Battle royale video games have become an extremely popular fad in the gaming world as of late. For those who don’t know, a battle royale game is an online multiplayer game where players (either on their own or in small teams) start off with nothing and explore and scavenge to find weapons and supplies to battle against the other players. If your characters dies, you are eliminated from the match for good (unless revived by teammates). The last player or team left standing wins.Think along the lines of The Hunger Games or the original Battle Royale film. Many, myself included, find these elimination-based games suspenseful and exhilarating. However, there are a lot of people out there who can’t stand this recent fad. They’re annoyed by how many there suddenly are and might not even think these games are any good. That leads us to the question: are battle royale games just an overused game mode or is this a new genre we are seeing surface?
Let’s begin by looking at the origins of battle royale games. The idea of these “last-man standing” rules has existed for a long time in gaming. Going back to early multiplayer games in the 90s, like Bomberman, players fought to be the last one left in the match. This trend carried on in games like Super Smash Bros. and even the online multiplayer of The Last of Us. However, these all had much fewer players (typically about four to eight) than the battle royale games of today.
After the popularity of The Hunger Games novels and movies, gamers took to creating mods of already existing games like Minecraft to get that “last-man standing” thrill and match the rules and feel of The Hunger Games more directly. Other mods were also created for games like Team Fortress 2 that saw players permanently eliminated from the match when they were killed or KOed. The idea of not respawning added a lot more suspense to the games. It was clear that there was a demand for developers to create a Hunger Games-esque game that was not just a mod.
In 2016, a game known as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, or PUBG, was released. The PC game saw up to one hundred players starting off with nothing, searching for items, and competing with each other to be the last one left alive. Gamers finally got that Hunger Games vibe that they wanted. The game rose in popularity not only due to the amount of people eager to play it, but the amount of people who were watching others play it on YouTube and Twitch. Everyone wanted to know how long they, and their favorite YouTubers and streamers, could last.
Because of the quick success of PUBG, the developers of a cooperative zombie survival video game titled Fortnite decided they wanted a piece of that popularity. Epic Games, Fortnite’s development company, created a brand new battle royale game mode that was very different than working together to build forts to keep zombies out. Fortnite’s success with the battle royale genre was even quicker than PUBG’s, primarily due to the fact that it was completely free to download and play. Fortnite became one of the most played games ever and is still massively popular. The game is so popular that it’s now difficult to go to a store without seeing Fortnite merchandise or a kid randomly performing one of its many dances.
Fortnite is a pretty good game. It’s exciting, has a fun and cartoony aesthetic, and the developers keep it fresh by constantly adding new game modes, items, cosmetics, and locations. Plus, the game allows players to interact with the environment in ways other games don’t. It being free is just the icing on the cake. It’s no surprise that it became so popular. That being said, perhaps it became too popular too quickly for some. People now become annoyed and sometimes even enraged by the popularity of the colorful online game. Gamers everywhere seem to have felt a sense of Fortnite fatigue which has deterred them from accepting any new battle royale games that have been released since.
Despite the overwhelming and often annoying popularity of Fortnite, several other battle royale games have been released, including Apex Legends and even a Tetris battle royale game titled Tetris 99. Video games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Battlefield V now feature battle royale game modes as an option for their multiplayer. Each of them have their fanbases, but many wonder if this is too many battle royale games.
These particular individuals assume that because the goal of these games, to be the last player or team standing and to win with whatever supplies you happen to find, that they are essentially all the same game. They think that it’s redundant for more than one of these games to exist. Even some of the developers think this is the case. The development team behind PUBG attempted to sue the team behind Fortnite for stealing their ideas. However, they lost since the “battle royale” idea was not originally theirs, the games play differently enough, and one can’t own the rights to an entire genre.
To me, that’s exactly what battle royale gaming is: its own genre. Several fighting games exist, like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, but no one complains there are too many fighting games or that they’re too similar. They’re able to co-exist just fine. The same goes for platforming games like Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog or shooting games like Halo and Call of Duty. Multiple games can exist within the same genre and not be identical like some claim. It’s no different for the battle royale genre. PUBG has a more realistic, real-life feel to it. Fortnite uses intricate building mechanics. Apex Legends uses different characters that each have their own playstyle and offers really interesting lore (making it my personal favorite). Tetris 99 plays like Tetris while competing against ninety eight other players. Each of these games play very differently and use their own mechanics despite being in the same genre.
I can see this massive fad dying down soon, but I don’t expect battle royale will ever stop being a part of gaming. There will still be new battle royale games like there will always be new fighting games. They will exist within the same genre while finding new ways to stand out from others. I also think, for most games, “battle royale” will become a staple game mode for multiplayer games like team deathmatch or capture/defend. Many may think battle royale games are overplayed, but it’s really just a genre that recently took off, and we’ll keep seeing them like we do platforming games, first person shooters, or RPGs.