Trends come and go, but Battle Royale is big enough to stick around for a while – especially with Call of Duty on board.
Battle Royale is arguably the hottest trend in gaming right now. The game type was popularised by DayZ, H1Z1, WarZ, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) and Fortnite, which has made millions of players enchanted. Now, the industry-leading and long-standing shooter franchise Call of Duty is confirmed to jump on the bandwagon in Black Ops 4 and Battlefield is rumoured to do the same.
The premise of Battle Royale is a fight to the death, most commonly between 100 or more players. Alone, or in teams, you must survive in a game world that is slowly shrinking, forcing you to advance closer and closer to the centre. Finding good equipment scattered around the map is vital to success. Survivors are bound to clash, resulting in sweaty firefights where making good use of the terrain is as important as a steady trigger finger.
Games such as Unreal Tournament have had Last Man Standing modes for a long time, but it is widely recognised that the Arma 2 mod DayZ pioneered the Battle Royale craze we see today. In DayZ, the player attempted to survive in a zombie infested world, together with other players. It was not only a struggle to survive the zombies or to find water for hydration, but other players were a constant threat. In the end, only one person could win.
After Brendan Greene created Battle Royale mods for both Arma 3 and later H1Z1, he went on to make PUBG which released as an Early Access title in March last year, the game that would become the staple of a good Battle Royale game and dominate the whole action genre. This was a game experience that was more accessible than Arma and DayZ, yet with a solid foot in realism.
The feeling of tension is what all Battle Royale games strive for and PUBG captured that remarkably. Even before the full release in December 2017, the game had sold over 20 million copies, making it one of the most successful games on the planet.
What made it popular?
In a Battle Royale game, the danger is ever-present. This leads to an engaging experience where players must be careful and make tactical decisions throughout the match. Freedom is at its core – every match is unique and can play out in thousands of ways. With so many players, unexpectedness is the key factor to why people keep coming back for more.
It is easy to learn and matches never exceed the 30-minute mark, making it suitable for shorter sessions too. Further, the Battle Royale premise is perfect for streamers on Twitch or YouTube, which only adds to the circulation and popularity.
Many thought that the giant PUBG would be unrivalled for a long time to come, but they were wrong. Epic Games created a Battle Royale mode to their existing wave shooter Fortnite and released it as a standalone free-to-play-title. Fortnite: Battle Royale has now surpassed the number of players of PUBG, making it the hottest game right now with over three million concurrent players. While PUBG focuses on a slower paced, tactical experience, Fortnite is casual and features a vivid colour palette, highly destructible environments and building. With this in mind, what are the possibilities for Battle Royale going forward?
What comes next?
The first gameplay reveal of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 was shown recently and it was confirmed that the game indeed will have a Battle Royale mode (titled “Blackout”). Surprisingly, it is not described as being set in a small arena, but a “massive world” that the player can navigate with land, sea and air vehicles. The most interesting feature is the air vehicles, since this is not something that has been done in a Battle Royale game before. How this will add to the experience and how it is executed remains to be seen. Gameplay from this mode is expected to be shown at E3 in June, but it is very likely to have more of a casual feeling than PUBG.
If Battlefield does the same, it is expected to compete more with PUBG, but with destructible environments and less realistic gunplay. Aside from destructibility, the series is known for large maps, lots of vehicles and stunning graphics, which would fit well. It is already established that the latest Battlefield will be called Battlefield V, but until May 23, no information is given about what era the game is set in. Regardless if it is the Second World War, the Vietnam War or a modern setting, this Battle Royale mode would be large and explosive.
As DayZ is coming closer to a full release after six years in Early Access, the developers have said that the relationship with the community will be close and that mods will grow alongside the core experience, possibly leading to new twists to the Battle Royale formula. Aside from these, there are games that try bringing in new ideas, like Crytek’s Hunt: Showdown, where you as a bounty hunter kill monsters and must watch out for other players doing the same. Death is permanent and the mix between player and non-player enemies to fight creates a distinction from many other games in the same space.
Many of the Battle Royale games have been made by smaller studios, but a Battle Royale mode made by Treyarch, one of the Call of Duty developers, is a completely different story. Call of Duty will bring insanely tough competition for PUBG and Fortnite, possibly becoming a new staple. New contestants will in turn try to mimic the experience and develop the concept further. With all the titles on the horizon it is safe to assume that Battle Royale will continue to dominate the action genre next year…