Battle Royale: The All Conquering Game Mode – Is it the future?

Battle Royale (BR) is all the rage at the moment. It is all over social media and is some of the most watched streams on platforms such as Twitch. Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) as arguably made the game mode popular, with games like Fortnite: Battle Royale increasing its popularity and bringing it to a wider audience. Whether it’s the mixture of slow and fast gameplay, the tense, strategic nature of matches, or the ability for it all to descend into madness with hilarious results, battle royale seems to have gamers hooked. It seems like it’s more than just a fad and something that’s going to stay around for a while due to the popularity of games of this genre. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a major influx of games that have battle royale modes tacked on or are solely focused on battle royale. This happened with open world games. In the late noughties the gaming market saw a sudden growth in open world games, and it was seen as the next best thing. It seems likely that battle royale games follow the same path.

PUBG and Fortnite: Battle Royale weren’t the first to try the battle royale formula. There were mods for Arma, H1Z1, even Minecraft dabbled in the mode. Before this there was the Hunger Games franchise and the Japanese movie “Battle Royale” from 2000, which itself was based on a novel so it’s not a new concept. It’s interesting to see that many of these games are made by indie developers or small game companies, and that now, the major publishers are looking at utilising the game modes popularity. The reason why this is a mode common among indie game developers is due to how easy it is to make battle royal game. Once created, the game will be able to provide players with a re-playable experience due to the nature of the gameplay.

It was announced that the new Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will have a battle royale mode; although they’ve made it clear that it’s going to be a new take on the mode and is unique to Black Ops. The only evidence we have to go on is the trailer that Activison has released for it, with the name “Blackout” not really revealing what the game might look like. It’s meant to include vehicles and a large map which is apparently 1,500 times larger than the Black Ops 1 map Nuketown, not hard seeing as Nuketown was a close quarters kill fest. Whether Blackout will enjoy the same success as games like PUBG and Fortnite: Battle Royale remains to be seen as the game mode is meant to be a fresh take on battle royale, but it does show how these games have grabbed the attention of the Triple A publishers.

The problem that games like Fortnite: Battle Royale and PUBG face is longevity. PUBG has suffered a drop in numbers on both Xbox One and PC, this could be attributed to Fornite’s rise as well as the fact that it hasn’t grown in the way that other games have. The graphics haven’t been improved since the games release, and a number of glitches haven’t remain that haven’t been patched either. Although there are now two maps and a third in the pipeline, it seems like a lack of variety might be putting gamers off, as well as the lack of support from the developers. Fortnite: Battle Royale has come onto the scene and stolen the limelight from PUBG, probably because it’s more accessible and the bright colours and emotes appeal to the casual gamer. Despite only having one map, Fortnite: Royale isn’t a standalone game like PUBG, it’s an add-on mode, serving to add some variety to the game. Plus, the developers are constantly adding new skins, weapons and map areas to keep their players happy. It’s a question of how long before the game mode will tire, and admittedly it hasn’t become boring for the majority of players, yet. But no amount of new emotes or skins can stave off the eventual decent into unpopulated servers.  I suspect this won’t happen for a while though, maybe in ten or so years time, Fortnite: Battle Royale for example, currently has a monthly turnover of $200 million, so it is safe to assume it’s still fairly popular.

I feel that PUBG Corps’ public lawsuit against the makers of Fortnite: Battle Royale has led to the dip in numbers of players on PUBG. It suggests that rather than fixing and updating their game, PUBG Corp are more interested in trying to fill their pockets with a lawsuit that in all likelihood they will lose. They have claimed that Fortnite stole the BR formula from them, which is clearly a load of rubbish. It is making PUBG Corp look like idiots and the quicker they drop the case and get pack to being game developers the better.

I anticipate one of the reasons why battle royale style games are so popular, is because the game allows for multiple matches to be played in one sitting, with each match feeling different to the previous one. What allows each match to feel different is the freedom given to players; there aren’t many restraints in regards to what you can do. The uniqueness of each individual match means that it can feel like a completely different game with every round. The ability to play these games solo or with friends gives an added variation that gamers enjoy; you have to play the game differently if you are on your own when compared with playing in a squad, giving yet more individuality to each game. Favourably, these games are ideally suited to being streamed. Twitch is full of streamers playing Fortnite or PUBG with the gameplay making for entertaining videos, bringing these games to a wider audience.

At E3 2018 we saw a number of battle royale games being announced. Titles such as Vostok Games’ Fear the Wolves looking like an interesting take on the format. Created by those who brought us the Stalker series of games, in Fear the Wolves it isn’t just the other 99 players that you’ll have to worry about. Set in Chernobyl there will be radiation, anomalies to avoid and mutated animals attempting to stop you from reaching the extraction point, it could be an interesting game with a different concept with the introduction of other non-human controlled threats. Another BR game coming soon is Mavericks: Proving Grounds, an incredibly ambitious game planning to have the largest battle royale matches out there. Optimistically, creator Automaton is aiming for 400 player games which is a huge increase on the 100 player standard so far. The beta is meant to be released later this year so keep an eye out on this project.

The Thing Is, battle royale’s vice-like grip on the modern gaming world means it’s likely we’ll see plenty more iterations, and I’m not surprised EA have followed Activision’s footsteps and put this mode into their new Battlefield title. Little is known about what this would entail but I’d expect DICE to put a new twist on battle royale. BR is incredibly easy to monetise, so it’s no surprise that EA have jumped on-board; the idea of possible game monetisation almost certainly arouses many of the EA chiefs.

In the future we might see Elder Scrolls: Battle Royale, Fifa: Battle Royale, or even Animal Crossing: Battle Royale. It may seem far-fetched to suggest now, but don’t discount a few more game studios trying to cash in on the trend of the moment so that they can fill their deep pockets.

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