PUBG: Battlegrounds is Getting Money after going Free-to-Play

PUBG: Battlegrounds, the PC and console version of the battle royale shooter series, is making a lot of money following its switch to free-to-play in January, as revealed by developer Krafton’s latest earnings report published Friday.

Krafton’s bet is paying off in a big way. Somebody at Krafton is probably doing these poses after the company’s latest earnings report. 

Sales were up 61 percent year over year to $82.3 million. On console, the sales leap was even more significant, growing 124 percent from the previous quarter and 274 percent year over year, though Krafton didn’t put a dollar figure behind those increases. The game also saw a “nearly tripled” increase in average monthly active users from Q4 2021.

PUBG: Battlegrounds was initially a paid title when it launched on Steam in the early permit in 2017, but the outsized financial success of free-to-play battle royale shooters. Like Fortnite, Call of Duty: Warzone, and Apex Legends proved that the free model could be lucrative.

To provide you an idea of just how lucrative, EA said this week that Apex Legends, a game that has been out for a little over three years, has surpassed $2 billion in lifetime net bookings. And Epic raised $144 million for Ukraine relief from just two weeks of Fortnite proceeds.

So for Krafton, switching PUBG: Battlegrounds to free-to-play was likely a pretty easy decision. And the popularity of PUBG: Mobile (which is also free-to-play) probably helped; Krafton says that the game, which has been downloaded more than 1 billion times as of March 2021, earned $307.1 million in revenue in the first quarter of 2022, a figure that was up 5 percent year over year.

Following the success of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds which had led to investment from Tencent Holdings and expansion and acquisition of studios, Bluehole opted to establish Krafton on November 5, 2018, to serve as a holding company for its video game properties.

“Krafton” was selected based on the names of craft guilds of the Middle Ages. Kim Chang-Han, the CEO of the PUBG Corporation (current PUBG Studios) that developed PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, was named as CEO for Krafton.

The company announced its plans to file for an initial public offering in July 2021, pointing to its initial approval for listing on the Korea Stock Exchange in April 2021. The firm plans to raise ₩5.6 trillion (US$5 billion) at a market valuation of ₩30 trillion (US$27.2 billion).

The IPO was held on August 10, 2021; while its value dropped by 8.8% from the original asking price at the end of trading, it still ended with Krafton being valued at US$19.32 billion.

The shares of several Chinese and foreign video game companies, including Tencent, the largest video game company in China and a provider for foreign companies to publish games in their country, fell due to new restrictions imposed by the Chinese government.

According to the Chinese government, video games are viewed as an ‘electronic drug’ and a ‘spiritual opium,’ especially shooting video games, which promote violence. China is a significant market for video games due to its population density; hence the collapse of companies is devastating for every videogame company, including Krafton.