PUBG will go free-to-play in January, and current owners can get free Battlegrounds Plus access


PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold won’t be needed after the free-to-play switchover

PUBG held on as a premium game longer than I ever would’ve expected, especially as the battle royale landscape has matured, but in 2022, it’s finally shifting to a free-to-play model. Announced last night at The Game Awards 2021, Krafton plans to turn PUBG into a free-to-play game on January 12, 2022 — that goes for the PC and console versions.

As someone who was out there dropping with the boys early on in Erangel but hasn’t touched PUBG in years, this trailer is interesting. I’ve clearly missed a lot.

And while it’s easy to underestimate a game like PUBG when you aren’t keeping tabs on its community, the game is still big from a global perspective — it’s ultimately still a top 10 most active game on Steam based on concurrent player counts. It peaked at 358K players today. (Just so we’re clear — and you know, this figure completely blows my mind to this day — the game has “sold more than 75 million copies across PC and consoles.”)

Battlegrounds free-to-play now gives us the opportunity to expand our community even more and bring all the thrills of the game to everyone, while providing new friends, faster matchmaking, and let’s be honest, more targets for our existing player base,” said Krafton.

So, free-to-play: where does that leave players who paid good money for PUBG?

PUBG Commemorative Pack

There are a few moving pieces, but the major change to note is that Ranked Mode will not be accessible to free-to-play players — unless they upgrade. PUBG will have a Basic account with “access to most of the game’s features,” as well as a Battlegrounds Plus account, which costs $12.99 (unless you already own PUBG) and includes:

  • Survival Mastery XP +100% boost
  • Career – Medal tab
  • Ranked Mode
  • Creating and playing a Custom Match.
  • Captain’s Camo Hat
  • Captain’s Camo Mask
  • Captain’s Camo Gloves
  • Bonus 1300 G-COIN

Again, if you have PUBG before the January 10 deadline, you don’t need to pay for Battlegrounds Plus. The process is a little different between PC, PS4, and Xbox One (especially when it comes to the PlayStation Store’s Transition Pack), so it’s worth double-checking what you need to do to guarantee access before PUBG goes free-to-play.

On top of that, Krafton is also trying to get the word out with a pre-registration website that includes in-game items and bonuses. There’s a friend referral incentive, too.

It’s natural to wonder about cheaters whenever a big game is about to become even bigger by opening the free-to-play floodgates. Krafton published a new anti-cheat dev letter that talks about “quietly, yet fiercely, preparing a number of countermeasures to combat cheat programs.” That said, anti-cheat is “always a never-ending fight.”

In terms of new content, “all of our team’s focus is on the free-to-play service transition,” which has shuffled other things around. “For example, the codename ‘Kiki‘ unfortunately has been postponed to around mid-2022. In addition, as introduced in the Update 14.2 Patch Notes, the next Survivor Pass will be available to you around March 2022.”

Anyone looking to give PUBG another chance? Or maybe a shot, period?