When it comes to video games, you’re generally left with some basic genres. You’ll always have your FPS shooters, your racing games, fantasy RPGs, strategy games, and puzzle challenges. Battle Royale was unique in that it hit the gaming market like an unexpected storm and completely took over it. The results are still being witnessed today. Nothing is more popular than battle royale games.
We have to stop and ask ourselves, how did these games become so popular? Mainly, they’re just a lot of fun – but where did it all begin?
The origins of battle royale
To look at where the genre got its inspiration, we’ll have to take a trip back to Japan in 1999, when Koushun Takami released a novel about a group of school kids who are forced by the government to fight to the death. The book was later made into the controversial movie Battle Royale.
The plot unfolds in an alternate reality where the Japanese won World War II. The government sets up an initiative to control the countries antisocial youth whereby groups of troublesome youngsters will be taken to an island and forced to fight to the death.
The movie was banned in several countries around the world thanks to its grisly plot and violent scenes – but that only added to the cult value of the film. It has been enjoyed by people around the world and is seen as a classic cult movie from Japan.
Origins of the games: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
Next, we take a trip over to South Korea, where a developer by the name of Brendan Greene was making mods based on the Japanese cult movie. Greene’s gamer tag was PlayerUnknown, and once Korean gaming corporation Bluehole picked up on his project, it was named PlayerUnknown’s Battleground and was placed under the direction of the PUBG Corporation – a subsidiary of Bluehole.
PlayerUnknown’s Battleground (PUBG for short) was the first game in the battle royale genre to gain large amounts of friction. Of course, plenty of other games have featured free-for-all deathmatches, but the scope and design of this game made it all the more impressive.
The game featured you and 99 other players jumping out of a plane onto a remote island to gear up and kill each other until one final player remained. It was genius, and the gaming community went nuts over it. It wasn’t long until someone else gave the genre a try.
Fortnite: Battle Royale
Epic Games saw the instant success of PUBG and decided to make a battle royale mode in their own game: Fortnite. The developers had a clever trick up their sleeve, too. While PUBG was serious and militaristic and strove to be as realistic as possible, Fortnite: Battle Royale was unapologetically over-the-top and cartoonish. This separated the two from each other and gained Fortnite a huge international following.
The PUBG developers even threatened to take Epic Games to court for copying their style of game, but nothing ever came of it. While the two games are similar in some respects, Fortnite certainly has earned its rightful place in the battle royale market. The game is a lot of fun and doesn’t even try to take itself seriously and this has gained it the admiration of its fans. The fact that it’s free to play was also a huge magnet!
The rest that followed
The Battle Royale trend didn’t stop with the above mentioned games. Everyone is giving the genre a go, from Call of Duty, to the developers of Free Fire. The trend has yet to go to sleep and every time someone new gives it a crack it always arouses interest.
That being said, not all battle royale games were created equal. Many come and go in an instant. Even Call of Duty’s battle royale mode didn’t grab that much attention. Then again, sometimes one comes along that blasts all expectations out of the water.
Released on PS4, Xbox One, and PC, the Apex Legends game was a massive hit and still draws in players from around the world thanks to its immaculate design and the futuristic setting that is subtle enough not to be overwhelming.
Developed by Respawn, there was no marketing for the game whatsoever, it simply appeared – free to play – and drew in 2.5 million players in the first day alone. It was massive – and it still is. Players are ‘Lengends’ who have chosen to fight for glory and fame on the edges of the Frontier.
At the beginning of the game, you jump down on the island in groups of three players. Each squad of three will be pitted against the other squads until only one remains. The weapons and gameplay have kept players coming back for more. It’s sort of like Halo meets Battle Royale.
As it stands now, the most popular Battle Royale games are still the original ones. Fortnite and PUBG still have tens of millions of players, with Apex legends also taking up a nice chunk of the pie. While many others have tried to break in on the action, most of them have missed the mark and failed to really offer anything new to the genre.
It’s likely that this fad will carry on for a bit longer, then we’ll probably either see someone change the whole thing up – like by introducing a medieval battle royale game – or the trend will die off and be replaced by another genre of gaming.
As we move further into the future, the potential for VR gaming is becoming ever more real and this will likely change the way that we interact with games. Think Black Mirror Season 5 kind of thing, but maybe a bit less raunchy… Either way, it’s going to be a blast.