Brendan Greene, the creative lead at Bluehole Studio on PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, recently spoke to GamesIndustry.biz about the major milestone achievements for the game and how they plan to move forward with monetization. The title has already sold 10 million copies on PC alone, making it the top selling game this year on a single platform.
During the interview, however, Greene was challenged on the promises that were made about PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds not using microtransactions before it came out of Early Access, and how the team went back on that promise. According to Greene, it was just too an opportunity to pass up and the microtransaction model is too a good a system not to exploit…
“We got hit hard. I said we wouldn’t have microtransactions until we left Early Access, but it comes from my naivety. To be fair, we’re still not adding any kind of skin system with microtransactions fully until we leave Early Access, but we do need to test it, and we need to test percentages.
“And we’re going to be open about it going forward, because we really think that having a strong economy is good for the game. We have the data science team to really work to find out what percentage stuff needs to be to attain a certain value. We want to be open about this because it’s a good system and it’s proven to work. We got hit hard with that, for sure.”
In layman terms, the science says that they can make a heck of a lot more money than they already have by implementing microtransactions during Early Access instead of waiting until after. They’re striking while the iron is hot because that’s what capitalism dictates.
They’ve already made more than $300 million in sales already, and even with Valve’s 30% cut for distribution on Steam, they’re taking away $210 million in profit.
Nevertheless, Bluehole seems long-term profit in microtransactions. In the old days they would use the money to start work on a new game, maybe a sequel or a spin-off or a full-fledged expansion pack. But in today’s industry, it’s all about milking the IP until it’s dry.
According to Greene, they’re already expanding the studio by up to 300 people, all working on new content, new items, fixes, and optimization… along with microtransactions.
GI.biz wisely pointed out that there’s a growing contingent of angry gamers about the microtransaction promise being broken, something that happened with games like Payday 2, and something Bethesda attempted with the paid mods for Skyrim. However, Greene believes that those issues won’t affect PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, telling the outlet it’s only a small percentage and vocal minority who are angry about the microtransactions…
“[…] you’ve got to look at the actual number of people that visit Reddit and use your social media, and it’s maybe 10% of your player base – maybe. The biggest part don’t read reviews, and they don’t read Steam reviews. You can get these bombs, a huge amount of negative reviews, but it’s just the way it works on the net these days; you’ve got a hive mind, mob mentality kind of thing, or bandwagoning behind people. And look, people have a right to say what they want, y’know, but with some reviews I feel bad because it’ll say something like ‘Performance is shitty’, but when we improve it they won’t go back and change that review.”
While he has a point about it being a small minority of the overall player base, he also needs to remember that if you piss off your hardcore base that it eventually affects mindshare. Look at what happened to GTA V and the modding situation where Take-Two pissed off the PC modders, and it resulted in the game’s Steam page being review bombed. It didn’t just stay there, though, it spread out onto social media, into Reddit and onto YouTube. It was nothing but a negative PR disaster.
Eventually Take-Two and Rockstar capitulated to the community and allowed single-player mods again in GTA V. It’s just an example of a vocal but dedicated part of the community possibly voicing and representing a large part of the silent majority. Attempting to fight against that part of the community may not always have the best results.
Nevertheless, Greene wants to turn PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds into a games-as-a-service opportunity and potentially reach 100 million registered players, competing with titans like League of Legends.
According to Greene, he’d like to stay on the project until the e-sports scene is established and then he plans on working on new projects…
“I can see myself on Battlegrounds for another few years, until we have our majors in place and I’m happy with it as an esport. Ater that there are a few more games I want to make, which are in my head and I’ve thought about over the last four years. I don’t think I’ll be stuck for offers, y’know. “
Everyone wants in on that e-sports fame.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is available right now on PC and will launch soon on Xbox One and Xbox One X.