Microsoft today revealed PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds would be free-to-play this weekend, the first time the game has ever been free on that platform. It’s a pleasant surprise for gamers, but as far as the game itself is concerned, it looks like a last-ditch effort to generate interest in a game that’s rapidly losing its large fanbase.
Once the biggest game in the now-massive battle royale genre, the game has notably been losing players’ attention in recent months, undoubtedly to rival Fortnite and new hotness Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. It’s gotten so bad that this free weekend seems like an attempt to wring some last minute interest from PUBG on Xbox, which is rumored to be losing exclusivity some time in the near future.
We’ve already heard that the player count on Steam was rapidly dropping off, dipping below the 1 million mark for the first time this year. Now, a report from streaming software Streamlabs shows that the number of hours streamers have spent playing PUBG has slumped by more than 30 percent since the beginning of the year. By contrast, Fortnite‘s hours have climbed by a whopping 128 percent.
It’s not easy watching a former darling lose favor to a younger, quirkier rival, but that appears to be what’s happening here. PUBG has even attempted to match a bit of Fortnite‘s color by adding skins that resemble the Joker and Harley Quinn — or at least, I presume that’s what’s going on.
And, perhaps more importantly, the game is rumored to be launching on the PS4 very soon. If true, developer Bluehole probably won’t be able to offer the game for free on the new platform, as it’ll likely need those sales from early adopters. In other words, if there were any time to go free-to-play, no matter how briefly, it would be now.
PUBG and Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 will both be available for free on Xbox One from November 8 through November 11.