Bluehole used closed alpha and beta periods with about 80,000 players to gauge initial reaction to the gameplay and adjust balance prior to a wider release. Just prior to the early access phase on Steam, Bluehole opened a few servers and invited some popular live streamers of similar games to try it out as to start gaining interest. Early access for the Windows version launched on March 23, 2017. This period was planned to last approximately six months, originally aiming for a September 2017 release. In July 2017, Greene announced that they would need to extend the early access period by a few months, continuing to release updates on a regular basis, with plans to still release by the end of 2017, as committing to this original period “could hinder us from delivering a fully featured game and/or lead to disappointment within the community if the launch deadline is not met”. Initially, Bluehole had expected that they would just gain enough players through early access to smooth out the gameplay, and only when the game was completed, they would have started more marketing for the title. The sudden interest in the game from early access exceeded their expectations, and put emphasis on the stability of the game and its underlying networking alongside gameplay improvements. Through August 2017, these updates generally included a major weekly patch alongside major monthly updates that provided key performance improvements. However, from August onward Bluehole backed off the rate of such patches, as the high frequency has led to some quality control issues, and the developers rather make sure each patch content is well-vetted by the community before providing new updates; this did not change their plans for a 2017 release, where it fully released out of early access on December 20.
In part of the game’s success in early access, Tencent Games, the largest publisher of video games in China, approached Bluehole that same month with an offer to publish PUBG in China. However, the China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association issued a statement in October 2017 that discouraged battle royale-style games, stating that they are too violent and deviate from Chinese values of socialism, deeming it harmful to young consumers. The following month however, PUBG had reached a formal agreement with the Chinese government to allow the release of the game in the country, with Tencent as the publishing partner. However, some changes were made to make sure it aligned with socialist values and traditional Chinese morals. In South Korea, the game is marketed and distributed by Kakao Games.