What just happened? Fortnite might still be the battle royale game that gets all the headlines, but rival PUBG has just passed a major milestone by becoming the genre’s first mobile title to surpass $1 billion in revenue—and it’s mostly thanks to China.
Back in May, PUBG publisher Tencent decided to shut down the mobile version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds in China after waiting over a year for regulators to approve a bid to monetize the game—partly due to the country’s strict laws on gambling and violence.
PUBG was soon relaunched as Game for Peace, which is pretty much the same game only with pro-Chinese elements and toned-down violence; shot characters don’t bleed, and when people are dying, they kneel, surrender their loot box, and wave goodbye.
They changed PUBG Mobile in China to comply with stricter game violence laws. Now when you 'kill' someone they give you a loot box and wave goodbye and honestly it's just so hilariously wholesome pic.twitter.com/Q5xkrtM0MA— Svend Joscelyne (@SvendJoscelyne) May 8, 2019
The reworked Chinese version has helped PUBG’s gross monthly revenue skyrocket over the last year, from $25 million in August 2018 to over $160 million last month, an increase of around 540 percent, reports Sensor Tower. Even without China’s contribution, player spending in PUBG has increased 152 percent compared to a year earlier.
The new revenue stream means PUBG has become the first mobile battle royale game to pass $1 billion in revenue across iOS and Android, putting it ahead of Knives Out ($820 million) and Fortnite ($752 million).
Somewhat surprisingly, while PUBG mobile has seen huge growth, Fortnite’s mobile version has gone in the opposite direction. Epic Games’ title has seen its iOS spending fall 36 percent YoY to $25 million, though it has yet to launch in China.
Last month saw a record number of new players for PUBG Mobile. The extra 45 million new arrivals pushed the total number of installs to 400 million globally.