The Battle Royale of The Battle Royales
Quite like a Battle Royale game, the battle to be top of the genre rages on.
- The past two years have seen the Battle Royale genre dominate the games industry. Fortnite, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, APEX Legends, Call of Duty: Blackout, Counter-Strike: Danger Zone - there are almost too many to count.
- They can’t all survive - we’ve seen several fall already - so which Battle Royale looks set to claim the genre in the long run?
The free-to-play game took the world by storm in late 2017 and early 2018. Within a matter of months it had become the most popular video game on the planet and even attracted celebrity players like Drake, Chance the Rapper, and Mesut Ozil.
Epic Games has taken the 'Games as a Service' model to the next level with Fortnite. The game has seen over 80 updates since the Battle Royale mode launched 18 months ago, with one usually appearing every couple of weeks. These can range from minor tweaks to enormous overhauls of the map, gameplay mechanics, and items.
While these changes ward off the repetitive nature of the genre, there is a case to be made that too much change isn’t the way forward.
After winning a collegiate Fortnite tournament, taking home $6,000, Jack Stuttard and Ibrahim Diaz aired their frustrations with Epic Games over the direction of the game and announced their retirement from competing in the game. With this all taking place during the winning interview.
They’re not the only ones frustrated. One player was left heartbroken when a bug in the game meant that he would not qualify for the Fortnite World Cup - which features a $1 Million prize pool.
only reason i didnt qual. $50k bug right here. i am sad beyond belief and really feel i deserve a spot because i played very well. whatever man. pic.twitter.com/nQEQe8nKaz— Animal (@SEN_Animal) 28 April 2019
Fortnite was, is, and still could be the king of the Battle Royale genre, but Epic Games are running the risk of discouraging their players with constant changes. The upcoming Fortnite World Cup may be a landmark moment for the title, and audience response will be key to determining the game’s future.
Arguably the game that started the Battle Royale craze, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) has also had its fair share of ups and downs.
When Bluehole moved PUBG into closed beta in February 2017, the demand for entry was unlike anything we’ve seen in recent years. Having a beta code was akin to winning the lottery. By the time the game was released, it was the hottest thing on the market.
Despite the launch success, PUBG was plagued with problems of its own. Framerate, latency, and bullet registration were major sticking points with players, and these problems were not addressed by the time Fortnite released later that year.
After bleeding much of its player base to the competitor, Bluehole worked quickly to address the problems, and to diversify themselves, adding a first-person mode and working on their esports program, which includes multiple professional Leagues and major stand-alone events.
Despite the inherent issues with Battle Royale esports - namely spectating and observing - PUBG has cemented itself as the best of the bunch. Though it doesn’t boast the same enormous prize pools as Fortnite, PUBG has built infrastructure and loyal viewership.
The future looks bright for the game, and challenging Fortnite for dominance may not even be the main goal anymore, as PUBG forges its own path in the Battle Royale space.
APEX Legends enjoyed a spectacular launch earlier this year. By the fourth week, the game had amassed 50 million players, faster even than the global phenomenon Fortnite.
Unfortunately, the growth was not sustainable, and the game has quickly dropped back down to more expected levels (this is unconfirmed as Respawn Entertainment haven’t released confirmed numbers.)
Community tournaments featuring high-profile Twitch streamers were briefly the trend of the day, but have since been discontinued. Respawn themselves have yet to announce any sort of plan for APEX Legends esports, even though many organisations have already signed players to represent them in the game. It remains to be seen whether APEX Legends capitalises on its early popularity, but early signs are not great.
Other titles, such as Call of Duty: Blackout, Counter-Strike: Danger Zone, The Darwin project, and Realm Royale have enjoyed brief moments in the spotlight, but have failed to compete with the dedicated Battle Royale titles. Neither of the two looks likely to make a major impact in the genre.
While no one knows for sure, it looks likely that Fortnite will retain its monopoly on the Battle Royale genre, less because of its own merits, but because the competition is lacking. PUBG, initially a competitor, is looking to create its own audience and is largely succeeding, while other competitors are failing to hit the mark.
So what does all of this mean?
Even though the Battle Royale genre has passed its flavour of the month phase, there is still a possibility that a new title could release and take control of the genre.
An over-eager developer, the 'esports' title, and the hottest new trend - but none of them can claim victory, yet.