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PUBG Sold 10 Million Despite Its “Potato Quality”

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Today PUBG released a press release stating they sold 10 Million units. Last weekend, PUBG also topped the Steam played charts, passing up DOTA 2 and Counter Strike. That's no small achievement for a game like this.

I'm astonished that PUBG is doing so well. That's not because it's a bad game. Quite the contrary. PUBG has done a lot to enhance the battle royale genre. Its accomplishments aside, the production quality sucks.

One of the streamers I watch regularly (Lirik) is also one of the most-watched Twitch Streamers playing PUBG. Despite liking the game -- or at least liking his viewer count when he plays -- he calls the game "potato quality." The term 'potato' is his way of saying 'crap' or 'bad'. I like it, so I think I'll start using it too.

He's right. PUBG is potato quality.

PUBG isn't optimized well. It's janky. The graphics aren't anything amazing, either. They're just 'pretty good'. There's nothing 'high quality' about the build.

Yet it sold 10 million copies, topped Steam's play charts, and maintains a higher view count on Twitch than any other game during prime time.

I would really like to see a "AAA" build of PUBG. 

I would like to see DICE or another big shooter dev/publisher make a Battle Royale game. I would want to see them keep what PUBG did well, but make improvements to the engine.

Updating maps and working on improving the game -- moving that needle forward -- are also important. I think the team on PUBG is pretty small.

As much as I'd like to say that part of what makes PUBG shine so bright is its almost indie feel... it's just not true. I think that's one small part that holds it back.

So please don't consider this post as speaking poorly about PUBG, just a musing that I wish we could see such a fine game be taken more seriously by a team that might deliver a better engine and polished experience.

  • Game play trumps graphics. And it wouldn’t be the first time that low graphic quality also meant better performance on less powerful systems, something that has been known to translate into better sales. A DICE high definition version might just gut its potential customer base.

    • It’s more of an engine issue. The graphics are just ‘pretty good’ or ‘alright’, but there isn’t a performance boost to go with it. The game runs pretty heavy, taxes an average PC pretty hard, and still runs janky.

      I still play EQ religiously, so I’m all about the game play trumping graphics. I think I can write a book on how simpler graphics allow the imagination to fill in more blanks than pretty graphics ever could. In this case, it’s more about the engine build quality being subpar.

  • Not sure I agree on the engine being poor. On a good PC, you can run the game on Ultra (where it looks pretty good) and stay at 60+FPS. A toaster can run it on low settings fine as well, and while it looks much worse, you don’t get a gameplay hit (like view distance on other players). That’s not bad for a game with a huge map that never has ‘zone lines’, and has 100 people running around shooting at each other. Also loading times are brisk, from starting the game to getting into a match.

    As Wilhelm points out, if you raise the needed specs higher, you just exclude more people, and that means smaller twitch viewership and a decrease in that whole snowball. Also PUBG is one of those games, like LoL, where you can tell a friend to play it and not really worry if they can run it, which is a major issue for games like Battlefield for example.

    Does it have issues? Sure, but it is an EA title, and not a “3 years in and still EA” one either. With the success, I expect the team will grow, though a larger team isn’t always better in gaming of late, not when a game is as focused as PUBG (it’s not like they need to create more story, more cutscences, more voiceovers, etc).

    • So picking up items being janky (unless you tab drag…), input lag, janky jitters, stuttering through doors, doors being borked in general, buildings disappearing randomly or never appearing at all for a match, vehicles randomly killing you when bumping into a tire, objects being invisible for some people and not for others, bullets clipping on geometry, etc., you don’t get any of that? I do, and the the guys streaming the game to 30,000 people do.

      Experiencing those issues myself then watching other people get them too and say they wish the game had a higher quality build are what prompted me to comment.

      I’m not trying to harp on the game at all. I love it. Put 25 hours in this weekend. I’ll put my name in the ‘fan’ box. But the engine and overall build quality are not roses and sunshine.

      I’m not saying the game needs a modern day Crysis-of-old style graphics makeover, or that it needs the specs raised. Heck, lower the specs. Lower the graphics. I don’t equate engine performance directly with graphics, although there is often a correlation.

      A polished version and more map development and improvements to the engine would be great.

      BTW, early access be damned. I don’t consider EA an excuse when you sell 10 million copies and achieve the most played game on Steam and Twitch.

      • In hindsight referencing DICE and Electronic Arts to do the job was probably a terrible example. Maybe Blizzard style polish instead.

  • Not sure you can hold 10m copies sold against them for being in EA. Only a few months ago they had zero copies sold and a small team, so it’s not like they can instantly become a AAA title just because they got popular. Look how long it took Riot to ramp up the LoL team after that game was successful.

    As for tech issues, I never get most of what you wrote. The most common thing for me is slight server-side lag at the start of some matches (which I’m 95% sure is when large brawls are happening), and that always dies down after 3-5min. I’ve never had buildings not draw in, never had the game crash, etc. The ‘delay’ in picking items up is by design (animation playing out), if that is what you are talking about. I’ve seen the clips of stuff like cars going flying, but I suspect those are very rare, as I’ve never seen it happen in any of my games.

    My overall point though is if PUBG is potato quality, that’s a crazy high bar to measure other games by. Remember WoW at launch, when some servers were unplayable for months and you would glide across the screen unable to loot anything or progress (IE: the game was literally unplayable)? Or the launch status of D3, both in design flaws (auction house) and all the technical issues? And that’s from a AAA studio with massive teams. Now consider that PUBG is hosting far, far more people in games than WoW did in a similar timeframe and how well the servers hold up, or that in a game as popular as PUBG, how uncommon hacking/cheating is (not saying its at zero, but compare it to H1Z1 or DayZ levels of hacking, it might as well be).

    • All fair points. I will admit that I set the bar incredibly high on polish and how a game ‘feels’ when played.

      I’m not holding the 10M copies against them as much as I guess I’m not allowing EA to be an excuse for them. They’ve more than proven they are better than most EA games. They deserve all the same chances as anyone else to take what they’ve accomplished and improve upon it.

      I just want the game to feel perfect to go right along with how awesome the gameplay has been.