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PUBG is going completely free to play in January

(Image credit: Krafton)

PUBG is going free-to-play early next year, according to an announcement at The Game Awards.

In a high-octane new trailer recapping the game's history, now stretching into its fifth year, publisher Krafton confirmed that players would be able to play for free from January 12, 2022. While the price tag is going away, some parts of the game will still be paid for - new players will have to pay $12.99 for a 'Battlegrounds Plus' account upgrade which grants access to ranked matches and some in-game items. Previous owners won't have to pay that fee, and will get some of their own special items thanks to a 'PUBG Special Commemorative Pack'.

New or existing players can pre-register for the free game via its website, linking new or existing Krafton accounts to unlock even more rewards. It's clear that the team behind the game is looking to encourage a large number of new and returning players, as the website contains a number of resources explaining different aspects of battle royale gameplay, from gunplay and looting down to ideas as fundamental as the closing circle.

Back in August, Krafton hosted a week-long free-to-play event that was intended to gauge interest in an entirely free version of PUBG. Given this upcoming change, that seems to have been a success. A free-to-play mobile version of the game, PUBG Lite, shut down in April 2021.

PUBG helped kickstart the battle royale craze after its release in 2017, and can be considered a major source of inspiration for Fortnite. At the height of its popularity, in early 2018, it topped 3.2 million concurrent players on Steam - a record that it still holds today - and is still the third most popular game on the platform. It remains to be seen whether the transition to free-to-play will offer a significant boost, but it certainly has a strong foundation to build from.

Getting back to where it all started? Here are some more of the best battle royale games.

Ali Jones

I'm GamesRadar's deputy news editor, working with Ben T across our gaming news articles. I started my journalistic career while getting my degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick, where I also worked as Games Editor on the student newspaper, The Boar. Since then, I've run the news sections at PCGamesN and Kotaku UK, and also regularly contributed to PC Gamer. As you might be able to tell, PC is my platform of choice, so you can regularly find me playing League of Legends or Steam's latest indie hit.