What makes a Battle Royale game? Is it simply the core concept of last man standing, or is there more to it? While we can debate these factors, there’s one thing we can agree on; these games are massively popular. Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) is the leader in this genre, and it hasn’t even been fully released. The Early Access game (PC-only today, will be on Xbox at some point soon) has sold over 15 million copies, has hosted a massive $350k prize pool tournament, and has another $200k tournament coming up. PUBG came out after H1Z1’s King of the Kill, but immediately stole the market share as the dominant game in the genre. A few other titles have tried to mimic the magic (GTAV Online even put their hat into the ring), but none have been very successful. That is, until Epic released a new game mode for their survival game, Fortnite. This made Bluehole, the developers of PUBG, extremely concerned, which they should be.
According to a report by The Verge, the folks over at Bluehole seem to have growing concerns around how similar the two games are. However, it’s not Fortnite itself that Bluehole should be concerned about. They should be worried about what Fortnite represents. Fortnite went free to play (F2P) with their Battle Royale mode, and after only two weeks, they’ve already hit 10 million players. As of October 9th, 525k concurrent players were playing Fortnite, and they had 3.7m daily users. These are not inconsequential numbers, and indicate that while gamers are still enjoying the chase to be the last man standing on an island, they’re interesting in something different than PUBG.
For as great and fun as PUBG is, it’s a terrible game. There are massive issues with desync (think you’re behind cover? Think again!), technical issues like buildings not loading in, weird general mechanics (bars on windows that you can’t shoot through, no bullet penetration) and other factors. On its highly active subreddit, there are consistently complaints about bugs and glitches ruining a potential chicken dinner. Unfortunately, if you want to play a battle royale game where there’s some sense of realism (aiming down sights, bullet drop, etc), you only have one option, and that’s PUBG. Fortnite feels extremely arcady, with cartoonish graphics, and a lack of precision in aiming and shooting. In PUBG, if you aim somewhere and pull the trigger, the projectile will go where you aimed, but in Fortnite, there’s no aiming down sights, it’s all hip fire. In this sense, PUBG stands alone, and is a pretty different game than Fortnite. However, as I stated previously, Fortnite shouldn’t worry Bluehole, what Fortnite represents should.
PUBG lacks immense amounts of polish. Imagine making a shoe rack from plywood, without sanding anything down or drilling any pilot holes. It would be functional, but there’s tons of room to improve. Bluehole knows this, but has chosen instead to monetize in a few different instances. They’re already pulled in roughly $450 million in revenue off game sales alone (at a $29.99 base game price), and Bloomberg has listed their value at 4.3 billion. Despite this, Bluehole chose to throw a massive tournament at Gamescom with a $350k prize pool, funded by paid loot crates. Instead of continuing to polish the game and get it closer to completion for a full release, they chose to monetize cosmetics.
Gamers have shown there’s an appetite for battle royale games besides PUBG, and if a AAA developer can come out and release something with polish, that doesn’t have immense glaring issues, then PUBG’s playerbase will evaporate like a puddle of water in the desert. Some suggestions I’ve heard include utilizing the Metal Gear Solid V engine, or what was built for Horizon Zero Dawn. Now that the market for battle royale has proven to be in the multi-millions (and still growing), there is a massive opportunity for a developer who can create a polished game in the same vein as PUBG. If Bluehole doesn’t keep their foot on the gas, and they become complacent and start counting their money, before they know it, the massive island of market share they own is going to shrink down to a patch of grass.