A screenshot from PUBG: Battlegrounds. | Image: Krafton
The original PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (aka PUBG) is moving to a free-to-play model beginning January 12st, 2022, developer Krafton announced at The Game Awards Thursday.
PUBG has been a paid game since it launched on Steam in early access in 2017. It quickly became a huge hit, and it was such a sensation that it inspired Epic Games to make a free battle royale mode for its (at the time) new tower defense game called Fortnite. Fortnite: Battle Royale has since gone on to become an entertainment juggernaut, likely in part because it’s free, and Activision Blizzard has also released its own massively popular free-to-play battle royale shooter, Call of Duty: Warzone.
Although PUBG will soon be free-to-play, there will still be some elements that are locked behind a fee after the switch. Krafton plans to introduce an optional one-time $12.99 “account upgrade” called Battlegrounds Plus that gives you access to ranked and custom match modes, special in-game items, and more. People have who already paid for PUBG will get the PUBG Special Commemorative Pack, which includes Battlegrounds Plus and additional in-game items.
Despite fierce competition, PUBG: Battlegrounds has remained popular, having sold 75 million copies since its release, Krafton creative director Dave Curd told The Verge in an interview. And on mobile, PUBG is one of the biggest franchises around; the free-to-play PUBG Mobile has been downloaded more than 1 billion times, and Krafton recently released a second free-to-play mobile PUB game, PUBG: New State.
Correction, December 9th, 10:35PM ET: Dave Curd is the creative director of Krafton, not PUBG Corporation. We regret the error.