I don't know how Krafton thought they could get away with this.
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is one of the most distinctive game names of the last decade. It's not the kind of name anyone forgets, and neither is its perfectly punchy acronym PUBG, which became immediately popular when the battle royale blew up in 2017. Is PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds a good title? I'm not sure—most people probably still have no idea who the hell PlayerUnknown is, other than, like, the guy who has the battleground. But we all remember the title, and that's worth a lot. So I don't know what Krafton was thinking when it quietly retitled PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds to this… this atrocity.
Sometime in July, the studio behind PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds changed the game's name on Steam to PUBG: Battlegrounds.
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds: Battlegrounds!!
There's an old internet expression that reflects how my brain feels every time I read this new name, and it's this: I can't believe you've done this.
For a moment I thought this bold desecration of language might've just been limited to the new art on Steam, and if that was the case I'd begrudgingly get it. Sure, you want to get PUBG into the logo. That makes sense. It's shorter and easier to say, and probably the more globally known name for the game, at this point. But then I looked at the page title on Steam, and the description text, and it's all been switched. Krafton definitely wants PUBG: Battlegrounds to be the new official name.
But it doesn't make any sense. This new name only works if we all collectively agree to pretend that PUBG isn't an acronym—that it somehow has meaning as four uppercase letters smooshed together. And we know better, PC gamers: PUBG is short for PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. If you want to shorten it, you have to choose, Krafton. The game's either PUBG with no colon, or it's PU: Battlegrounds. (I'll admit that option doesn't sound so great.)
What really drives me crazy here is how blatant a have-their-cake-and-eat-it-too rebranding attempt it is. On the Steam page you can still see vestiges of the proper PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds name, like on the Buy button, the EULA, and a few other places. There's even a paragraph in the “About this game” field that explains who PlayerUnknown is. But the title field on Steam, as well as the game's social media accounts, have buried PlayerUnknown in favor of the new (bad) PUBG: Battlegrounds title.
I reached out to Krafton's PR team, who confirmed the new name but declined to explain how it came to be, or what PUBG means now if the BG doesn't stand for Battlegrounds.
“Krafton is actively expanding the PUBG brand through a variety of new experiences set in its universe,” a PR representative said. “Rebranding PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds to PUBG: Battlegrounds is the first step in us realizing this vision. Additional titles in the franchise will carry the PUBG name, as you see with our upcoming game, PUBG: New State.”
New State is a mobile game from PUBG Studio, set in the year 2051. It's a more futuristic setting, but the action in the game's debut trailer seems similar to the PUBG we already know. It's also a 100-player battle royale game.
Let's not forget there's one other game announced as part of the “PUBG Universe:” The Callisto Protocol, that new survival horror game from the creators of Dead Space. It's set 300 years after PUBG: Battlegrounds. I'm guessing the two aren't going to have much in common, beyond a chicken dinner Easter egg, or something. But back to this name thing. For consistency's sake I feel like it should be named PUBG: The Callisto Protocol, right?
If Krafton insists on building out a “PUBG Universe” with lore and interconnected games, they at least need to establish what PUBG means now, or give Battlegrounds a new name. PUBG: Battle Royale would've been perfect, except New State is a battle royale, too. Here's a wild idea: why not just formalize the acronym and let the original game simply be PUBG, with every sequel and spin-off from now on getting the colon treatment? That'd be nice and simple.
I know naming things is hard. With one renaming, PUBG is actually doing far better than another game PlayerUnknown helped create, H1Z1, which has gone through three name changes: H1Z1 > H1Z1: King of the Hill > H1Z1 (again) > Z1 Battle Royale. Now that's a mess.
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds was a far better name than any of those. But PUBG: Battlegrounds? PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds: Battlegrounds? For committing a crime against initialisms, I'm going to say it's worse. A true fall from grace. No chicken dinners until you right this wrong, Krafton.