When Fortnite Battle Royale first launched in September 2017, there was plenty to side-eye. A parachute entrance, loot to collect, similar guns, 100 players on a map and only one left standing, its name. Fortnite Battle Royale was the first to catapult itself off of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds' (PUBG) success last year, and it being free-to-play and available immediately across Xbox One and PlayStation 4 gave it a significant leg up above its competition.
PUBG Corp., obviously, wasn't pleased. Its president came out saying that they had "concerns" over the new standalone mode built off Epic Games' PvE game Fortnite: Save the World. (On another note, PUBG runs on Unreal Engine 4, Epic Games' game engine.) Just a few weeks ago, PUBG Corp. filed a lawsuit against Epic Games Korea for copyright violation. During this year's GDC though, during a talk Brendan "PlayerUnknown" Greene noted that he's happy that other battle royale games are able to flourish thanks to PUBG and Fortnite's dual success. Of course, that same mentality doesn't seem to be trickling upwards to the corporation end of things.
This week sees a new update in the ongoing Fortnite and PUBG drama: and this time, it's PUBG that's lifting an idea from Fortnite. Starting today, PUBG is kicking off its new Event Pass progression system. In a blog post detailing the decision, PUBG Corp. notes that this is something players have been asking for: a progression system with missions and the like to encourage them to keep playing. In structure it sounds a lot like Fortnite's Battle Pass; in action, it essentially is that except it only lasts four weeks and costs the same price of $9.99 (on top of the base price of $29.99 for the main game), and consequently has far fewer items to collect.
For Fortnite Battle Royale, a free-to-play game, Epic Games has to make its money somehow. That money's being made in Battle Pass and V-Bucks sales. V-Bucks are its in-game currency, and skins usually cost upwards of $15 per piece. Fortnite Battle Royale is also a game bursting with color and personality, whereas PUBG is one-step removed from an Arma mod. There's not really much personality at all to PUBG, even if that's slightly changed in recent months.
But still as an ongoing game, just like Fortnite Battle Royale, there has to be extra money earned somehow. PUBG's long had a controversial key system for its earnable crates. Keys to open said crates cost $2.50 a pop, and the crates only contain one in-game item (or very rarely, a full set). Over the past year or so, I've probably spent about $15 on keys for crates, and I've never gotten anything that made my money spent feel like it was really worth it—aside from a very Kitano-esque jumpsuit from the Gamescom Invitational Crates last summer. For the PUBG Event Pass' exclusive items though, I can comfortably feel like there's a guarantee for those items unlike its crate counterpart. But who knows how much I'll play in a short four week timespan, especially as my PUBG playtime has notably waned in recent months. At least with Fortnite's own Battle Pass, I can rest assured knowing that seasons last for 10 weeks at a time with 100 tiers to work towards.
But this is just the first iteration of the Event Pass, and I imagine with all the backlash PUBG Corp.'s already facing (additional items have also been unlocked for people who don't want to pay for the Event Pass but want to complete its missions) that the second time the Event Pass returns it will be a lot different from its form now. There's also the lingering feeling that there's not really anything amazing to earn in the Event Pass that's celebrating the release of the new Sanhok map. With other Battle Pass-like services, such as Rocket League's upcoming one, there's a central thrust of collectible goodies to entice players. PUBG was once a confidently unfashionable game, making its introduction of crop tops and even more neon gun skins feel even more out of place.
There is stuff to like in the pass though. Some of the clothing items are honestly rad, like the pleated skirt. (Skirts from past crates retail for a lot on the Steam Marketplace; luckily the Event Pass' items aren't resellable.) The missions you're tasked with in the Event Pass are relatively easy to pull off, but I hope in future Event Passes they get a little more creative. So far, they're all some variation of "survive this long" or "kill a player with this thing." PUBG is at its best when you get kills unexpectedly or shit pops off in a crazy way, and more interesting goals in an Event Pass could help facilitate more emergent situations.
This Event Pass and the reaction to it is ironic too, given all the legal trouble and controversy that's swirled around Fortnite and PUBG since what feels like the dawn of time. PUBG's already gotten accused of going the Fortnite way with the Sanhok map's inception, given that it's a smaller, brighter-hued map like Fortnite's lone island. PUBG also adopted new event modes for some weekends. Even though creative director Greene has a past with event modes in Arma mods, PUBG Corp. was deftly accused of copying Fortnite's own event modes.
No matter what, it's a tricky situation. I'm sure as both games remain on top of the world, they'll continue to "borrow" ideas and act catty towards one another too. It's just that with this Event Pass, we know now that not all ideas are worth lifting. Or at the very least, should be tweaked and refined a tad more before making it to market. Otherwise, fans will take to Reddit again as if Drake's "I'm Upset" is soundtracking their gaming lifestyle.