If you‘re an avid mobile gamer, you‘ve likely asked yourself: Which game came first between PUBG and Free Fire? With their similar battle royale formats and immense popularity, it‘s easy to get confused about which title originally pioneered the genre. In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll dive deep into the development timelines and histories of PUBG and Free Fire to uncover which game entered the scene first.
PUBG Came First in 2017
To answer the question simply – PUBG came first.
The first iteration of PUBG (abbreviation for PlayerUnknown‘s Battlegrounds) launched in March 2017 on PC via Steam‘s early access program. It was spearheaded by Brendan "PlayerUnknown" Greene and developed by PUBG Corporation, a subsidiary of Bluehole based in South Korea.
Greene was inspired by the 2000 Japanese film Battle Royale, as well as his previous experience creating battle royale mods for other titles like ARMA 2. He combined these influences to create the first true standalone battle royale game in PUBG.
The game took the PC world by storm, selling over 20 million copies by the end of 2017. Given its meteoric rise on PC, the PUBG team partnered with Chinese publisher Tencent to develop a mobile version called PUBG Mobile. This version was released for iOS and Android devices in March 2018.
With PUBG‘s mobile launch in March 2018, it had a solid 8 month lead time on the market before its closest competitor would arrive…
Free Fire Launched Later in November 2017
Free Fire, developed by Singaporean game studio Sea Ltd (formerly Garena), was first released in November 2017 exclusively on mobile – eight months after the launch of PUBG‘s original PC version.
Initially launched just on Android, an iOS version soon followed as Free Fire started gaining downloads in Southeast Asia and South America. It was able to reach wider global audiences by supporting lower-end smartphones, allowing for faster load times compared to PUBG Mobile.
By 2019, Free Fire had exploded in popularity with over 450 million registered users. It set a record in 2020 with over 80 million peak concurrent users. As of 2022, Free Fire has been downloaded over 1 billion times just on the Google Play Store.
Its lightweight battle royale format, shorter 10-15 minute matches, and cartoonish graphics gave Free Fire mass appeal amongst casual gamers worldwide. An upgraded version called Free Fire Max launched in 2021 to provide enhanced graphics and features for higher-end devices.
But even with its later release date, Free Fire has caught up to PUBG and often surpasses it in certain markets. How do the two battle royale giants currently compare?
PUBG vs. Free Fire: Current Popularity and Revenue
Both PUBG and Free Fire now enjoy loyal player bases numbering in the tens of millions. Here‘s a snapshot of how they compare in terms of current popularity:
- Total Downloads: 1+ billion
- Daily Active Users: 75 million globally
- Total Revenue: Over $6 billion lifetime on mobile
- Popularity: Most popular in India, USA, and Middle East
- Total Downloads: 1+ billion (Google Play only)
- Daily Active Users: 150 million daily
- Total Revenue: Over $2.5 billion on mobile
- Popularity: Most popular in Latin America, Southeast Asia
Based on these numbers, PUBG maintains a slight edge in terms of total revenue and number of downloads across platforms. However, Free Fire has a higher number of current daily active users at 150 million vs. 75 million for PUBG.
Free Fire‘s focus on emerging mobile markets has allowed it to surpass PUBG in regions like Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Both games are firmly positioned among the world‘s top mobile titles though when looking at the numbers.
Comparing Gameplay: Where PUBG and Free Fire Differ
On the surface, PUBG and Free Fire share many similarities that make them seem almost identical as far as gameplay formats. But looking closer, there are some notable differences between the two games:
Map Size: PUBG‘s maps are much larger at 8×8 km compared to 4×4 km for Free Fire‘s lone map. This allows for longer-range engagements in PUBG. Matches are faster-paced in Free Fire.
Player Count: 100 players per match in PUBG, while Free Fire caps at 50 players to accommodate its smaller map. Again, this lends itself to quicker games.
Game Length: An average PUBG match can last around 30 minutes, sometimes longer depending on circle luck. Free Fire matches tend to run 10-15 minutes on average, making them great for quick gaming sessions.
Graphics: PUBG leans more realistic, while Free Fire uses a colorful, cartoonish art style. This caters more to budget and mid-range devices that may struggle to run PUBG smoothly.
Game Modes: The standard battle royale solo, duo, and squad modes are available in both titles. PUBG also offers extra modes including zombie modes, arcade, and Team Deathmatch.
The smaller map sizes, player counts, and shorter match times give Free Fire an advantage for mobile gamers wanting fast-paced games you can jump in and out of. PUBG provides a more strategic, survival-based experience with its wide maps and military simulation vibe.
One truly unique mechanic in Free Fire is characters with special abilities. Let‘s explore this key differentiator more.
Exploring Free Fire‘s Character Abilities
Unlike PUBG, Free Fire incorporates heroes and character abilities into matches. Each character has a unique active and passive skill that provides bonuses during a match.
For example, some characters excel at healing or provide faster mobility. Others offer boosted damage when using certain weapons or can sense nearby enemies.
As players level up their characters and upgrade abilities, they can develop unique playstyles and strategies revolving around their chosen hero. This adds an element of RPG-like progression not found in PUBG.
According to data gathered by Stream Charts, some of the most popular Free Fire characters based on usage include:
- DJ Alok: Heal yourself while also boosting movement and ally speed.
- K (Captain Booyah): Gain HP when you kill enemies, and extra EP to boost skills.
- A124: Quickly convert EP to HP, helpful during intense fights.
- Moco: Tag enemies you shot for your team to see their location.
- Misha: Take less damage from bullets at close range.
Characters provide tactical advantages and diversity in Free Fire that help differentiate it from PUBG‘s more grounded approach. But with accusations of copying flying between the two games‘ fan bases, let‘s look closer at these plagiarism claims.
Has Free Fire Copied PUBG? Examining the Controversy
PUBG diehards will often claim that Free Fire is simply a rip-off of PUBG Mobile, copying its style without bringing much new to the table. But how accurate are these allegations? Let‘s dig into some key points around this controversy:
Similar Core Format: It‘s undeniable that the overall battle royale format – dropping onto an island, scavenging for weapons, moving with a shrinking playzone – is nearly identical between PUBG and Free Fire. Given PUBG‘s precedence in popularizing this, accusations of copying are understandable to an extent.
Generic Gameplay Elements: However, many mechanics shared by both games have become commonplace and generic in the battle royale genre. Elements like safe zones, airdrops, reviving teammates, vehicles, etc. are now standard fare across most games in this space.
PUBG Also Copied and Iterated: While lauded for being the battle royale pioneer, Greene and PUBG Corporation clearly took major influence and ideas from prior mods, movies, and books on the Japanese battle royale concept. They iterated on these influences to create the standalone PUBG game. In some ways, Free Fire is also just iterating on existing battle royale elements established by early trailblazers like PUBG.
Some Original Elements: Despite the similarities, Free Fire does bring entirely new mechanics to the table – most notably its character ability system. This adds an element not present in PUBG or any previous battle royale titles.
Based on these factors, while Free Fire certainly owes some of its inspiration to PUBG, the copying allegations may be overblown. They took an established battle royale formula and added their own twists to make it work for lower-end hardware in underserved markets. Given the popularity of both games years later, this strategy seems to have worked well for Garena and Sea Ltd.
The Verdict: PUBG Pioneered the Genre, But Free Fire Found Its Own Lane
Given the detailed history and analysis outlined above, we can definitively conclude that:
PUBG was the first game out of the gate in March 2017, establishing the battle royale genre and gameplay format on PC and later mobile.
Free Fire followed 8 months later, taking inspiration from PUBG to iterate on the battle royale formula specifically for lower-end smartphones. This allowed it to gain traction in regions where PUBG Mobile struggled due to performance issues.
While PUBG deserves full credit for kickstarting the modern battle royale craze, Free Fire managed to find its own niche and introduce innovations like character abilities. Both titles now peacefully co-exist as giants of the mobile gaming world.
It‘s an exciting time to be a battle royale fan with two stellar options available on mobile. PUBG caters more to strategic players who want tense, methodical matches with more realistic graphics and gameplay. Free Fire provides faster-paced, arcade-like gameplay in a colorful world where you can progress and upgrade unique characters.
With healthy competition driving innovation, battle royale enthusiasts will continue to be spoiled for choice moving forward in the PUBG versus Free Fire rivalry. But a quick glance at the timeline makes it clear – PUBG laid the groundwork first before Free Fire copied the formula and made it their own.
Both games now thrive alongside each other as iconic brands and gameplay experiences. While the copying debate rages on between fans, the widespread success and profits enjoyed by each title prove there is room for more than one battle royale giant to rule the charts.