My first attempt at joining the carnage of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds—a smash-hit new video game that pits 100 users against each other in a spare, bloody deathmatch—was as surreal as you might imagine. Like every other online player, I parachuted onto a gigantic island, unarmed, ready to search for weapons and gear with which to exterminate my 99 competitors. I immediately came across a one-room building that resembled a concrete rhombus and started toward it before being confronted with a fairly typical sight for this game: another player, toting a machine gun, heading straight for me.
Still unarmed, I dashed around him and into the building, hoping to find something to defend myself with, but inside I found ... a T-shirt. My opponent marched in behind me and, over his microphone, intoned what would become the last words my poor cyber-avatar would ever hear: “Hey, what’s up, bro.” I scrambled around his ankles, trying to get past him. “If you don't talk, I’m gonna have to kill you,” he explained, giving me an opportunity to plead for my life. (My microphone was, sadly, not plugged in.) He shot me in the back. “Warned ya. Shoulda had a mic,” he mused, as my screen went gray.
Minus the discussion of microphone etiquette, that’s pretty much exactly how I imagine my life would end if I were placed into a real-life battle royale—rapidly and foolishly. I probably wouldn’t even survive the parachuting, to be honest. So why, after such a pointless experience, did I immediately reload another go-round of Battlegrounds to try my luck at surviving longer in this miserable environment? More importantly, why has Battlegrounds, a video game that is still in beta testing (it won’t be officially released until later this year), sold more than 4 million copies in three months, even faster than the previous PC phenomenon Minecraft (whose beta version took nearly a year to sell 4 million copies)?