PUBG: Battlegrounds goes free to play: The big changes explained

In December 2021 during The Game Awards, it was revealed that tactical battle royale game PUBG: Battleground would switch to a free-to-play business model on January 12, 2021. That day has finally arrived and now anyone can download the game for free, jumping straight into the action on their favorite supported game console, PC, and Google Stadia.

Existing players get special treat

As originally announced, the new PUBG free-to-play business model includes a Battlegrounds Plus tier with some features not available to Basic tier players, including Custom Match and Ranked Mode (via Xbox). Most game features are still available to players who aren't willing to shell out for a Plus account, however.

Of course, many PUBG players purchased the game prior to the free-to-play transition, and that support is acknowledged via a "Special Commemorative Pack." The pack includes a Battlegrounds Plus upgrade for the player's account in addition to a variety of rewards. According to the Xbox team, players can expect to see these items and the Plus upgrade automatically applied to their PUBG account.

The Battlegrounds Plus upgrade for players who download the game starting today is priced at $12.99 (via Xbox Store). The players who participated in the pre-registration event held in the weeks before the free-to-play switch was flipped can now get their rewards by linking their Krafton ID and game accounts.

New items arrive

In addition to the big F2P and Plus tiered gameplay, PUBG: Battlegrounds has been updated with new items and other content. Of the changes, the two biggest ones involve EMT Gear and Drone, two new Tactical Gear items that equip in the primary weapon slot and open the door for new battle strategies.

As you'd expect, the new Drone item provides long-distance scouting and surveillance for players hanging back from the action. EMT Gear, meanwhile, decreases one's combat readiness, but offers improved healing for both the player and their teammates. Various healing items are provided under the EMT Gear umbrella, including First Aid Kits and Bandages for max health healing, plus there's the ability to revive a teammate if they're knocked out of commission.

Given that many people will download and play PUBG for the first time under its new F2P model, it's not surprising developer Kraton has added a robust new Training Mode with a 1 versus 99 option that pits trainees against AI combatants.

Why and how to download

PUBG may have quickly faded from the public eye as hit competitors like Fortnite and Apex Legends dominated the market, but there's a good reason to give it a try. Battlegrounds is one of the most realistic titles in the battle royale genre, offering strategy-based gameplay without, for example, the sci-fi weapons found in Apex Legends and the love-it-or-hate-it building mechanic in Fortnite.

The game is available on PlayStation, Xbox, and Google Stadia, plus there's a version available for download on Android and iOS/iPadOS. As expected, Xbox gamers can download the title through the Xbox Store and PlayStation gamers can get it through Sony's PS Store. Google Stadia players, meanwhile, can open the Stadia app, search for PUBG, and add the title to their game library.