Towards the end of 2017 it was abundantly clear that 'battle royale' was the game genre of the moment, with Fortnite Battle Royale and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds being the most popular games in that genre.
[Update: PUBG is celebrating reaching 4 million players on Xbox One this week by giving Xbox One players 30000 Battle Points with which they can purchase cosmetic in-game items. Players will receive their points as long as they've purchased the game and created a character before the cut off time of 12 AM PT/3 AM ET /8AM UTC on January 31. As incentives to play go, this is a big one.]
Now that 2018 is well underway, we're only seeing the popularity and scope of both titles increase, but which game is best for you?
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds was the first of the two games to be released, and it took the PC gaming and streaming worlds by storm. Its growth has been nothing short of astounding, and towards the end of 2017 it was boasting an Xbox One port and 3 million concurrent players.
Of course, any fan of battle royale games knows that you don't get to be alone for long, and PUBG's competition soon came along in the form of Epic Games' Fornite. With similar gameplay it's proven to be tough competition, and in the last month alone it's increased its playerbase by an incredible 10 million.
And so the battle royale of the battle royales continues.
On the surface, Fortnite and PUBG share many similarities but they have significant differences in content and style which make them feel notably different to play.
To help you decide which game is best for you right now, we've compared the different offerings of Fortnite and PUBG below. Which will be the last game standing?
PUBG and Fortnite are both battle royale games with similar mechanics, but when it comes to visuals they’re very distinct. Which one you find is better, however, is largely down to personal preference.
While PUBG goes for a gritty militarism that feels more realistic, Fortnite is much more colorful and cartoonish – kind of in the vein of titles like Overwatch. It’s really down to you which kind of world you prefer to play in.
First things first: PUBG's maps are larger than Fortnite’s.
But bigger doesn't always mean better, and there are positives and negatives to both games' maps.
Being so large, vehicles are required for traversal in PUBG, particularly if you're unlucky enough to land far from the safe zone. Unfortunately, using vehicles tends to draw the attention of other players, so if you're forced into using one, getting across a PUBG map can sometimes feel like a tense dash that'll leave you reaching for some deodorant.
Fornite’s smaller map means you have less space to play but it’s much easier to traverse ,and matches tend to be much shorter.
A big plus in PUBG's favor is that it offers two maps – Erangel and Miramar. The map you play in is random, but the variety here does keep things interesting and forces players to stay on their toes.
It’s worth noting, however, that Fortnite has recently received an update which adds five new locations to its map. These new locations range from underground mines to built-up cityscapes, and these force players to take different approaches to combat thanks to their different layouts.
Each game, then, takes a different approach to offering variety. While PUBG prefers to opt for large individual maps, Fortnite has decided to expand and improve its existing map. Fortnite's developers have, however, said that more maps will be added to the game, just “not right away”.
It’ll take some time to determine which game is taking the better approach. But at the moment it seems fair to say that that those looking for long-lasting tense matches with plenty of risk-taking on sprawling varied maps should opt for PUBG, while those looking for something a little more contained and faster-paced may prefer Fortnite’s single, densely-packed island.
Both of these games are battle royales, and as a result they feel pretty similar in terms of gameplay and goal: do whatever it takes to survive as the map shrinks around you. Whether you like to play solo, with a friend, or with a group of your friends, both titles will give you this option.
But there are big differences, the first of these being weapons and items. In a battle royale game weapons and items are key, but Fortnite and PUBG take slightly different approaches to them.
Befitting of its gritty realistic visuals and large maps, PUBG has far more items and weapons than Fortnite. That’s not to say Fornite is short on weapons — there are a range to choose from, and Epic Games has stated that it'll be adding more in the future. But its system is less full, complex and deep than PUBG's and fans of serious shooters may find it less satisfying.
Another big difference between the games is that Fortnite includes construction elements – something which is probably much more achievable and workable thanks to the game’s contained map and shorter game times.
When the game map shrinks to the point where things are coming to a close, Fortnite players can use all of the construction items they’ve picked up over the course of the match to build structures which will afford them protection or vantage points. It is worth noting, though, that all cover in Fortnite can be destroyed.
In some ways this encourages players to face up to one another in the end and finish things. It’s hard to hide when you’re building something, especially on a small colorful game map, so finding other players and being found can be much faster. You could, of course, not build anything, but then you run the risk of being at a disadvantage if other players have gained the higher ground.
Because of its construction mechanic, Fortnite matches tend to be more direct in their closing moments, though not always.
In PUBG, when the map has shrunk down, players must use the world around them to move to higher ground or duck for cover. Generally, PUBG matches are much more tense and stressful affairs.
Because you can’t build your own vantage point or protection, you have to move to an advantageous position fast or you'll end up dead. And because you can’t use player-made structures to safely pin-point the locations of other players, the chances of someone hiding in an abandoned house waiting to ambush you are much higher.
This tends to mean PUBG players are far more cautious and matches can last far longer, while feeling far more intense in their final moments.
Which has more players?
When you’re playing online multiplayer games, naturally you’re going to want to see a highly-populated lobby.
At a certain point, though, specific numbers are kind of pointless. As long as the game is popular, you’re going to encounter players to fight and run from. That’s where we’re at with PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and Fortnite at the moment. No matter which game you go into, you’re going to find an active and large playerbase.
However, it’s perhaps worth noting how trends are swinging at the moment. Fortnite has recently seen an explosive growth. Between December 2017 and January 2018 it’s managed to gain another 10 million players, taking its number to 40 million with a record of 2 million concurrent users. There’s also been an upswing in the number of streamers turning to Fortnite and away from PUBG.
In December 2017, however, PUBG managed to hit 3 million concurrent users, and in January 2018 it emerged the Xbox One version of the game has more than 4 million users. You’ll understand, then, why we’re saying player numbers and popularity probably shouldn’t be the driving force behind any final decision you make.
Performance seems to be fairly consistent across console and PC for Fornite (probably down, at least in part, to Fortnite’s larger budget and development team), PUBG has been criticized for its performance on Xbox One and the Xbox One X.
It should be noted, though, that patches are being issued to address this so the game’s console performance should improve over time. Whether or not PUBG will ever be ported to PlayStation 4 hasn’t been confirmed but it’s not an impossibility.
PC is a good option for either game, but those who prefer console gaming should almost certainly look to Fortnite first at the moment.
If you’re a complete battle royale novice, then you might be glad to know that Fortnite’s Battle Royale base game is free-to-play on all platforms, so it’s a good way to dip your toes into the genre.
Epic Games has taken a service approach to its title – the game is free-to-download and updates are frequent, with many of the changes being based on player feedback.
With the base game being free, there are, of course, options to pay. Players can buy season passes which give in-game rewards and offer cosmetic loot rewards to players who complete daily challenges.
The battle pass is really only worth the money if you're willing to plug some time into the game, as the more you play, the more rewards you unlock. However, it doesn't give any kind of advantage over other players as Epic Games has promised that no items that can be purchased will ever offer any competitive advantage.
PUBG can be purchased on Steam and on Xbox from £24.99/$29.99/AU $39.95.
So, which one should I play?
On the surface Fornite and PUBG are very similar games. They’re both battle royales, they both allow you to play alone or with others, they both feature shrinking maps and the ultimate goal is to be the last player standing.
However, on closer inspection they offer very different experiences and it depends entirely on player preference which one is better. Both have massive playerbases, so you could hardly call either of them bad. They simply have different appeals.
If you’re looking for colorful aesthetics, accessibility and fun on console then Fortnite is the one to choose. For those unfamiliar with the concept of battle royales it’s certainly a good initial option – not only is it free, it’s easier to get to grips with and its shorter matches make it a more casual experience.
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds on the other hand is for those looking for something a little more serious. Its grittier visuals, longer match times, larger maps and more complex weapon and item system mean it’ll take more of your time to learn and play. For serious shooter fans who prefer realism and accuracy, PUBG takes the chicken dinner.
Whichever one you choose, just prepare yourself for a lot of stress and know that any victories will be hard-earned.