At this point, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds needs all the positive publicity that it can get. Unfortunately, another blunder has befallen the former leader of the battle royale genre due to the design of an in-game item.
Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds developer, Bluehole, recently removed a helmet that appeared in the mobile version of the game, which featured a design of the Japanese Rising Sun flag. The design is a historical reference to the country’s military aggression during World War 2, which is seen as offensive, in particular, to Korean and Chinese cultures.
To make matters worse, the name of “Unit 731” was associated with an in-game AI bot. What’s bad about that? Unit 731 was a real-life World War 2-era division within the Japanese army that conducted lethal human experimentation on prisoners of war. The division was primarily responsible for some of the most notorious war crimes executed by Imperial Japan.
Bluehole has since removed the item, apologizing for it ever making its way into the game:
"We apologize for causing concerns over a pilot mask item," stated a Bluehole spokesperson. "We will conduct an overall re-examination of our image production process to prevent such a recurrence.
"We will enhance procedures to scrutinize game items before their release and hold the person in charge responsible."
Players who purchased the helmet have been issued a refund, with a note stating that the item was issued with "a previously undetected bug".
While bugs and other technical issues are bound to happen, it is surprising that such a controversial design could make its way to the live game, especially considering Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds substantial Chinese and Korean audience; not to mention the fact that Bluehole’s home base resides in Korea.
It’s just another gaffe in the struggling saga of Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, as the title continues to lag behind rival Fortnite. PUBG has already lost a staggering amount of players since the beginning of the year, and its lawsuit against Fortnite (which has since been withdrawn) did the title no favors from a fan perspective.
With so much player contention surrounding Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds right now, Bluehole certainly needs to right the ship sooner than later. Otherwise, its next misstep could very well be its last.