The battle royale genre is all the rage right now, driven by the immense success of the games PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) and Fortnite Battle Royale. These two games have rocketed to the top of the charts in the gaming industry, both managing to reach a total of 3 million concurrent players in the past year. While PUBG’s numbers have declined since January, 50 million copies sold is hardly something to complain about. Fortnite, on the other hand, has reached a total of over 120 million total players.
Neither game is hurting for profits. PUBG made over $700 million in 2017, almost as much as the entire eSports industry. Fortnite, however, recently passed $1 billion in total revenue, generated entirely from in-app purchases. While PUBG costs $30 to buy, Fortnite is free to play, making it more accessible to players while providing many opportunities to spend money within the game. Fortnite is also the most-watched and played game on streaming platform Twitch.
With two successful juggernauts and many new entrants to the genre, battle royale games are expected to generate over $12 billion in revenue in 2018, and hit $20 billion the following year. No wonder more developers are jumping on the bandwagon!
What exactly is a battle royale game?
A battle royale game is essentially a fight to be the last person — or team — standing. Players are thrown into a map with limited resources and need to scavenge for equipment and avoid being killed by their opponents. There are typically 100 players per round, though that number will vary depending on the game, and a shrinking safe zone forces player into closer quarters in order to prevent rounds from becoming too drawn out.
The battle royale genre originated with mods for popular survival games such as Minecraft and ARMA 2. PUBG creator Brendan Greene made several of these mods before joining developer Bluehole to produce the now massively popular PUBG. That game’s success inspired Epic Games to add a battle royale mode to its existing game Fortnite, and the mode became so popular that Epic created a separate development team to focus on it separately from the Fortnite base game. From there, numerous other studios have gotten on board with the battle royale genre, and many new games have either been released or are currently in development. PC gamer has compiled a list of 23 battle royale games, most of which are either available to play now or slated for release this year.
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What makes the battle royale genre so popular?
There are a number of different factors that have given these games such a broad appeal. Shooters are popular games to begin with, but part of the fun of a battle royale is that there are multiple ways to win. Not confident in your close combat skills? Find a sniper and pick people off from a distance. Prefer to avoid conflict? Go the stealth route and see how far you can get without engaging in any fights. You can also play alone or on teams, satisfying those who want to play with friends and those who would rather go it alone. Fortnite and other games being free to play certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
What remains to be seen is how much room there is in this market for new battle royale games. If Fortnite can break $1 billion in revenue, surely that means there’s a lot of potential for new titles, right? Not necessarily. With Fortnite and PUBG already well-established and a host of other games hitting the market within a close time frame, it may be hard to compete. Developers will need to differentiate their titles from the competition and convince customers that their game is the one that’s most worth their time.
Some developers have decided to tackle this problem by taking the parody route. Totally Accurate Battlegrounds is one such title, created by game studio Landfall. This game takes a much more light-hearted approach to the battle royale genre. Originally created as an April Fool’s joke, the game parodies many elements from PUBG, but with its own comical aesthetic and outlandish assortment of weapons. It’s debatable whether this game will have staying power or if players will get tired of the joke, but for now it’s certainly gotten people’s attention.
Battle royale games are hot right now, and with the market expected to hit $20 billion in 2019, there’s certainly room for more than just the big two players. Who’s going to come out on top in the end: the older, experienced players that are good at hitting their targets? The creative risk-takers opting for unconventional tactics? Or the ones who play it safe and wait for the perfect opening? Fortunately for game developers, there’s room for more than one winner in this market. They just need the right tools and strategy…and a little luck doesn’t hurt either.
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