Raise your hand if you’ve heard of FORTNITE! At this point, I’m pretty sure everyone reading this definitely raised their hands. FORTNITE has become something of a video game darling these past few months, along with the battle royale genre as a whole.

Battle Royale games are a relatively recent genre in video gaming. For anyone unfamiliar with the genre, a number of players, usually near 100, drop into a map with no resources and fight to survive. Players have to loot the map for anything from weapons to first aid. To prevent players from staying in one place too long, the map slowly shrinks and anyone caught outside the shrinking bubble gets wounded and eventually dies. Eventually, the map shrinks to such a small size that the remaining players have no choice but to come closer and closer. The final players standing wins!

With E3 ending a few days ago, we’re currently in the midst of a glut of battle royale games. It feels like it’s harder to navigate any video game service these days without bumping into one. While there’s always going to be an oversaturation of any kind of video game, the battle royale genre is something else. Hell, we even have battle royale mobile games now.

Battle Royale
DAYZ, battle royale games predecessor.

I’m a huge fan of the genre. While I appreciate what FORTNITE has done for the genre, my heart lies with PLAYERUNKNOWNS BATTLEGROUNDS. While an article comparing the two would be fun, let’s take a bit of a dive into their history.

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Let’s Get Ready To Rumble

As hard as it is to imagine, the battle royale genre wasn’t always the staple of gaming culture it is now. Before the FORTNITEs and PUBGs, there were two simple mods. MINECRAFT (a phenomenon unto itself) got a mod back in 2012, taking inspiration from the HUNGER GAMES media franchise. The mod placed players in the center of the map and had them fight to the death with limited supplies they could forage.

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FORTNITE! I’m usually the one dying in the background.

Next and far more importantly, there was a mod called DAYZ, originally released in 2013. This mod was for the military simulator ARMA 2 and placed players on a large island, with a larger emphasis on survival. DAYZ wasn’t technically a battle royale game. Players had to not only fend off zombies but other players as well. DAYZ became something of an overnight sensation.

Players typically used to the more static death matches of games like CALL OF DUTY were instantly drawn into this tense survival game. The mod did so well that the creators were able to turn this into a full-fledged game. Unfortunately, its popularity waned, mostly due to the fact that DAYZ itself never exited its early access stage. During this time, Brendan Greene released a smaller mod for DAYZ called Battle Royale.

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A New Era Begins

After the runaway success of DAYZ and its eventual downfall, players were looking for something new. Greene’s mod grew in popularity. Daybreak Game Company invited Greene to work on H1Z1, a rival to DAYZ. H1Z1 was nearly unfinished when it was released and lost a massive amount of its player base. He eventually moved to Bluehole Studios to begin work on a full, stand-alone version of PLAYERUNKNOWNS BATTLEGROUNDS, which was released into early access in March 2017.

While not technically the first battle royale game, PUBG became the name to beat. Within weeks of its initial release, players flocked in droves. Like its spiritual predecessor DAYZ, the game began in early access and was pretty rough. PUBG’s buildings barely loaded, even after you dropped, along with poor optimization.

However, the devs pushed onward as the player base grew. Finally, nearing PUBG’s release, another contender put its hat into the ring: FORTNITE. Epic Games gave FORTNITE a free-to-play battle royale mode in September 2017. FORTNITE started as a cooperative, base-building, survival shooter and the battle royale mode quickly eclipsed its original content.

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EGRESS looking good

For a while, the two kept neck-and-neck in player base, but FORTNITE quickly surpassed PUBG in revenue, largely thanks to its free-to-play nature. As of this writing in June 2018, FORTNITE is top on Twitch’s streaming service while PUBG rests at seventh place.

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Looking Into Battle Royale’s Future

While both FORTNITE and PUBG remain high on the Twitch charts, it seems like every company wants a piece of the pie. Just at E3 alone, multiple battle royale games were introduced to the world. The new CALL OF DUTY has one, team-based shooter PALADIN is getting one, hell, even DYING LIGHT, another zombie survival game is getting one.

Battle Royale
PUBG Title Screen

The New Class Standouts

A lot of developers are looking to cash in on the craze by doing the bare minimum. Most keep PUBG’s aesthetic and go for the realistic angle of guns and survival. While there are quite a lot of those, there are a few that look promising. I had a chance to play THE DARWIN PROJECT some time back, and I really enjoyed my time with it.

It seems to be going for a more survival, crafting, actual HUNGER GAMES vibe. Whereas FORTNITE and PUBG both have almost 100 players at a time, THE DARWIN PROJECT only has a handful and a much smaller map.

One of the most interesting aspects is that one player controls a robot and directs the match. They see what all players see, and can even give struggling players gifts for doing better. It’s a really interesting concept, and while it was pretty early when I played it, I’m looking forward to it.

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FEAR THE WOLVES. Look at all that rust everywhere!

Another interesting prospect is FEAR THE WOLVES. All I’ve seen is a trailer, but damn if I’m not a sucker for any game that reminds me of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series. While it does have the near 100 player headcount, it also includes mutants, radiation, and anomalies to watch out for.

Lastly and most intriguingly is Fazan Studio’s EGRESS. The only description I can give is Victorian-era London, BLOODBORNE-esque battle royale. I don’t know about you, but even with some barely alpha state gameplay, that already has me ready to play.

The Last One Standing

With all of the competition and market oversaturation, it’s hard to say who will still be standing in a year. PUBG and FORTNITE will still be around, but how many of the newbies are going to attract the same market shares?

While this could probably merit an entire article unto itself, there’s a far more serious battle going on between the two battle royale titans. Bluehole Studios, the creator of PUBG, is suing Epic Games. PUBG is built on the Unreal Engine, which Epic licenses out. The lawsuit argues that FORTNITE has stolen PUBGs copyright.

While I certainly agree that it’s slightly odd that Epic had been following PUBG’s creation then dropped FORTNITE right near release, you can’t copyright a genre. If that was the case, we’d have lawsuits flying because someone made a platformer, and that’s absolutely nuts.

Even with the stewing controversy, it seems like battle royale games are here to stay. There’s plenty of them coming out, and plenty of them out now. Do you have a favorite? Sound off in the comments for your favorite and if you’re looking forward to any!

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