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The Rising Popularity of the Battle Royale Genre

If you’ve overheard video game-related discussions at PLNU lately, you’ve most likely heard the name “Fortnite” or the acronym “PUBG” dropped in casual conversation. These two survival shooter games began their meteoric rise to prominence in late 2017, and they’ve only been gaining momentum since.

Last October, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds announced they reached two million concurrent players on Steam. Just two weeks after Fortnite implemented their Battle Royale mode, 10 million different gamers had logged on at least once. PUBG fans are loyal, and Fortnite’s free-to-play status has helped the game reach millions of gamers.

The Battle Royale genre is straightforward but uniquely challenging. Playing solo, you and 99 other online gamers skydive down to an island, where each player must escape a deadly storm and be pitted against each other until only one winner remains. It’s not unlike The Hunger Games, but the namesake comes from a 1999 Japanese novel entitled Battle Royale.

Both games offer solo, duo, and squad playlists. PLNU junior business management major Spenser Ponsford prefers playing Fortnite as a team. “There are more firefights in team modes than solo,” he said. “The fighting aspect is easier if you have a good team–you can clear areas faster and have people looking in different directions.”

Andrew Davidson, a junior marketing major at PLNU, sees Fortnite as a unifying game. “Playing it with my friends at other schools around the country has been fun,” he said. “We’re talking a lot more than we had been otherwise.”

The Battle Royale genre is a hot commodity now, but it’s been a long time coming. Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene developed the prominent ArmA 2 mod DayZ: Battle Royale in 2013. Zombie survival game H1Z1 featured a 150-player Battle Royale mode, and even Minecraft saw some iterations of the genre.

Seoul-based publisher Bluehole got into contact with Greene and the studio went about developing PUBG. Its beta release became available in March 2017, and came out officially in December later that year.

In recent years, game developers have allowed gamers to purchase and play the pre-release version of their game. They can receive feedback on the video game prior to its release, tweaking and balancing various elements of gameplay as they go.

This path is not without risk, however. Fortnite was originally planned by Gears of War creators Epic Games to be a cartoony blend between Minecraft and Left 4 Dead–a squad-based player vs. environment game wherein gamers would build fortifications to defend against a zombie onslaught.

Seeing the success of the Battle Royale genre, Epic Games switched gears in a hurry and released their own Battle Royale adaption of their existing gameplay in September. It was an immediate success, and PUBG developer Bluehole was not pleased. They quickly published a press release threatening legal action for “replicating the experience for which PUBG is known,” despite no evidence of physical assets or code being lifted.

Epic Games declined to comment, and Bluehole has said nothing more on the subject since September 2017. The two games have co-existed since, with PUBG remaining a popular option for gamers who own a powerful PC. Fortnite seems to appeal mostly to casual gamers, dominating the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One crowds.

Andrew Ross, a junior computer science major at PLNU, prefers Fortnite for its building mechanics. “Fortnite was free to download, and it seems to run a little smoother than PUBG.”

“I think the Battle Royale genre will last quite a long time,” Ross said. “It might dip in popularity when the next big thing comes out, but it will always have a following.”


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Riordan Zentler

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