Battle Royale

Generally I believe there is room in any walk of life for multiples of something similar as long as it’s good. Bristol, for example has a lot of burger places, but if you do good burgers, then I think there is a place for you. But if you’re burgers aren’t up to scratch you will damn sure know about it.

That’s kind of been my view point with the Battle Royale genre, sure there are lots of them popping up, but if it’s good enough then there is room for it. But that doesn’t seem to be working and I’m wondering if people are starting to move on from the genre completely. I’m not going to start claiming Fortnite or PUBG are dead games, Fortnite is a unicorn, it’s a one off, an anomaly and it’s on its own pedestal. But for the rest of the genre the evidence is pointing to it actually being a bit dead.

Realm Royale is one such recent example, when it first released it peaked with numbers of over 100k, now a lot of that will be because popular Twitch streamers and YouTube creators will have been playing and therefore those viewers will have tried it out too. But since that release, the player base has fallen by around 90%. Some drop off is obviously to be expected, but 90% seems like quite a lot, especially when you consider that this is a free to play game and they will be relying on the season pass model for funding of development.

I played it, as did my friends and whilst it wasn’t a perfect game I actually really enjoyed it. It felt like a nice balance between the crazy Fortnite building and the more serious BR’s like PUBG. It’s bright, fun and accessible. But why haven’t people stuck around?

It seems like balancing issues between the games classes are one issue and some dodgy hit boxes, but actually a lot of the reviews on steam seem to go in the vein of “it’s fun but” and that’s where the problems starts. You have players jumping in on your early access game to try something new and a lot of them, as soon as they encounter a bug or somethings else they don’t like will just move on. The player numbers at the moment do seem to be sitting around an average peak of 4k, so there could still be hope it.

Islands of Nyne is the latest BR game to try and bolt out of the gates only for it to stumble and lose almost all of its players. It peaked at around 7k players when it first released and is now struggling to break the 100 player mark. I haven’t actually played the game, so I can’t really comment on it fully, but from what I’d seen of it, it looked interesting, seemed to play fairly well and performed pretty well too. The gun play looked decent and it was trying to do things a little differently. But again, why haven’t people stuck around?

As I said I’ve not played Islands of Nyne so it’s hard for me to see what’s wrong with it, but the fact that people now won’t be able to get a game due to the low numbers means it’s probably game over for it.

I’ve also been playing another Battle Royale game not yet released called Fear the Wolves – if you’ve ever checked me out on Twitch you might have seen me playing it. The game has a decent pedigree boasting names from the STALKER series – and you can clearly see their influence in the game. As with most new BR games, it’s trying to do something a little different with random whether effects, a zonal hex based exclusion zone rather than a circle that closes around you, and they’re adding in AI threats too like wolves.

But when I played it, it was rough around the edges to the point that the release was delayed and the performance wasn’t good either. Honestly, I can see them struggling right from the off but not because it’s a bad game, in fact I enjoyed it quite a bit. But when there are bugs that can basically end your game or when it’s poorly optimised and you’re getting sub 20fps, people won’t stick around for long.

Fractured Lands is another recent BR game that is basically DOA. It tried to do something a little different with a focus on vehicles that were upgradable with weapons and armour, but again, it’s just not held on to any players.

Most of these new games are coming out with a price tag of about £20. Which obviously isn’t extortionate, but personally I’m going to be wary of spending £20 on a new game that solely relies on the existence of other people playing. I don’t want to find that the game isn’t playable a month down the line because no one else is playing.

Then there are the most extreme two example of BR just not working – Radical Heights and The Culling 2. Both were completely panned within hours of launch and both have now disappeared. The failings of both of these seems to be more about the games actually being very bad though, and not so much that people don’t want to play them.

PUBG is the other side of the coin to Fortnite, it’s also a bit of a Unicorn, and whilst the game has seen a considerable drop off in the player base over the course of the year, you can hardly call a peak player base of 1.3 million a dead game.

Let’s face it, both Fortnite and PUBG won’t be dethroned, the only thing that will stop people playing them is when the next craze starts. So is it even worth someone trying to make a Battle Royale game at the moment when the market is so clearly dominated by these two? It seems like no matter what, when a new game comes along, people try it, but always go back to what they know best. There is something missing to keep them enticed.

It seems that these two games have either got such a hold on the genre that there is no room for anyone else, or that people just don’t care for a new Battle Royale game coming on the market. With the AAA scene looking to muscle in on the territory it’s looking even tougher for an independent BR game to try and stake its claim. It will be interesting to see how well the likes of Call of Duty and Battlefield will do with their takes on the genre. But they have the advantage of being able to not only offering other modes, but they also have a pretty loyal and consistent fan base who will most likely be buying either or both no matter what. They essentially already have the captive audience and only have to convince them to try a different game mode.

Is the Battle Royale Genre dead? Well, no, with both PUBG and Fortnite brining in millions of people daily people clearly still want to play BR games. But their domination of the genre basically means there is no room for anyone else.

If someone is brave enough to try and stake a claim in this area, they’re going to have to pull out something very special; maybe, just maybe Treyarch and DICE are the ones who can do it.

-Will

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2 thoughts on “Battle Royale

  1. The big problem games like PUBG and Fortnite will have is whether there’s longevity in this playstyle. Over time, I suspect the Call of Duty approach will become the better version of this, where Battle Royale is an option tucked away in a larger game. I believe that Battle Royale as a game mode is here to stay, but Battle Royale as a genre is not. Fortnite might survive because it has been developing battle royale as part of a separate product, but PUBG may have some growing pains as the public begins to shift their focus to whatever the new multiplayer experience of choice becomes.

    • I tend to agree, I think that the AAA games will pick up the BR scene as part of their full games and carry it forward whilst other solely BR games will slowly drop off.

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