For many years, the formula for successful multiplayer first-person shooters (FPS) remained largely unchanged. Franchises like Call of Duty and Battlefield offered game modes that were variations on the deathmatch and objective-based formats in Doom, Quake, and Unreal Tournament. Why fix something that isn’t broken?
These modes were and still are a lot of fun. Even the award-winning Overwatch, with its singular focus on multiplayer, didn’t change things much. While Blizzard opted for player progression based on cosmetics and a randomized playlist of game modes, the concept has remained the same. Two teams fight to eliminate each other and achieve a goal within an allotted amount of time.
Enter the Battle Royale
In 2017, the FPS arena changed dramatically with the release of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite. These two games introduced a new take on the genre by pitting players against each other on a huge map with the goal to survive to the end.
Whether you’re playing solo, with a partner, or in a squad of four, the strategy and excitement of knowing you only have one life is thrilling. As time winds down, they become a frantic, video game version of hide and seek.
The map shrinks every couple of minutes. And, each game has its own gimmick for doing so. Also, the tension escalates until you’re left standing as the victor or lying on the ground in a pile of your collected equipment and weapons.
The New Gaming Arms Race
Both games succeeded even though they released them as “early access” or “beta” because they’re simple and fun. And due to that fact alone, there is now a new arms race in gaming in the battle royale game mode.
The big players, namely Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 and Battlefield V, feature versions of the battle royale. Call of Duty went so far with their version, they removed the single-player campaign entirely.
There is a slew of new franchises and games either already available or coming out over the next year. Each one offers a variation on battle royale. And they have settings ranging from fantasy/medieval combat, zombie apocalypses and even underwater.
So, will the trend last? Gaming may be on the cusp of a decade-long domination of a game mode, like the classic team deathmatch that is still a centerpiece of FPS franchises today. Fortnite is wildly popular among younger gamers, thanks to hours in matches and those ridiculous, albeit clever, dances.
Battle royale may be a passing fad, so perhaps a different mode will take its place. Only time will tell. For now, get out there and claim the title of victor royale. There can be only one.