For Xbox One owners, the wait to play PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) will end December 12th. The battle royale game consistently racks up 2 million daily players on Steam, and in just over a month it will transition to the Xbox Game Preview program as a work in progress, with studio Bluehole leaning on players to help guide the game's development. "We can use it like Steam Early Access where we can develop on console with the community, and that's going to be really essential -- in our view -- for getting a really great version on console," creator Brendan Greene told Engadget.
The version that comes out in December won't be a direct 1:1 port, though. At least not yet. The most noticeable difference is that PUBG on Xbox One won't feature the PC version's upcoming "Desert" map (below), which has a big emphasis on verticality in an urban environment. Greene said there wasn't a timeframe for when Xbox fans will be able to explore that map. Other than that, he said that the two games are "essentially" the same.
That means the Xbox version will have vaulting and climbing at launch in December, which was announced back at E3 in June but still is in testing on PC. The game's 1.0 version will release sometime later in December, according to a post on Xbox Wire.
What separates the pair is the development cycle. PUBG has been playable on PC since March, and as such it has a nine month (at least) lead time in terms of features. "We want the same game on both platforms, but the Xbox version is obviously lagging a little bit behind when it comes to the PC version," Greene said. "There's not a different feature set, it's at just different points in development."
When asked if Bluehole had a timeframe in mind for the PlayStation 4 version, Greene's answer wasn't hopeful. "No, not at all," he admitted. He said that right now the team is focused just on getting the Xbox One port out the door.
And, since the PS4 doesn't offer its own game preview program it's anyone's guess when that will happen, but games need to be pretty much feature complete for Sony to list them on the PlayStation Network Store. For example, Ark: Survival Evolved didn't come out for PS4 until late this August, when the Xbox Game Preview version was released in December 2015.
Early Access isn't all sunshine and rainbows, though. Sure, PC games like Dead Cells, Nuclear Throne and PUBG have benefitted greatly from fans being able to play works in progress. Their respective developers have been able to take good games and make them great, tapping the players for input about what does and doesn't work. But there's another side to this coin.
The aforementioned Ark currently sits with a 4/10 user score on Metacritic for its PC version, with the PS4 and Xbox One editions ranking 3.9/10 and 4.1, respectively. But with how PUBG has taken over Steam and Twitch, it doesn't seem like that'll be the case once the game arrives on Xbox One. The game had already sold 10 million copies on PC as of September.
Come December PUBG could very well be the poster child that the Game Preview program desperately needs: a high-profile indie that's garnered almost universally positive acclaim during an extended — and public — test period. It won't have much competition with other exclusives on the system this fall, that's for sure.