PUBG Mobile released in North America yesterday, and it’s pretty awesome. But between my own string of victories and the countless chicken dinners on social media, it sure feels like things are too easy.
PUBG Mobile is a robust iOS and Android port of the popular battle royale game that allows 100 players to fight to the death. The mobile version has a convenient interface that makes moving and shooting much more responsive than I expected. Numerous players starting up the game for the first time are kicking ass and coming in first place to earn a coveted “chicken dinner.”
On Twitter, players are marveling over their victories. “Literally the first time that I played PUBG and the fact that I won in mobile version is even more hardcore,” one person wrote. “I’m a god at PUBG Mobile but crap at Fortnite,” said another. This sentiment is common: “First game of #PUBGmobile on the iPhone SE we come out with a big win.”, “First #PUBGmobile Win! 9 kills. ”, “My very first match, first time ever playing PUBG and this was the outcome”.
There’s a catch. Many players, myself included, believe that many of the people you face off with in early matches are actually bots. The main PUBG doesn’t have bots. The mobile version doesn’t state that it does, but in my own experience, I encountered numerous supposed players in the game who all wore the same red shirts and played with the same poor skills. Bolstering this theory is a March 16 article in The Verge, that states that “[o]ne major difference from the other versions is the presence of bots, apparently designed to help new players get to grips with the game. As you level up, the ratio of real players to bots increases…”
Kotaku has reached out to Tencent and PUBG Corporation to confirm that this is what’s happening.
If PUBG Mobile does have bots, that means that players on social media boasting about their initial wins might have only bested AI enemies, like a gaggle of Westworld hosts tossed into the battlefield for our amusement. There’s been enough excitement over newly earned chicken dinners that a PSA thread was established on the PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Reddit late yesterday to warn excited players that their victories might have been assisted.
I started to notice something was amiss after consistently encountering random players dressed in red shirts. At the moment, you earn new clothing through crates that drop random garments. Far too many people I encountered were wearing the same outfit. No matter where I was on the map, whether in solos or squads, clumsy red shirts would find me, stand in place, and shoot completely around me. By the end of certain matches, I had anywhere from 12 to 15 kills and always came in first or second. I noted on Twitter that the entire situation felt like shooting fish in a barrel.
Players feeling discouraged at the prospect of possible bot-laden matches shouldn’t worry too much. After about 10 rounds and some leveling, I began running into more opponents that were almost certainly players. The final 10 of each of these later matches also appears to be nothing but human players wearing a much wider range of clothing, so if you’ve made it that far and manage to grab the win, you can take pride knowing you bested other players and ruined someone’s day. Still, if those early matches have you choking on chicken dinner, you might want want to hold off on bragging for now.