Yeah. I said it. I love Battle Royale games, but they seem to be a topic of contention since their rise to popularity. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, or PUBG, was the first to arrive on the scene and cause a big splash. Released in early 2017 on PC, and December 2017 on Xbox, the game was an “Early Access” version meaning that it wasn’t finished, but it was also free. All of the glitches and issues with the game didn’t stop people from playing it. In its first year on Steam, PUBG broke 7 world records, including the first game to reach 3 million concurrent players. If you were a game developer watching that happen, wouldn’t you want a piece of the pie? It’s almost 2 years since the game first released on Steam, so I would say that the number of subsequent Battle Royale games that we have seen honestly isn’t that high. It isn’t surprising that Fortnite, initially a 4 person co-op survival game, was able to jump on the Battle Royale train early on and cash in significantly on that success. Fortnite Battle Royale had 10 million players in the first two weeks. Call of Duty and Battlefield have also jumped on the bandwagon recently, along with Defence of the Ancients (DOTA) 2, and Grand Theft Auto Online. So yeah, fair to say that games are adding in the popular game mode just to cash in on a trend. That’s totally fair, and why wouldn’t they when that trend is making a ton of money?! Still, in the grand scheme there really aren’t that many Battle Royale games yet.
What about them makes them so popular, though? Let’s look at PUBG to really understand the appeal. You are one of 100 players dropped into a large scale map that slowly shrinks. Your goal? Survive.
You land on the map with nothing, and have to find weapons, armour, vehicles, and ammo. Matches aren’t overly long, lasting from 15 to 30 minutes depending on how the match goes. The ever shrinking play zone moves things along, so the longer a match lasts the more intense it usually gets. Unlike many PvP games, once you are out you are out. That gives survival an urgency that many other popular multiplayer games don’t have. Instead of a set match time where you are just going for kills or captures, it’s all about survival. To win, you simply need to be the last one standing.
The approach you take is entirely up to you. There are areas on the map more likely to contain items you might want, but those areas are also more likely to be full of other players who will shoot you. If you choose to land way on the outskirts, the likelihood that you’ll be running for your life to make it into the safe zone is pretty good. The variety of approaches to playing the game are what really make it stand out to me. I love a good MP team deathmatch, but the game mode is fast paced and repetitive. With Battle Royale each match has the potential to be totally different. Sometimes I want more action, and I drop in an area with a lot of buildings hoping I can grab a gun faster than everyone else. My typical strategy, however, is to land as far from the popular spots as I can and play a sneaky hide and seek sort of game. Not everyone would find creeping along and trying not to be seen very exciting, but I like the challenge more than trying to face off out in the open. There was one match of Blackout (Call of Duty) where I couldn’t find a gun and all the buildings I went into had no guns.I was a long way from the slowly collapsing play zone. So I ran, I crawled, I hid in the long grass, and I made it into the top 10. With no gun. And guess what? There’s nothing wrong with that. No one should tell you that the way you want to play Battle Royale is wrong. Jump in there and have fun!
The other aspect of the game style that adds to its popularity is the ability to play in squads. I don’t play many games online with my friends, but Battle Royale is a game where playing with other people is a totally new and crazy fun experience. Having someone to watch your back makes the game a bit easier, plus squadmates can pick each other up when one goes down. You can play with up to 3 other people, so the possibility for zany adventures is endless. In an attempt to take out an enemy team who was on the beach, my friend and I crashed a speed boat and killed ourselves in the explosion (and didn’t hit the enemy players at all), and that is probably one of my most memorable online gaming experiences. We didn’t win, we eliminated ourselves, but it was hilarious. Playing with friends is even better in Fortnite, where the game has challenges you can complete as you run around together, amso you can unlock cool stuff like new gliders, outfits, and emotes.
Speaking of Fortnite, it’s worth talking about why this particular game became such a sensation. The premise isn’t much different than PUBG, as it’s also a free to play Battle Royale game. The difference is a few small additions that make the game appealing to a broader audience. The marketing of Fortnite was clever. They took a cue from another game insanely popular with younger gamers, Minecraft, and added the ability to build stuff. Pretty simple. You can knock stuff down, and you can build walls, stairs, pathways etc. I honestly love that I can just take a pickaxe to anything in the game and smash it to bits. I would probably play it if the game was just that. The graphics also looks a bit more like a cartoon, with bright colours and fun characters/ costumes (at Christmas they had a buff Santa who was very much my cup of tea), so it sets itself apart visually. Overall, the game’s rise to the top makes a lot of sense. It’s visually appealing, targeted at a wider audience, and planned with longevity in mind (particularly with seasons and events). Do lots of teenagers and younger kids enjoy the game? Yeah they do! Does that mean the game is dumb and adults can’t enjoy it? Sure doesn’t! If it isn’t your thing, that’s fine! Maybe Blackout or PUBG is just your speed, but I suggest you give it a go anyways!
If you still haven’t played a Battle Royale game, and you’re a fan of shooters (or even if you normally aren’t), I suggest you give one a try. Maybe start with PUBG, because it’s free and a bit less to take in. If you see someone crawling through the grass for 10 minutes, it’s probably me. Finally, if you are adamant that you hate Battle Royale that’s fine too, but let the rest of us have fun. As always, keep it Savvy!