PUBG leaves early access tonight. Here's what's next

Twenty-five million copies later, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds will no longer be a beta -- but executive producer C.H. Kim says there's plenty more to do.

Sean Hollister Senior Editor / Reviews
When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.
Sean Hollister
3 min read

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds has officially sold 25 million copies. By any measure, that's a huge success.

But it's particularly astounding when you consider the game isn't finished yet. It's only tonight, on Dec. 20, that the "Hunger Games"-like title will finally come out of beta.

Five hours after I publish this story (11 p.m. PT), Version 1.0 will bring the game's first huge new map, the ability to vault over obstacles, revamped ballistics, improved vehicles, killcams and -- particularly impressive -- 3D replays that let you watch entire matches from any player's perspective or even a bird's eye view, so you can learn from your mistakes.

Update, Dec. 21: Version 1.0 is now live, and PUBG has just updated its sales numbers: 30 million across PC and Xbox. Jeez. Here's the full changelog of everything that's changed and improved in V1.0.

But what's next? Earlier this week, we spoke to the game's head honcho, PUBG Corp. CEO and executive producer C.H. Kim, to pick his brain about that exact thing. We wanted to know about the game's ugly Xbox launch, about PUBG on phones and -- of course -- what's next for PC.

Here are the biggest takeaways. (Kim spoke via translator.)

PC version 1.0 isn't the end.

"This is just one of many milestones we've promised our fans when we started Early Access... it doesn't mean we're done with the game," says Kim. "We'll be continuing to add new content and continue to fine-tune the gameplay mechanics persistently." And impressively, that additional content will be free.

In particular, expect focus around features that makes PUBG more suitable for pro gaming : "Next year we have some thoughts about being a little more aggressive trying to run leagues and tournaments around PUBG." 

That poor Xbox frame rate? Don't expect it to magically get better soon.

According to Kim, the poor frame rates we're seeing on Xbox weren't a surprise for the team, and he says the company is committed to steadily improving the graphical fidelity, including hiring new team members to work on the Xbox version of the game. "We knew it'd be an area where we'd need to keep polishing... the madness of an 8 kilometer by 8 kilometer level with 100 players inside and very realistic art assets made it a big challenge for us."

I asked when Xbox owners might expect things to get much better, but he didn't have a great answer. Kim says there's no concrete road map for the Xbox version yet, since they're still gathering feedback and prioritizing which things Xbox owners need most to enjoy the game.

The first priority for Xbox might be helping players aim.

"When it comes to gameplay, we feel like we need to monitor the situation a bit more," says Kim. "There's been feedback that it's too difficult to aim."

I can certainly attest to that. Unlike most console shooters, there's no auto-aim or aim-assist in PUBG for Xbox right now, which led me to some pretty hilarious pray-n'-spray firefights where every bullet misses its intended target. 

But the team isn't necessarily adding an aim assist. Kim says they're looking into modifying the recoil of various weapons first. "We've seen a lot of games that use different recoil systems between PC and console, and we're trying to figure out what to do based on those learnings."

Xbox or no, Kim doesn't expect PUBG's sales to keep rocketing skyward forever.

"We know our user base won't keep increasing infinitely, because we know there are a limited number of gamers out there," says Kim.

Don't get your hopes up for PUBG on mobile phones.

According to Kim, there's been no decision on whether the PUBG Corp. and Tencent collaboration for phone games will reach English-speaking audiences, or even necessarily outside China. (PUBG Corp is a Korean company, so that was a bit surprising to hear.)

Plus, a PR rep added that technically, PUBG Corp. and Tencent haven't announced a straight-up port. It's not "PUBG for mobile devices" but rather "separate games based on the PUBG [intellectual property.]"

So you may have to get your mobile fix somewhere else.

PUBG's desert map Miramar, in pictures

See all photos