The Battle Royale. A game genre that even the most uninterested gamer no doubt knows a little bit about. I have watched the Battle Royale genre with much interest ever since it began to take over the gaming world. And its evolution has been honestly quite fascinating to watch. So, lets chat about Battle Royales. Where did they come from? And what is their future looking like? This is the Battle Royale Deep Dive.
WHAT IS A BATTLE ROYALE GAME?
The Battle Royale takes its roots from the 2000 Japanese novel and film of the same name. The story is set in a fictional fascist Japan, where fifty randomly selected highschoolers are kidnapped and dropped into a remote location. And of course, only one student of each class can survive.
While each Battle Royale is distinct, they all have similarities that unite them in the genre. For starters, players usually always being with very little. Weapons, ammunition and other items are most often picked up. Additionally, another major common theme in Battle Royales is the inclusion of “the drop”. This refers to how most of these games begin with players in some sort of vessel high above the map. Prime examples are the bus in Fortnite, or the dropship in Apex: Legends. Players then chose when to jump off , landing in various parts across the map.
A final unifying theme is that within a Battle Royale, there is no respawning. This is a huge departure from previously popular multiplayer titles like the Call of Duty franchise. In COD, unless in very certain game modes, players usually respawn after being killed. Later titles in the Battle Royale genre have intruded the concept of respawning though. For example, Respawn’s Apex: Legends, heralded this concept with Respawn Beacons. Other titles have taken this concept on board now too, with players having to gather banners from downed teammates and going to prescribed locations to try and bring them back.
THE HISTORY OF BATTLE ROYALE GAMES
One of the earliest types of Battle Royale games, were “Last Man Standing” game modes. These were present in all sorts of popular multiplayer games at the time. However, Battle Royale as a game, first came in the form of a custom game in none other than Minecraft. Taking inspiration from the YA hit The Hunger Games, Minecraft Hunger Games is heralded by many as the catalyst of this genre. This mod plopped a bunch of players on an island, where the last surviving player would be the winner. The next major game that followed from this was DayZ, a mod for the game Arma 2. But it wasn’t until a Battle Royale inspired mod from creator “PlayerUnknown” took off, that Battle Royale really began to take hold.
In 2017, Player Unknown created the game that would dominate the genre for years to come, PlayerUnknown’s Battle Grounds, or PUBG.This was truly the game that started the mega genre that now is Battle Royale. Utilizing the growing power of streamers, PUBG grew incredibly fast, winning the Best Multiplayer game in the same year of its release. But, PUBG had one major aspect holding it back, it had a price tag. In order to play the game, you had to buy it. Enter, Fortnite: Battle Royale.
Epic Games’s Fortnite took the concept of Battle Royale and took it to new heights – literally! The game was not only free and thereby far more accessible, but it also introduced the concept of building. Coming from the actual Fortnite game (Battle Royale part was initially just a mode), the building game play element set Fortnite apart from everything that had come before it. Alongside this, it had a cartoonish appearance, meaning people whose had a hard time running the more realistic looking PUBG found Fortnite far easier on their systems. Since its release, Fortnite: Battle Royale has easily become of the most popular and profitable multiplayer games of all time. It’s success honestly rivals Minecraft, in that people who had never even played a video game before, have at least heard of Fortnite. But if the game is free, how did it turn a profit?
Releasing a Battle Royale post Fortnite that you had to pay to play, would put you at a massive disadvantage. Only a handful of Battle Royale games post Fortnite have achieved success, and of those, even few of them were not free-to-play. Even big leagues like Activision and EA knew to market their titles Warzone and Apex: Legends repetitively, as free to play titles. So, where does the money come from then?
Fortnite started this all with their Battle Pass. The system is simple really. The game itself is entirely free-to-play, but within this frame work, there is the optional Battle Pass. Purchasing the season-based pass, allows players to earn in game accessories like skins and emotes, that are not available once the season is over. This also adds a time based element to the system. If you don’t BUY now, you miss out. On top of this, both Fortnite and PUBG feature a store. Here players can also buy extra skins and accessories to doll up their in-game characters. Adding features like this, appeal to plays desires to look impressive, often helping inflate their sense of confidence. Paying for skins aren’t exactly new features in games though, going all the way back to 2006’s Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion horse armour DLC.
These micro-transactions have become one of the fundamental aspects that are now featured in almost all modern Battle Royale games. This even includes Call of Duty’s Warzone, which is now a free to play micro transaction based title – strictly in contrast to basically everything Call of Duty has done in the past.
Battle Royales have now quickly become some of the fastest growing titles on the market. But how much longer will that last? Many have been waiting for the downfall of games like Fortnite, and with its recent “no building mode”, some estimate its time is coming soon. But with every Battle Royale that doesn’t work or goes under, six more seem to be popping up. For the moment it seems the genre is here to stay, but whether it remains in the spotlight for years to come is something we will all have to wait a just little bit longer for, to really find out.