Bluehole and the ESL have announced the world’s first PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Invitational, inviting eighty of the world’s best PUBG players to compete for a $350,000 prize pool at a LAN event in Cologne, Germany. In order to fund this, Bluehole has made the rather controversial decision to introducce loot crates to PUBG, each containing unique cosmetic items.
“From very early on we knew that the success of PUBG was reliant on the passion of its community. We want to celebrate this by inviting eighty of the top players from around the world to compete in the first offline invitational,” said Chang Han Kim, VP and executive producer at Bluehole Inc. “It’s been incredibly rewarding to see how quickly our community has grown, and can’t wait to hear about everyone’s experience this summer."
A total of three crates will be available for the event - Wanderer, Survivor, and the Gamescom Invitational Crate. Each contains a complete set of themed clothing and other cosmetic items. The Wanderer and Survivor Crates can be bought from the Rewards page using Battle Points (BP) and contained a fixed item set, but the Gamescom crate is a little different. Gamescom Invitational Crates must first be bought with BP, and then can be unlocked with a key that can be purchased for $2.50, with five different sets available. All proceeds will be split between the Invitational prize fund and a selection of charities.
It’s that last point that’s proving a sticking point for some, although I think this is a slightly more complex issue than most people let on. Doing some quick (and admittedly hazy) armchair economics, if PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has shifted 5 million copies at $30 a pop, the upper threshold of earnings is at $100 million after Steam has taken its 30% cut. There are also discounts to take into account, as well as PUBG being much cheaper to buy in some territories. Making a game like this doesn’t come cheap either, involving years of development work and millions upon millions of dollars in wages. The costs quickly stack up and pushing money outside of developmental avenues definitely wouldn't help.
While it’s Early Access, it’s fair to expect this revenue is used to develop the game, iron out the bugs and add additional content. A tournament at a gaming conference in Germany though? That kind of falls outside of PlayerUnknown and Bluehole’s remit, stumping up $350,000 in prize funds for an event that may or may not make them money. It’s an impossible investment for them to gauge, which is why they’re offloading the costs to fans through loot crates. Valve does the exact same thing with DOTA, Riot with League of Legends, and Blizzard with countless games. The difference being, PUBG is the one with the Early Access tag. It doesn’t help PUBG’s cause that it flies against the exact promises they made at launch, namely that there would be no microtransactions while the game is in Early Access. The cynic in me also understands this is just a testing ground for the real wave of loot crates, finding out what works and what doesn’t.
Wherever you stand on this, it didn’t long before the vitriol poured. One Redditor by the name of Phocboi used the opportunity to say “Bluehole are very lazy devs.” I presume this is the same Bluehole that Brendan ‘PlayerUnknown’ Green says “put in super long hours, like 14-hour days and are really committed to making it good.” The lazy swines. User D_A_K also accused them of “breaching their FAQ”, which made me giggle. Time to lock them up.The counterpoint to this comes from ‘not-a-euphamism’, who admits “I would be less happy if Early Access sales money went to fund a tournament instead of being solely dedicated to developing the game.”
If Bluehole is dead set on getting down the loot crate route, it would at least be nice to throw fans a bone and allow for all the crates to be unlocked with the earnable in-game currency. Even if it takes a ridiculous amount of effort the player’s part, just having the option to skip the key-buying route could be the olive branch that’s needed to slide this system in.
What are your thoughts on the additions of micro-transactions to an Early Access title? Anyone planning to drop $2.50 on the exclusive crate? Let us know!
You can tune in to the PUBG Games Invitational live on Twitch at 16:00 CEST every day from August 23rd through to August 26th.