PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds may not have created the battle royale genre, but it certainly popularized it. Since its explosion in popularity in 2017, a number of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds "clones" have popped up, including some mobile games that are blatant copies of PUBG, as well as games that offer enough fresh ideas to become something entirely different, such as Fortnite. Developer PUBG Corp. has attempted to sue Fortnite and other games for their similarities to its game, a decision that has been criticized since PUBG itself has been accused of being an "asset flip."
For the uninitiated, an "asset flip" (a term coined by YouTube personality Jim Sterling) is when a game is made primarily of pre-made assets, as opposed to original artwork or designs. However, some PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds developers have pushed back against the notion that the game is an asset flip, including PUBG creator Brendan Greene and more recently, PUBG Corp. communications lead Ryan Rigney, who spoke about the issue on Reddit.
Rigney explained that the team had to rely on store-bought assets at first, as that was the only way to create the game fast and find what made it fun. It wouldn't make sense, Rigney claims, to start with an art team of 40 people to create assets for a game before the development team even knows if the concept is going to be fun or not.
Rigney acknowledges that the Erangel map, PUBG's first map, is a combination of store-bought assets and in-house content. He then said that the Miramar desert map was also built with a combination of in-house content and store-bought assets, though it used less pre-made assets than Erangel. "As our in-house art teams built Miramar, they began to rely less on store-bought assets, although they continued to use them strategically, because it just doesn’t make sense to build everything in the game world yourself."
Rigney also provided a quote from someone named Dave, who is apparently a lead artist for PUBG:
“Why should one of my artists spend two weeks on a generic sculpt if they could instead spend that two weeks adding real value for players elsewhere? How many times should a telephone booth be modeled? How many times do we gotta sculpt a cash register?”
Rigney went on to assure fans that the most recent map, the Sanhok jungle map, was made with even less pre-made assets, and that the upcoming winter map, will have an even higher ratio of original content.
As the team grows, it makes sense that it is able to create more original content as opposed to relying on store-bought assets. However, PUBG Corp. may struggle to drum up support for the idea that it should be able to sue games like Fortnite when it relies on pre-made assets, and didn't even create the battle royale genre in the first place.
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is available now on Android, iOS, and PC, and is available on Xbox One through early access.