07 Nov Industry Insight: PUBG and Streaming in China
Rarely does a game come out and instantly capture the imaginations of the world, becoming an overnight sensation and defining a brand new genre that will influence game development for years to come. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), is a game that has done just that. It’s continuously breaking records and has recently surpassed 2,000,000 concurrent users on Steam and boasts sales of over 17 Million copies to date.
Image source – https://playbattlegrounds.com
The game is still in early access and will not ship as a final product for some time, but that didn’t stop it from earning $11 million in its first 3 days on Steam. The overnight success and popularity of the game has also earned developer Bluehole Studios, a valuation of $4.6 billion.
The game is a global phenomenon and its especially popular in China. In an article on sohu.com, it is reported that 41% of the current player base of PUBG are Chinese players. This is a huge section of the audience and very telling of the games success and popularity in the region.
It’s success in China can be attributed to its competitive gameplay and co-operative elements that all feed into the emerging eSports culture in the region. PC gaming in China is incredibly popular and its currently the largest PC gaming market in the world (based on revenue). The game is also cheaper to purchase in China, with a retail price of ¥98.00, which is approximately $14.78, making the game 50.71% cheaper in China than in the US.
As mentioned above, PC gaming and competitive gaming are incredibly popular in China. In the region, pay-to-win games are more readily accepted and players are keen to do whatever they can to score an advantage over their opponents. Internet cafes and gaming lounges have become increasingly popular hangouts for young adults who spend their days playing competitive first person shooters, real time strategy games, and MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena).
The world of eSports continues to rise in popularity both in terms of players and audiences. Many competitions draw large audience numbers and live events can sell out arenas. PUBG recently held its first eSport event at GamesCom, with Korean gamer Kyo-min “EVERMORE” Koo winning the tournament. The online viewing figures for the event, which was held in Germany, reached a total of 400,000+. This is a great figure for a first time eSport and shows that the game has potential to become one of the more popular eSports to watch.
Currently, eSports are more popular in the East than in the West. Live streaming competitive games can draw big audiences across China. PUBG is one of the most frequently streamed/watched games in the region as the gameplay itself is almost as engaging to watch as it is to play.
Image source – https://www.Panda.tv
Streamers on sites like Panda.tv (see image above) can attract a viewership of over 1 million people. At the time of capturing the image above, the streamer had a total of 1,123,168 people watching.
Streamers can earn money via audience donations and gifts. These gifts can be as small as a virtual sunflower, which is worth around 0.10 yuan ($0.02) or something a little more extravagant like a virtual sports car, costing upwards of 100 yuan ($15).
In a report by CNBC, a young Chinese streamer, Ding Gaoxing, stated “I broadcast about 60 hours a month, earning about 10,000 yuan by cashing out virtual gifts that my fans sent me“. With figures like that and the potential for an incredibly high viewership, it’s easy to see why so many young Chinese adults are choosing to become “professional” streamers. Last year, the China Internet Network Information Centre, noted that the number of live streamers in China reached 325 million by late June, which was almost half of the overall internet population of the country (710 million).
PUBG is at the forefront of the live streaming boom and now other companies are looking to capitalize on its success. Tencent, China’s biggest game developer, are rumoured to be interested in acquiring the developer of PUBG and there have been reports that they’re working on their own “Battle Royale” type game for mobile devices. The game, currently referred to as “Tian Tian Parachute” is one of many PUBG clones in development.
NetEase, the second largest games developer in China, is also keen to replicate the success of Bluehole’s game and they are implementing a “battle royal” themed mode into their recent Terminator 2 game for mobile devices. Alongside that, they are also releasing their own standalone PUBG clone, “Wilderness Action”, which will be available on mobile devices.
Given China’s mobile-first culture and the incredibly popular mobile games market within the region, it makes sense that Tencent and NetEase would try to replicate the success of PUBG and bring it to China’s lucrative mobile gaming platform.
If nothing else, PUBG has highlighted the popularity of live streaming within China and across the globe. It’s influence will reach out beyond PC gaming and will penetrate games within the console and mobile markets too. Companies the world over will try to replicate its success and its popularity could potentially usher in a new era for game development and eSports.