PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds may not have invented the battle royale genre, but its release in 2017 gave it new life. For a short time, it was the go-to example of the genre, giving players and streaming audiences a new obsession and essentially defining a novel way of playing games. The next year, Fortnite arrived and changed everything. Fortnite became not only the king of the battle royale, but also one of the most recognizable video games in the world.
Since then, the field has become a lot more crowded with battle royale games, from Apex Legends to Call of Duty: Warzone, but Fortnite and PUBG still have plenty of fans. Both games became popular for good reason, and they’ve only continued to grow since launch. If you’re interested in getting into one of the games that made battle royales a hit in the first place, here’s what you need to know about the differences between Fortnite and PUBG.
The most obvious difference between PUBG and Fortnite is simply how they look. For two games with broadly similar premises, their graphics almost couldn’t be more different.
PUBG sticks with a realistic visual style that seems to have evolved out of military shooters like Arma 2. This makes sense, as PlayerUnknown himself — developer Brendan Greene — created a battle royale mod for Arma 2 before launching PUBG. Characters, weapons, and locations in PUBG are grounded and based on real life, with a muted color palette and a style that doesn’t call much attention to itself.
Fortnite has a completely different style, with a bold, cartoony aesthetic that aims for eye-catching rather than realistic. Its map isn’t trying to replicate anything that could be found in real life, and its characters and weapons look larger than life. That’s especially true for the game’s many cosmetic skins, which make their wearers even more vibrant and over the top.
More than just aesthetic differences, the graphics of PUBG and Fortnite also inform how they’re played. PUBG’s focus on visual fidelity helps to reinforce that the game takes a more grounded approach to its action than Fortnite, and its more muted colors make hiding from enemies a viable and important part of the game.
As their different approaches to graphics imply, PUBG and Fortnite are two very different games. Although a round of either game follows the same basic structure, actually playing them is a totally different experience. In both games, players will fight to survive inside an ever-shrinking safe zone with the goal of being the last player or team standing.
What really sets Fortnite apart from PUBG — and most other battle royales for that matter — is its building mechanics. Building structures has been part of Fortnite since the beginning, and mastering this unique mechanic is key to playing well. Fortnite lets players build structures ranging from simple walls that can block enemy fire to massive defensive fortifications.
Even aside from that, Fortnite and PUBG feel totally different to play. Fortnite is a fast, arcade-like experience, where fighting on the run and quickly building structures are critically important skills. PUBG, on the other hand, is a slower and more methodical game, relying as much on patience and tactical forethought as it does on being able to outgun opponents. Where Fortnite might appeal to players looking for fast-paced action, PUBG rewards positioning and thoughtful play more readily.
PUBG and Fortnite’s different gameplay basics are also informed by their map designs. Excelling at either game means learning its maps and understanding how to use the terrain to your advantage, but that’s a very different process depending on which game you choose.
PUBG’s maps feature lots of varied terrain and structures to hide in, which reinforces the importance of positioning and staying out of sight. Fortnite’s map is much more open, giving players lots of space to run around in and not cluttering it up with existing features, meaning that contenders will need to build their own cover to survive.
Both games approach map variety in completely different ways, as well. PUBG launched with one map but has added others in post-launch updates, each offering its own landmarks and opening different tactical opportunities. The game’s maps do receive tweaks from time to time, but stay more or less the same in the long run.
Fortnite features only one map, but it’s constantly evolving. While there’s just a single map to play on at any time, it might not seem that way given just how much it changes. Each season of the game sees a major change to the map, with a recent one putting most of it underwater, for instance. Throughout each season, the map continues to change, with landmarks appearing and disappearing, and events that can alter the map always on the horizon.
With its emphasis on realism and simulation, PUBG’s weapons are all based on actual firearms, and there’s a lot more depth to them. In addition to the weapons themselves, players will have to hunt down attachments and ammo, making quick decisions about the best way to build out their kit before they ever start using it. PUBG offers tons of variety in the weapons it has available and the modifications that can be attached to each one, offering a wide range of playstyles, making the choice of which gear to pick up and how to use it optimally more important.
Fortnite, on the other hand, seems to focus more on making its weapons fun and easy to use than on making them feel realistic. At a high level, there’s still plenty of nuisance to its weapons that benefits players who take the time to learn how to use them, but new players should be able to grasp the basics of its weapons relatively quickly.
To that end, Fortnite does away with much of the technical side of PUBG’s weapon selection, giving players far fewer choices in how to arm themselves, but making every weapon viable on its own. Fortnite also features lots of more outlandish weapons, particularly when it comes to its Mythic weapons, which essentially function like magic powers.
Choosing between weapons is made much easier in Fortnite, thanks to its color-coded loot rarity system. Players will know at a glance if a weapon they find is an upgrade in Fortnite, whereas comparing stats in PUBG is a more involved process.
One of the biggest advantages that Fortnite has in getting new players on board is just how easy it is to get into. Fortnite is free to play on all platforms, meaning there’s essentially no barrier to entry for anyone who wants to give it a shot. Once you’re in, there are of course copious microtransactions if you want to get the best cosmetic items, but you can spend as long as you want playing the full game without ever spending a dime.
Fortnite is also widely available on almost every major platform. It’s appeared on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, and mobile devices, but there is one caveat to be aware of. Developer Epic Games is currently engaged in what looks like it will be a protracted legal battle with Apple, and as a result, updates have been blocked from iOS, at least for the time being.
Unless you’re playing the mobile version, you’ll have to pay upfront to play PUBG. It’s not a huge investment, but it does put up a barrier that Fortnite players don’t have to cross. Like in Fortnite, players can also spend essentially as much as they want on cosmetic microtransactions once they’re in the game.
PUBG is available on nearly every platform that Fortnite is, swapping Nintendo Switch for Google Stadia. Unlike Fortnite, it’s also still available and getting updates on iOS, but it’s not available on Mac.
Popularity isn’t everything, but when you’re looking at multiplayer games, it is important. Neither Fortnite nor PUBG could function without a large, consistent player base, and fortunately, that’s something they both enjoy.
In May 2020, Epic Games said that Fortnite had reached 350 million registered players who spent a collective 3.2 billion hours in the game in April alone. In April, Fortnite’s in-game Travis Scott concert drew 12.3 million concurrent players, again according to Epic. That’s for a one-time special event, though, and the game’s average concurrent player count isn’t known.
PUBG passed 400 million total players back in 2018, and that number has only grown since then. However, its number of active players has dropped considerably from its peak. While PUBG once peaked at 3.2 million players on Steam alone, now it hovers between around 100,000 and 1 million players at any given time. PUBG is by no means as popular as Fortnite these days, but it still has plenty of players to keep its servers active at all hours.
As live service games, both PUBG and Fortnite rely on frequent updates to keep players engaged. Since its launch, PUBG has followed a path that should be familiar to players of other online games. Over the years since its release, PUBG has added new maps and weapons, updated its graphics, and given players new abilities to generally make it a better experience. PUBG’s major additions tend to come infrequently, and most of the focus of its updates seems to be in fixing issues and making small adjustments to improve the game.
Fortnite takes an approach that no other game can match, constantly making huge changes to various aspects of the game. On top of the frequent map updates, Fortnite often adds new weapons and takes old ones out of rotation. It adds new cosmetic skins at a rapid-fire pace. Perhaps most notably, though, is its seasonal model. Every season, the game takes on an entirely new focus, bringing a series of weekly challenges and rewards. These updates often introduce new characters brought in from other pop culture franchises, particularly Marvel superheroes. Put simply, Fortnite is always changing in some pretty major ways. For players who seek variety above all else, there’s just no game that even comes close to Fortnite.