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The Ultimate Battle Royale

Written by Colter Hawks 13 February 2019 The battle royale format is very attractive to gamers because it offers the ultimate challenge. Be the last to survive. Whether there are 16 players or 100, the feeling of being the last player or squad alive is a great feat. The concept is simple and straightforward which makes it fun for both hardcore and casual gamers. Queue times are short and once you died you could immediately sign up for a new match, having very little downtime. However all great things come to an end. When the genre reaches its peak there will be a fall. How far of a drop that is comes down to what the developer can bring to the table to give the players an incentive to stay. I remember the week Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, or PUBG, released on steam. Very quickly it climbed the steam charts and suddenly at least ninety percent of your friends list was playing it. One hundred players thrown into a match where it came down to the last man/woman standing. There is no denying that the genre has taken the gaming industry by storm. PUBG was very successful and when a style of game is as successful as it was, all the other developers want to get in on the honey. Now, in 2019, we have more games with battle royale options than ever. And with the recent addition of Apex Legends, everything has changed. If I backtrack a little to PUBG in its first year, the demand for the game to have an esports scene was overwhelming. In fact, it forced the developer to work on an esports format even before the game was fully finished. The game was in early access for quite awhile, and it became difficult for the developer, Bluehole Studios, to keep up. That alone hurt the game with players leaving because the game still had a lot of bugs and other issues. Still, even with those problems, millions were playing the game. Enter Fortnite to the genre. Epic Games’ battle royale would become one of the biggest games in the world. With it’s more polished finish, building system and arguably better in-game store, the game was more attractive to a lot of gamers. Fortnite exploded so quickly, Epic had to pull their resources from other projects to focus more on the game, ultimately killing those other endeavors. Who can blame them though? Epic banked a profit of over $3 billion in 2018 and that’s largely due to the success of Fortnite. Epic has done a great job with the game with constant updates, bug fixes and additional content, it seemed that Fortnite would forever reign supreme in the battle royale genre. Enter Apex Legends to the genre. By this point many battle royale games have released, yet most of them didn’t hit the mark. It’s hard to dig into the PUBG and Fortnite fans. Then out of nowhere, Respawn Entertainment, the developers behind Titanfall, released Apex Legends and very quickly pushed that game to the top of the genre. In its first few days the game had over 10 million players. Every top streamer was playing it including Ninja, Dr. Disrespect, Shroud, Summit1G, etc. The game reached well over 300,000 consistent viewers on Twitch during the first week. This put the game in front of everyone and they had to try it. I played Apex on day one and I was honestly blown away by how polished it was. Apex Legends took the spot of Titanfall 3, and as much as I wanted that game, I’m happy with what we got. These three games are the main contenders now and there are still more to come, but with that said, now we have to look at their esports potential. PUBG has been moving forward with their esports scene despite some declining numbers, and it has been doing well since they started it. Fortnite’s esports scene is kicking into high gear this year. Epic has thrown a lot of support and money behind the esports scene, toting their $100,000,000 total season prize pool. Tournaments will will be played all over the world. Apex Legends has already announced a $200,000 tournament which is amazing considering the game only came out last week. Respawn are definitely ambitious, but I believe it’s well founded. They released the game with the infrastructure already in place, now it’s up to them to put on a good tournament and continue to grow it and make improvements. Apex Legends, so far, looks like it’s heading in the right direction and it will be interesting to see where it goes. Esports was bound to make its way to the battle royale because of the demand alone, but the fact is that every genre takes a hit at some point. Right now battle royales are the hot ticket, but they won’t be forever. The industry fluctuates in what’s popular every so often. When the inevitable comes, the question is which games will survive? I think the ones that do are the ones that have great gameplay, a healthy esports scene and the support from the developer. A lot of the battle royales are options from a base game, such as Call of Duty, Counter Strike and even Fortnite. Those titles offer a different game mode which gives them a buffer in a sense. They don’t rely solely on their battle royale. Counter Strike already has a huge esports scene for it’s base game as well as Call of Duty. But for the games that got popular because of their battle royale or only have that game mode as an option, they will have to get creative. H1Z1 is a fun game in itself, but its attempt at esports fell far from the mark with there still being a lot of unpaid money and accusations of people who were working illegally. Although many don’t see the battle royale genre as an esport, the revenue and outcry from fans show otherwise. As long as the developer can create a format that makes it fun for the player and exciting for the viewer, bridging that engagement, I believe it can create a scene that will attract an audience and offer a unique experience. There are a lot of battle royales releasing in 2019, many of which are in early access or have open beta weekends. The game that meets all the criteria will be the last game standing; that is the ultimate battle royale.