Every week here in the Battle Royale Weekly column we take a look at the news from just the Battle Royale genre, much of which doesn’t get reported by other games media sites. Currently, our list includes 38 Battle Royale titles that we check every week for anything new to talk about. Last week, however, there were only a few games across the entire genre that had news. That’s…shocking really. What made it even worse was that going through that list we found many of the games hadn’t received an update in months and their populations according to Steam Charts were below 10 players a day. So instead of focusing on the news this week, we thought it was time to take a look at the state of the Battle Royale genre.
Before we get started, let’s address the two big elephants in the room: Fortnite and PUBG. As two of the biggest, most popular games in the entire game industry they stand out from the rest of the genre. Both games are doing very well and are essentially the pillars that are holding up the Battle Royale genre. However, they’re also the reason the rest of the genre is struggling. Fortnite is so big that Netflix sees them as a bigger threat than HBO. Fortnite and PUBG are proving to have amazing brand loyalty and from the looks of it, many players aren’t interested in trying out the competition that is sprouting up online.
So, where is the genre going wrong? Well, to start with many Battle Royale games are buy-to-play, meaning you have to pay for the game once to get access to it. Fortnite, the biggest game in the world, is a free-to-play title. Fortnite makes its money through the in-game store selling dances and cosmetic items. This is something it was able to do because unlike the smaller games in the genre it had the backing of a massive studio that could afford to develop the game and allow it to grow in popularity while not bringing much money in. Many Battle Royale games are indies and have very small budgets to start with. They need that initial push of players buying the game to help them continue the development. Unfortunately, that puts them at a massive disadvantage.
Another place that the genre is going wrong is not having very good PR. For most of that list of 38 games, we have to go to their Steam store page to find any news about them. Many of these games don’t issue press releases and they don’t offer review codes both of which would put their game in the public’s eye and attract more players to it. Instead, they’re relying on being seen on social media, being seen on Steam, and word of mouth. This method quite simply isn’t working. Games that are still in Early Access and still being developed are seeing incredibly low player numbers. This makes future development on the game difficult, especially since as mentioned above, they typically are relying on money they don’t have to finish the development of the game. In fact, their lack of being in the public’s eye is what inspired us to start this column to begin with. There are some really amazing, gorgeous looking games that aren’t getting the attention they need to survive.
While there are some beautiful, fun games in the genre it is lacking in ingenuity. Many of the games have just taken the basic concept of the genre and slapped a different art style or setting on it. That isn’t enough to make the game stand out and it isn’t enough to pull people away from Fortnite, a game that is much more established and always has enough players for a match. That may not be the fault of the developers, rather the restrictions of the genre. There are only so many ways you can combine the idea of the survival game with last man standing gameplay. There are different modes that are being introduced in Battle Royale games, so perhaps not starting with the traditional mode would work for new games.
Many Battle Royale games suffer from developer abandonment issues. When a game’s Steam page hasn’t had a news update in 3 months, it’s very easy for it to look like that game has been abandoned by the developer. Maybe it has, or maybe they’re just hard at work behind the scenes and they’re active on social media or in their Discord. This adds to the perception that the game has been abandoned. It’s also a sad fact that many Battle Royale games HAVE been abandoned by their developers. This can happen for a number of reasons and every time it happens it hurts the genre a little bit more.
While the MMOGames office is still torn over whether or not there’s room for more games in the Battle Royale genre, there is one thing we agree on: the genre is still in its infancy and 2019 will be the year that either makes or breaks Battle Royale games.
Hopefully next week we’ll be back to having news to report on for the Battle Royale genre that isn’t just Fortnite getting sued by ANOTHER artist (this makes 5 now) or PUBG’s latest update. If you’re interested in trying out a Battle Royale game that isn’t Fortnite or PUBG take a look at our Battle Royale Beta List. It’s filled with the smaller indie Battle Royale games that you won’t see talked about anywhere else. If there’s a Battle Royale game that you love and would like to get the word out about leave a comment below telling us and other readers about it!