PUBG’s been suffering from a PC player drain since January, but is it all Fortnite’s fault?

The Fortnite versus PUBG saga continues in the fight for Battle Royale dominance, but it's beginning to get to the point where the end of the war is in sight, with a clear victor on all fronts. 

Recently, Epic Games announced that Fortnite Battle Royale had reached a total of 125 million (125 million!) players across PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and iOS. This is before, by the way, the game hit the Nintendo Switch over E3 2018, and it's still yet to arrive on Android devices, which is sure to bump up that number to even more ridiculous proportions. 

Meanwhile, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds has been suffering from a string of small victories and big defeats in terms of player counts. The good news is that the game has accrued over 400 million players across all platforms since launch, which sounds a heck of a lot more impressive than Fortnite's 125 million, right? 

But wait. This counts every new user who has ever logged into PUBG since the game became available in March 2017, giving it a six month headstart over Fortnite Battle Royale, which first launched in September that same year. 

The game - unlike Fortnite - is also on Android devices, which gives it access to the largest player market in the world, as proven by the fact that PUBG is now played majoritively by people on mobile (50 million copies have been sold on PC and console, which accounts for about an eighth of Bluehole's stated total player count of 400 million). 

PlayerUnknown's BattleGrounds

Then, if you look exclusively at the PC numbers, where PUBG first springboarded into popularity, the conclusions get a lot more depressing. In January 2018, its peak player count on Steam was a whopping 3,236,027. In June so far, that peak has reached a decidedly less whopping total of 1,750,216, which is almost half of what was achieved in the beginning of the year. 

And it's these kinds of statistics that are a more accurate barometer of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds' popularity, as they reveal how many people are still playing the game, rather than showcasing every user who's logged in over the last 16 months. 

Make no mistake, the game is still Steam's most popular title, and is continuing to rake in huge amounts of money for Bluehole Corp, making over $700 million alone last year, but its growth rate is looking... unfortunate compared to Fortnite's stratospheric rise in 2018 so far. 

Correlation, however, doesn't necessarily equate to causation, and PUBG's dwindling success in the shadow of Fortnite may not be a uniform side-effect of the latter's exceptional player proliferation, though it's certainly been one factor. Players have been complaining for months about PUBG's lack of content and quality of life updates, and while Epic's weekly Fortnite patches have only highlighted Bluehole's slower development pace, this has really been a problem for the game since day one. 

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is also catered to a more niche, mature audience compared to Fortnite, which brings a wider appeal to children as much as adults with its tongue-in-cheek tone, lively visual flair, and lack of blood. Regardless of where the responsibility lies, though, the numbers are crystal clear; PUBG isn't "dying" as some might have you believe, but it's undoubtedly struggling to keep up with Epic's ever accelerating breakthrough across popular culture. 

For more Battle Royale victories, find out which games like Fortnite or games like PUBG might be worth your time and money. 

Alex Avard

I'm GamesRadar's Features Writer, which makes me responsible for gracing the internet with as many of my words as possible, including reviews, previews, interviews, and more. Lucky internet!