, unlike in loot boxes.
Both of these are preferable to specific audiences who want to purchase items in the game but do not want to opt for either battle passes or loot boxes.
The revenue model of PUBG has also included numerous partnerships and promotions with well-known brands and franchises.
A lot of these have been from well-known movies and TV shows. These include Godzilla vs. Kong, The Walking Dead, Mission Impossible, and Spiderman: No Way Home.
Ads also remain an integral albeit small aspect of the monetization strategy of PUBG. PUBG features in-game ads of different natures, such as interstitial ads and reward ads.
In addition to these, the game developers have also incorporated ads for certain prominent events that are related to the game in some way or the other.
PUBG’s game design itself is an integral part of its revenue model. Let us explore the role of the game’s design in helping how PUBG earns money in the millions:
The main reason for PUBG is this: it is damn easy to play.
This might be contrary to the expectations of a lot of gamers. The game looks like a high-fidelity game targeted towards a sub-set of core gamers. But the gameplay is easy to understand for even someone with no prior gaming experience.
One method that PUBG employs is its onboarding. If you are a new player, the game does not match you with elite players. Instead, the game puts you in matches where many bots are present. The bots help you easily learn the game’s ropes while offering you a competitive experience on par with your skill level. This also solves the issue of low-ranking players quitting the game because of being unable to match the skill level of much more experienced players.
The controls of PUBG are also easier. The game developers have designed the game in such a way that the touch controls offer a seamless and intuitive gameplay experience.
At the same time, the game also offers much deeper gameplay. Consider the range of weapons available for you to use in the game. There are different types of assault rifles, submachine guns, sniper rifles, shotguns, and even a cooking pan.
All these afford committed players a richer and much more competitive gameplay experience. It is also one of the reasons why PUBG is among the biggest ESports on the planet.
Another reason PUBG mobile makes money is that it caters to the needs of different types of users.
For instance, you might be playing the game because of the competitive experience and the opportunity to relax for a few hours post work. Your friend, meanwhile, might be playing just for the social experience of enjoying an adventure with their friends.
Likewise, PUBG also fosters strategic gameplay and rewards different gameplay strategies.
Let’s consider two of them.
One, you choose to parachute down away from the area of the central conflict. This allows you to collect more loot and gives you enough time to slowly enter the gameplay area.
Or, you can choose to parachute down into the area that is central to the conflict. Thus, you will be able to get better loot (because loot is sometimes better in the areas of central conflict), but you run the risk of having to get into repeated battles.
PUBG rewards both of these gameplay strategies. Both have their drawbacks as well.
Games that often have their monetization models centered around cosmetic-based economies lack progression systems. However, PUBG is one game that does not face this problem.
The chief reason is the implementation of the battle pass system. The battle pass provides a steady set of challenges for you to complete and thus gives you a sense of progression within the game. You get instilled a sense of competency within yourself as you tackle harder and harder challenges.
Humans are social creatures. For our species, socializing is vital to our survival, and hence social systems are hardwired into our psyche.
Games have recently emerged as an alluring possibility to engage our social systems and meet our social needs. The pandemic is a testament to this, as the popularity of social games shot up during this period as many people turned to games to connect with loved ones and make new connections.
The multi-player gameplay experience in PUBG taps right into this basic human need. Competing against other teams with your friends gives you a sense of being on a common adventure, thus deepening your connection with each other. The chat option further allows you to converse and bring forth the humor and depth that are characteristics of positive conversations.
On a much larger scale, there are leaderboards that you can attempt to climb to the top of. Thus it turns the game into a competitive experience where each potential player is also a rival. This competitiveness also provides a different social experience that is unique to sports, board games, and video games.
PUBG also has a gameplay session structure that progressively increases the tension. Most of the time, you start in a different area away from the central conflict. You have enough time to collect loot and get supplies.
But as the gameplay progresses, the tension increases. The area starts to shrink, forcing you to move to the playing area and thus come in contact with enemy players. Finally, it builds up to a high-intensity battle that pins you against skilled enemies, with everyone desiring to be the last one standing.
In addition, the game’s playing sessions are longer than in most mobile games. This allows enough time for the tension to slowly build up and be at a rate that creates a challenging atmosphere without being overwhelming.
PUBG is a path bearer when it comes to game development. It is a game whose legacy extends beyond the influence it has on battle royale and shooter games.
It has inspired a host of games, some of which have had a massive influence on the industry.
How PUBG makes money and how it is designed will be a guideline for games upcoming for years to come. It will also be played for years to come.
The game is a hit on multiple platforms, having players from numerous geo-locations. It is also a cultural phenomenon whose imprints extend beyond the influence it has left on the gaming industry.
How many games can say that?
You can approach Juego Studios. We are a top game development studio that has created numerous games across different genres, including Battle Royale. Our studio comprises a team of 300+ talented game developers, designers, artists, and testers, collaborating to deliver the best possible output to our clients.
A rough estimate for developing a game like PUBG would be between $250,000 to $300,000.
Because the game involves the collaboration between numerous domains. It also requires the team to develop and maintain robust multi-player servers, create high-fidelity graphics and smooth animations, and optimize the game for multiple platforms for optimal performance.
However, if you consider how much money PUBG makes and how much other similar games make, it might open you up to how worth it is to create a game of the same type.
The revenue of PUBG, as of 2021, stood at $2 billion. It has amassed a lifetime revenue of $10 billion as of 2023.
PUBG follows the freemium model and monetizes using the battle pass system, loot boxes, IAPs, and ads.
PUBG is a well-designed game that appeals to the needs of its audience. It appeals to a wide range of target audiences through its masterful design of mechanics, controls, etc.