The PC gaming community on Steam often moves from one game to another as a group, and where that used to mean survival games like Day Z, Rust, and Ark: Survival Evolved, it now means online multiplayer battle royale games where players fight until one person is standing like in the 1999 Japanese novel and the 2000 film Battle Royale.
Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds is the most-played game on Steam that isn’t from Valve Software (which owns the Steam service). It’s at 60,500 simultaneous players and growing, according to the Steam Stats site, putting it ahead of perennial favorites like Rocket League and Grand Theft Auto V. And it has made $11 million on Steam in its first three days after launching into Early Access on March 23, according to Bluehole More important, it is also ahead of publisher Daybreak’s H1Z1: King of the Kill, which was the previous top non-Valve game on Steam as well as the champion of the battle royale genre.
In Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (as well as King of the Kill, Ark: Survival of the Fittest, and even The Division’s Survival mode), a couple dozen players enter an open-world arena all at the same time. Everyone must then scrounge for resources and weapons to take on each other in combat. The last person standing wins. This is a genre that has grown in popularity over the last couple of years, but in recent months H1Z1’s surge in popularity has made turned it into the dominant style of game on PC.
“Since our announcement about hitting $11 million in revenue after the first three days, we’ve continued to maintain our No. 1 spot on steam, which is enormous validation for our team’s hard work,” Bluehole creative director Brendan Greene explained in a note to GamesBeat. “Our focus remains ensuring that the game runs smoothly and we are addressing any concerns from the community.”
Bluehole can credit much of its success to a “right place, right time” scenario. King of the Kill is popular, but it is also buggy. Many people who love the crazy things that can happen in the H1Z1 spinoff also have deep criticisms of how broken it is. So Battlegrounds has stepped in and captured an audience that wants this type of game without some of the drawbacks in Daybreak’s take on the model.
But Playerunknown’s Success also comes from a hunger for this kind of content on the livestreaming video site Twitch. King of the Kill has skyrocketed in popularity on that platform, and Bluehole’s game has stepped in to capture a lot of that audience. More than 150,000 people were simultaneously watching broadcasts featuring Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds.
And the combination of timing and Twitch viewership has worked. Now, the question is whether Bluehole can maintain this momentum or if another game or even another genre will come and replace it in the near future.