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Winner Winner Chicken Dinner: How Microsoft is looking to heat up holiday competition on console

Aug 28, 2017
Mat Piscatella, Industry Analyst ;
Video Games

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is the most popular and best-selling entertainment property you may have never heard of.

It may also be one of the most important games releasing in the console space this holiday period.

You shouldn’t feel too bad about not knowing a lot about PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.  After all, it only launched in March as an Early Access game on Valve’s PC digital distribution platform STEAM.

It’s a game that is bucking all AAA market trends.  There are no cutscenes, no celebrity voice actors, no in game advertisements, no high production value graphics, no quick time events, no achievements or trophies, there isn’t even any music.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is play in one of its purest forms.  One hundred players parachute onto an island, one player wins by eliminating all other players in the style of the 2000 film Battle Royale.  There are no respawns, no super powers and no levelling.  Players make their own stories, either alone or with squads of friends.  And the winner gets the most sought-after congratulations in gaming, a simple screen that says only “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner.”

It’s a game that, looking at the rest of the market, probably shouldn’t be this successful.

Since PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds March launch, however, it’s done what many would say was previously impossible.  Over the weekend, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds took over the top spot in peak concurrent worldwide players on STEAM, displacing Valve’s own DOTA 2.

Oh, it’s also been a sales juggernaut.

In the five months since PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds launched, it has achieved eight million units in global sales on PC.

By August 17th, it had reached seven million.

By July 25th, six million.

By July 21st, five million.

I’m guessing you can see a pattern here.

Bluehole, the publisher of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on STEAM, has certainly enjoyed the remarkable rise of the game on PC.  It is a sales and player engagement darling.  On Twitch, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is now carrying view counts more than three times that of longtime leader League of Legends.

And for the market leaders in the console space, the impact of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is just getting started.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is Microsoft’s exclusive crown jewel in what will be a highly competitive holiday 2017 sales period.  The company, which is releasing the Xbox One X on November 7th, has faced criticisms for a somewhat sparse exclusive content slate in recent months.  Microsoft will be publishing the Xbox One version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which will be exclusive to the platform in the console space throughout the holiday window at least, although it’s uncertain just how long the exclusivity window will last.

And with just this one game, Microsoft could very well not only potentially have the best-selling exclusive product of the holiday quarter, but one that could drive significant sales of Xbox One hardware as well.

The only hang up?  PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds release date has yet to be confirmed

Early results for Xbox One X hardware pre-orders are reportedly positive.  Microsoft is claiming the highest initial pre-orders in Xbox history, although specifics around what that pre-order level is are fleeting.

While Sony’s PlayStation 4 has led the US market during the generation that began in 2013, the launch of the iterative Xbox One X console along with PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds console exclusivity on the Xbox One platform could have competition heating up.  If the game launches this holiday, of course.

How console players react to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds market-defying structure and play style will go a long way towards determining just how hot that competition will get.  Earlier this year I’d predicted six hundred thousand Xbox One X units to sell to US consumers in 2017.  If PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds launches on Xbox One this holiday, and if the game can find a receptive market of gamers in the console space, Microsoft may be seeing its own version of “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner.”

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