Battle royale games like ‘Fortnite’ are taking over the world — but it might be all downhill from here


Battle royale-style games have taken over the world.

“PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” or “PUBG” for short, was the surprise smash hit of 2017. This year, the free-to-play game “Fortnite” has dominated the conversation, raking in millions of dollars every day across all major platforms, including iOS, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

That said, it may be all downhill from here, at least for the battle-royale game genre. Here’s why:

Both “Fortnite” and “PUBG” have achieved success using the same formula, with “Fortnite” largely improving and capitalising on what “PUBG” established last March.

‘Fortnite Battle Royale’ Epic Games

In both games, 100 players plummet onto a deserted island that has a constantly-shrinking “safe zone.” There are weapons and special items scattered all over the island, which you can use to defend yourself or attack your opponents. The goal is to be the last person standing at the end.

Of course, there is a great deal of variation between “Fortnite” and “PUBG,” despite how they lean heavily on the same battle-royale formula as one another.

‘PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ Bluehole Studios

“PUBG” is grittier and much more realistic-looking: The characters, environment, and gear all feel very much grounded in reality, despite it being a video game.

“Fortnite” is much more colourful and cartoonish, and adds additional layers of complexity like the ability to build forts and defences using materials you scrounge from the environment.

Differences aside, the formula employed by both “Fortnite” and “PUBG” is what draws people in.

Just look at Twitch, where people streaming “Fortnite” and “PUBG” attract two of the biggest live audiences on the site.

“Fortnite,” in particular, attracts almost twice as many viewers as the next game, “League of Legends.”

Fortnite pubg twitch

People want to play — and watch others play — these battle-royale games. And that’s why other game developers are reportedly working on their own battle-royale games.


This year’s big “Call of Duty” game, for example, is rumoured to implement a 100-player battle royale mode.

Similarly, EA and DICE are reportedly working on a battle royale mode for the next big “Battlefield” game.

You can see where this is going: Soon, every major multiplayer video game — especially the ones with shooting as the main mechanic — could have this battle-royale mode. And the formula itself may never get boring, due to the built-in drama of a 100-person deathmatch, but it may get old, and people may move on.

Perhaps Bungie’s ‘Destiny’ will add its own battle-royale mode. Dave Smith/Business Insider

“Fortnite” is having its moment right now: It successfully made the battle-royale format accessible to a non-gamer audience by making the game free, and on most platforms, including smartphones. So it’s hard to imagine another game coming along, using the same formula, and stealing its thunder completely. That next game would also have to be free, available across most platforms, and equally colourful and fun.

Attention is already divided between the two big battle-royale games, “PUBG” and “Fortnite.” One should assume that any kind of new game in the same genre would further split the votes, so to speak, in terms of which game to play, or which game to watch on sites like YouTube or Twitch. And that means we may never see the kind of hype we’re seeing with “Fortnite” anytime soon.

That said, it will be interesting to see if games like “Call of Duty” and “Battlefield” can actually improve upon the battle-royale formula at all, or if they just intend to cash in. The financial incentives for creating this kind of game mode are clear: It’s up to the developers to create a compelling case for why their battle-royale mode is superior, in the same way “Fortnite” did.