‘PUBG’ is the only streaming game I watch — and it might be the future of video game design

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I’ve never really understood why so many people enjoy watching other players stream video games. Or rather, I didn’t understand it until recently, when I discovered PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

One of my favorite games, Overwatch, is also pretty big in the streaming community, but those videos have never held my interest. Then I started watching Polygon’s streams. First, it was just for a laugh, but my interest quickly evolved into so much more.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is the only streaming game I watch, and it’s success says a lot about the future of the entire industry.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is a great balance of easy to understand and exciting

For those who don’t know, Battlegrounds is an arena survival game where 100 players drop into an island with no weapons or gear. They then explore the environment to collect items and fight.

Map of Erangel, the main island in ‘PUBG’
Map of Erangel, the main island in ‘PUBG’ Battlegrounds Gamepedia

The island contains a few big cities, some smaller towns and random other structures like a military base, a school and a power plant. The simple goal is to be the last person, or team, standing. There’s one catch though — every few minutes, the play area gets smaller.

There’s an energy circle that starts on the outside of the map. Throughout the course of each game, it slowly decreases in size and it closes in on a random location. If you’re outside of the circle you’ll start taking damage until you return to the play area.

You don’t want to be on the outside of that blue energy barrier
You don’t want to be on the outside of that blue energy barrier RobOSRS/YouTube/Giphy

All of these elements create a pretty thrilling viewing experience. Behind every door or around every corner there’s always the possibility of something exciting and deadly. It’s easy to feel the same anticipation that the players feel — even if some streams nothing really happens.

With other games like Overwatch, the only thing streaming does is make me want to stop watching and play the game. And while I do want to try out Battlegrounds, watching it isn’t just a substitution for the real thin. It’s a separate enjoyable activity.

When I’m watching Overwatch, I’m waiting for those brief but significant moments that turn the tide of battle: huge team plays where all the ultimates get used and one team is definitively victorious. Unfortunately, they don’t happen that often in games like Overwatch that have a pretty structured pace. But in Battlegrounds, anything can happen at any point — you don’t need to wait for a special ability to charge in or to organize team efforts. It’s all happening at once.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds shows us what to expect with the future of streaming

PUBG’s outrageous success may represent a future where video games are designed specifically for streaming and esports. It’s been pretty obvious since it’s release that Battlegrounds was meant to be a game with great streaming potential. Now that it has sold over three million copies and pulled in a huge streaming audience, it seems this plan was a success.

While games like Overwatch struggle with designing an accessible spectator mode, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds might be paving the way for mainstream video game design moving forward.

Even for fans, ‘Overwatch’ has a notoriously difficult spectator mode
Even for fans, ‘Overwatch’ has a notoriously difficult spectator mode Genzo Overwatch/YouTube

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