Battlegrounds is an action game in which up to one hundred players fight in a battle royale, a type of large-scale last man standing deathmatch where players fight to be the last alive. Players can choose to enter the match solo, or with a small team of up to four people. In either case, the last person or team left alive wins the match.
Each match starts with players parachuting from a plane onto a map area approximately 8 by 8 kilometres (5.0 mi × 5.0 mi) in size, The plane’s flight-path across the map varies with each round, requiring players to quickly determine the best time to parachute out. Players start with no gear beyond customized clothing selections which do not affect gameplay. Once they land, players can search buildings and other sites to find weapons, vehicles, armor, clothing, and other equipment. These items are procedurally distributed throughout the map at the start of a match, with certain high-risk zones typically having better equipment. Killed players can be looted to acquire their gear as well. Players can opt to play either from the first-person or third-person perspective, each having their own advantages and disadvantages in combat and situational awareness; though server-specific settings can be used to force all players into one perspective to eliminate some advantages.
Every few minutes, the playable area of the map begins to shrink down towards a random location, with any player caught outside the safe area taking damage incrementally, and eventually being eliminated if the safe zone is not entered in time; in game, the players see the boundary as a shimmering blue wall that contracts over time. This results in a more confined map, in turn increasing the chances of encounters. During the course of the match, random regions of the map are highlighted in red and bombed, posing a threat to players that remain in that area. In both cases, players are warned a few minutes before these events, giving them time to relocate to safety. At random, a plane will fly over various parts of the playable map and drop a loot package, containing items which are typically unobtainable during normal gameplay. These packages emit highly visible red smoke, drawing interested players near it and creating further confrontations. On average, a full round takes no more than 30 minutes.
At the completion of each round, players gain in-game currency based on how long they survived, how many other players they had killed, and how much damage they dealt to other players. The currency is used to purchase crates which contain cosmetic items for character customization.