By now, you’ve no doubt heard of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, the first game to ever topple Dota 2 in Steam’s concurrent player rankings in over five years. PUBG has been a driving force in the industry for streamers and game developers looking to take advantage of its success, and now Microsoft might have reason to celebrate its popularity as well.
In China, PUBG has seen massive surges in their player base over the last two months, and it’s contributed to a sizeable increase in new Windows 7 installations in the region. As a result, for the first time in over a year, Windows 10 has taken a backseat on Steam’s rankings.
The surge in popularity for PUBG isn’t exactly unexpected when you look at the game’s growth. It slowly made its way to an average player count of 500,000 daily players, and from there ballooned to over two million daily players thanks to streamers and controversies like PewDiePie’s racist jokes. The game is great, but sadly plagued by hackers and cheaters across the globe. The majority of hackers seem to be playing on Chinese Steam accounts, and the ruckus caused by these players is wreaking havoc in every major region.
According to Steam’s hardware stats, the amount of Windows 7 installations compared to other OSes jumped by an astonishing 22.45% in the past month. Windows 10 saw a drop of 18.16% over the same period. These correspond to a 26.83% increase in players using Simplified Chinese as their language, and with a 13.4% decrease in players using English as their main language. It’s an enormous shift, given that just a month ago English and Simplified Chinese were tied for language use across Steam’s user base.
How is it possible that Chinese players now make up over half of Steam’s estimated 170 million-odd player base? That’s easy. These are new installations of Windows on top of new installations of Steam, where gamers are opting to pick their native language instead of US English. By Steam’s numbers in their survey here, they have, or had around 80 million Chinese Steam users, and about 38 million of those were created in the last month with the switch to Windows 7.
When it comes to PUBG’s input, part of this might be players who are reinstalling their OS and Steam to get around bans by developer Bluehole. Given how prolific hackers are in the game alongside Bluehole’s inability to stem the tide of cheating, this isn’t surprising. Bluehole doesn’t ban players according to IP or MAC address, and it’s really easy to pick up the game via stores like G2A. Just reinstall Windows, spoof your MAC address if you feel like it, and grab PUBG from a cheap source. As it turns out, in China the game retails for less than $15.
Part of it is also because Chinese gamers are rejecting the government’s offer of a version of Windows 10 customised by Microsoft for their spying efforts. China, mind you, never makes it a secret to their citizens that they are spied on. It’s possible to get Windows 7 images that aren’t as crippled when it comes to security, and it may be what gamers in China are moving towards in droves.
According to SteamSpy, PUBG’s user base has grown tremendously over the last two months, with China’s growth constantly rising. Interestingly, ROW (or Rest of World) is also seeing dramatic increases, while the US is trending downwards. Given another month, there will be more South Korean players than there are US players of PUBG. Given the trend in player numbers here, more than half of all PUBG’s players are Chinese.