Last week, studio Bluehole announced that its multiplayer phenomenon Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds will be delayed until the end of 2017. At least, the full release is delayed until then. Because, as four million people have already found out, this game is very much up-and-running, having already generated a thriving community on Steam in the client’s Early Access program.
So why then, when the game seems to be doing fine without a full release, is this delay even worth noting? After all, it doesn’t seem like those millions of players (and rising) are too concerned about waiting a little longer for the game to come out proper.
Well, much of the reason comes down to Playerunknown himself, Brendan Greene, and his previous assertion that his game would remain in Early Access for no longer than six months. In fact, when asked about the potential for delays, he has always been bullish about his studio’s chances of getting Battlegrounds out of the release door and into the light of day as a finished product. “People tell us we’re not going to be out of early access in six months; challenge accepted,” Greene told RockPaperShotgun. “I can guarantee you, six or seven months and we’re out of early access. It’s the team. It’s a matter of honor, you know? We will finish this game in six months.”
Cut to Greene’s recent statement on Steam, and the tone has changed somewhat. “Over the past few months I have done a lot of interviews,” he noted, “and in many of them, I said we hoped to be out of early access six months after we first launched. I’ve come to realize that restricting the window to a specific month could hinder us from delivering a fully featured game and/or lead to disappointment within the community if the launch deadline is not met.
“We have decided that we are going push the full launch back a bit from the initial six-month time frame, but want to assure you that we are still planning a full release before the end of Q4 2017.”
This updated time frame shifts Battlegrounds’ launch window from its previous end-of-September release to sometime before the holidays. While adding another three months is less than ideal, it’s hardly the end of the world.
What it does do, though, is perpetuate the growing stereotype of the infinitely-in-development Early Access game. This is why Greene was so adamant he’d beat his self-imposed six-month deadline in the first place. He didn’t want to be lumped in with what many see as the main offenders of this practice: DayZ and H1Z1. Both games saw huge popularity and a garnered a sizeable community at launch; both games are closely related to Battlegrounds in that all three saw their origins in mod culture; and crucially, both DayZ and H1Z1 are still in Early Access. Greene didn’t want any negativity directed at those games rubbing off onto his own game.
Even with the delay, though, I can’t see that happening. Yes, it’s unfortunate that Battlegrounds won’t see full release until the end of the year, but I don’t think Brendan Greene and his team at Bluehole need to be overly worried.
For starters, the community that has already built in less than half a year will be robust enough to weather this slight postponement. In fact, I’d wager most active players will barely even notice the delay has even happened. Battlegrounds’ take on the battle royale game mode is so compelling and so well executed that players are simply too busy enjoying themselves to care.
The game’s sustained popularity on Twitch is evidence of this too, with the game barely out of the top five viewed games on the streaming service since launch. Millions love playing it, and millions more love watching it, too.
That’s not to say the game is perfect — it’s certainly possessed of a few rough edges that are thankfully being smoothed out during this extended period of development. But what is there, the core systems and mechanics that make the game what it is, are absorbing enough that any shortcomings can be overlooked, at least for a little while longer.
And then there’s how Bluehole is supporting the community while they wait. There’s constant talk of impending new content. Like the upcoming zombies versus humans infection game mode that looks to be dropping soon. Existing separately from the base battle royale mode, it will pit players against each other in an all new spin on the fight for survival.
And what about the new maps that Bluehole have promised? The first, a desert area, looks like it will serve as a brilliant palate cleanser to the original map’s strong Eastern European flavor. There’s even talk of a not-yet-glimpsed second map in development for fans to look forward to.
Perhaps most importantly of all, Bluehole isn’t neglecting the game’s necessary stability improvements in favor of head-turning new content. The studio is persistently tweaking and polishing the game, as well as adding new features and improved mechanics, such as new loot, improved weapon balancing, and an upgraded vaulting system to make climbing a better experience in game. It’s consistent with the image Greene has put across, of a studio not content with being perpetually in Early Access, but instead is always striving towards a polished finished product—well, as much as a heavily community-driven game can ever be truly finished anyway. Bluehole has even been staffing-up to handle the extra workload, one of the reasons, according to Greene, why the game has suffered its delay.
Sure, the extra waiting time isn’t ideal. And the question remains how this setback will affect the announced Xbox One release of the game. But, in real terms, the biggest knock has been to Brendan Greene’s pride at having to go back on his previously asserted promises. The majority of gamers are simply happy that a game like Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds exists in the world.
Andy is a freelance writer for Game With Your Brain. You can follow him on Twitter.