Earlier this week, an enigmatic announcement (to those of us who don't speak Chinese, at least) revealed that PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds will be officially making the move from PC to mobile. Then this morning it was revealed there will in fact be two games in the mobile PUBG franchise. You can see the two trailers below.
It's not a huge surprise that the game is making the leap to mobile. That there will be two games is unexpected, but PUBG is one of the fastest growing gaming phenomena around, and its 'battle royale' format has already been aped by games like Rules Of Survival and Bullet Strike Battlegrounds.
Chinese firm Tencent - who have the deal to take PUBG to the East on PC - are planning the official mobile move, along with Lightspeed & Quantum. The internet, of course, went wild with speculation. But what do our experts think? We prodded the Pocket Gamer team, plus our colleagues on Steel Media's other gaming sites, into a debate in the office. The question on the table: is mobile the right platform for PUBG and games like it? Here's your definitive collection of hot takes from the pros:
Pocket Gamer editor
It won’t be the most comfortable version of PUBG in the world. No one will be choosing this over the PC and console version (unless they don’t have it) but I think it will work fine on mobile. If you’re away from home and really fancy a game, then having it on your mobile can only be seen as a good thing.
A common question I see people ask when they hear a huge console and PC game coming to mobile is “why would I want that on my phone?” And I’d answer “why not?“. You won’t always have your PC and console with you, and you might find yourself bored in a hotel room, taxi, or at work. It happens to the best of us. Won’t it be pretty sweet to whip your phone out and play a quick game of PUBG?
I think what the Switch has proven this year is that gamers are generally happy with a slightly lesser or compromised version of a game if they can take it on the go with them. You simply have to look at the success of DOOM, FIFA, Skyrim, and LA Noire to see that. Granted, that has physical controls baked in (then again, you can pick up a controller for iOS and Android pretty cheap these days) but it still demonstrates there’s a hunger for it.
So in a roundabout way, my answer is yes, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds will be fine on mobile. It won’t be mine, or anyone else’s, first choice of platform due to control and technical limitations, but I’ll absolutely play a game or two while on the move. And I bet you will too when you’ve opened your mind.
I mean, obviously we haven’t played it, but it’s likely to be another game pushed into a space where it doesn’t fit. The best mobile games are just that - mobile games. Experiences designed from the ground up for the platform. We’ve all played garbage console and PC ports (cough cough Tomb Raider 2) whereas there have been some incredible games based on bigger titles (cough cough Lara Croft GO).
Part of me wonders whether the mobile version will even make it out in the West. Since it’s Tencent, and one of the things Tencent is doing with the Chinese version of the PC game is tailoring it for the Chinese market.
What always bugs me with stuff like this as well as it’s likely to get people saying “finally a real game on mobile”. Which goes to show the level of ignorance about how many awesome games already exist on mobile. Games that work on the platform, not ones shovelled on to it because of successes elsewhere.
In short; it probably won’t be as good as Afterpulse or Guns Of Boom but people are going to play it because of the name. Which is fine but a bit of a shame.
PUBG is reaching a colossal stage where you can whack its name on any old product and it'll generate more revenue than it's worth. Whether that will be to the detriment of the franchise remains to be seen.
The game's playstyle on PC is far too precise for a mobile platform. You can't aim or fire a weapon accurately using a touch screen, and you can't rely on a stable connection to a server from a wireless device.
The pacing and precision required for one single game of PUBG vastly exceeds the experience that a mobile game can provide. There is potential for the title to be spun into some kind of turn-based strategy game, where progress happens incrementally in steps – but the gameplay as it is currently is far too meticulous and reliant on sound and sight to work as intended on a wireless, 5" device.
Is mobile the "right" platform, as in "the best"? No. Not even close. That will always PC, with a good keyboard and mouse, a fast monitor and a beast of a machine.
Can that style of game be enjoyable on mobile? Of course! Just look at Guns of Boom. As long as the experience is built for the platform, rather than trying to cram a square peg in a round hole, then there’s no reason it can’t succeed.
The problem with PUBG on mobile is that many of its fans will expect the same experience in the palm of their hand as on the desktop - and be disappointed when it inevitably fails to deliver. Then take to social media in their outrage...
Pocket Gamer news editor
I have an issue with high-demand mass multiplayer online shooters in that there's a hell of a lot of work that needs to go into it for it to be playable and a higher likelihood of it disappointing its audience.
With PUBG especially there are so many factors that have to be taken into account such as responsiveness, frame rates, server lag, and balancing touch screen controls against those who could possibly be using an MFi controller.
As Glen said, the game will be fine on mobile. But there are a lot of areas that need fleshing out before I can start getting excited/dreading it.
Having sold more than 20m copies since March, it's no secret that PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is a massive success. It also stands to reason that Tencent would want to capitalise on its deal with PUBG Inc to release the game in China.
Yet I'm unconvinced that PUBG is a good for mobile. It's a game of long stretches of quiet where nothing is happening; you're sat in cover before spotting someone in the distance on your big monitor, lining them up in your sights and deciding whether or not to take the shot. It's slow burn that requires - yes, requires, I am that person - the precision input of a keyboard and mouse to dole out some violence and put yourself closer to winning. Squinting at your mobile screen and trying to take aim on a smartphone is not going to be a fun experience (but hey, feel free to prove me wrong).
That's not to say a battle royale game can't succeed on mobile; I have no doubt in my mind that it's possible for the format to work on this platform, but it needs to be a game that was built for the ground up to make the most of the hardware, and its limitations. Trying to put PUBG on mobile takes us back to the early days of games on smartphones, where older titles like Tomb Raider and Grand Theft Auto would launch with horrible touch interfaces that simply didn't work. Fast forward to today, and we have games like Lara Croft GO, which have been designed for mobile and are much better releases for it.
Steel Media CEO
With the growth of real-time competitive games and eSports on mobile, there’s already a number of shooters appearing on the platform and doing well (see Critical Ops, Forces of Freedom and Guns of Boom). Heck, look at Minecraft even. That has sold more copies on mobile than on any other platform.
For many experts these ‘hardcore’ games represent one part of mobile games future (with ultra-casual titles comprising the rest) and whilst I don’t see ‘mid-core’ dying that quickly, I think it’s probably more of a ‘when’ than ‘if’ that these hardcore games will flourish on mobile devices. I’d expect it to be led by Asia (which is ahead of the West on most things mobile), but it will come. I think there’s also a difference maybe between ‘PUBG style of game on mobile’ and PUBG Mobile itself. The problem with direct ports or brand licenses is that they come with expectations from different platforms.
So PUBG on mobile may never be the same as PUBG on a top-end PC and monitor, but a version of the game (branded or otherwise) will do well on the platform.
Let us know if you agree with our crew in the comment thread below.
Read more: our panel of Steel Media expert journalists and editors take on Harry Potter.