Putting the Royale in Battle Royale

Cover for Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (2017)

About three years ago, Brendan Greene was a man unknown to nobody. But, not so late after, people witnessed
the rise of the mind behind one of the most popular video games in the market currently. PlayerUnknown’s
Battlegrounds (PUBG) is a title very common against general population that plays video games. When this
game got popular, it wasn’t because of being very well marketed or anything. Instead, it was a new take
on the shooting game category, which resulted in the game being even more popular than highly marketed titles
like Call Of Duty. Another part of the reason for its popularity were streamers. Even though it was a new
kind of shooting game, how does that make this game better than traditional shooting games? With PUBG,
a new genre of gaming opened up – Battle Royale (BR). However, the idea was inspired by the a Japenese movie
Battle Royale (2000) where a large group of people is trying to survive on an island, and to get out of the
island, you must be the last person to survive. So, is being the last person standing the only reason that
brought BR games to become super-popular or were there other elements to it?

The Definition

Before going into further details, let’s talk about what makes a Battle Royale game Battle Royale.
1. Giant Maps: One of the hallmark features of Battle Royale games are massive maps that feature
abandoned towns, lush environment and numerous explorable buildings.
2. Start With Nothing: All players start with minimal equipment and must search for armor, gear and
weapons strewn throughout the map, or obtain it by eliminating an opponent.
3. Chests, Air Drops: Randomly scattered throughout the map are treasures or air drops containing high
quality gear, weaponry, ammo, and other useful tactical supplies.
4. Playable Zones: Almost all BR games feature the playable area shrinking with time. This is to make sure
that players aren’t scattered around the map and at some point in the game, they must find each other.
5. Last Man Standing: This actually defines Battle Royale where your end-goal is to be the last person
(or group) surviving.
Now these factors are enough for defining a Battle Royale game, but I’m going to go ahead and add:
6. That Special Something: Each game typically adds a unique spin to the genre to set itself apart from
other games. This can be noticed by simply comparing BR games with each other.

The Significance

Battle Royale games took the world by storm when they first came out. PUBG is the sixth best selling game
of all time, with over 50 million copies sold. Fortnite, even though being free, passed the mark of 200 million
downloads. This genre, concurrently hosts over hundreds of thousands of players playing at the same time.
This genre has also created a viral buzz among streamers, especially on Twitch, where usually on a good day,
there are hundreds of streamers and about a million viewers watching them play this kind of video games.

EVOLUTION

Even though the genre is new, Battle Royale format didn’t just appear overnight. This genre of games
has been around for about 7 years now. It was originally born from mods and custom game modes, which
then evolved into standalone games. They have literally evolved from pixelized form of Minecraft, to
the graphically heavy Apex Legends that was launched three days ago.

The first kind of BR game people witnessed was caused by the mixed popularity of Minecraft
as well as the 2012 movie, The Hunger Games. This led to the creation of a custom game mode in
Minecraft called Minecraft: Hunger Games. Minecraft was already popular so it didn’t take long for
people to jump on this train. The game did not demand high specs for a computer and could even
run on a potato. Rather than being controlled by developers, the game is controlled by the community.
The Special Something: As compared to traditional Minecraft, it was more exciting.

Then came DayZ, a mod for Arma II, an open world military simulation game, which was a zombie game.
But the point was to be the last one surviving while scavenging for loot, so I guess it counts.
It didn’t really have that special something, but it really paved a way for a new genre of shooting games.

Next in list, is DayZ, the first standalone BR game the world witnessed, contained some bad graphics,
but it was the foundation for what we would call Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds today. It had all
the six elements mentioned above, with the special something being ‘the first standalone BR game’.


Rust, as defined as the mixture of DayZ and Minecraft, was also originally a mod for Arma II. It later became
a standalone game and sold over 5 million copies. It was a high quality mod as it was developed by an actual
gaming studio. The special element in it was less focused on BR, but rather creating an FPS version of Minecraft.

In 2014, came Playerunknown’s Battle Royale mod for Arma III. With relatively extremely less buildings,
less loot, and wonky gameplay, it was still the best mod ARMA series had ever seen. The very next year, the mod
is licensed, and Brendan Greene moved to South Korea to work as the creative director on their new project.

In 2017, PUBG was released as early-access on Steam. It stayed as the top selling game on Steam for
the entire year. Battle Royale was officially recognized by the gaming community. And again, it had
this very small element which made it special. The special something was the realism. Even though, some
would not agree that the graphics in the game are very realistic, but they will definitely agree that if you
consider gameplay, it is the closest you can get to a real-life battle royale situation. That special something
helped PUBG sell over a 50 million copies to this date, and they’re still going strong, being one of the top sellers.

While PUBG dominated 2017, Fortnite dominated 2018, being the most played game of the year.
As opposed to PUBG, Fortnite gave users a new look at Battle Royale with the special something being
the goofy crazy abilities, building structures, chopping trees and cartoonish artstyle, which many people
found appealing. Originally started off as a PvE game, Epic Games jumped on the BR hype train and stopped
the production on PvE mode and completely focused on this PVP Battle Royale mod, which paid off for sure.

Then came Call Of Duty Black Ops 4 – Blackout Mode. As expected, the most stay-relevant FPS games company
Activision released a battle royale mode for their new game. It was received very well when it came out,
because of the quality and production value, but soon it died off because it played by its own rules, and did
not pay attention to the community. The special element in this game was using COD-style FPS mechanisms
like grappling hook, faster HP generation, etc.

Don’t have much to say about Apex Legends, except it’s free and the special something is character choices.
I would call it the Overwatch of BR games.

Conclusion: A Battle Royale for Battle Royale Games

To conclude my post, what would happen if there was a Battle Royale for BR games? Who would survive?
PUBG? Fortnite? Apex Legends? Blackout? or the other underdogs making muffled noise below these
big shots in the market?
In my opinion, Battle Royale genre is like the Jazz genre in music. It is ever-developing, it is fun, exciting,
and most importantly, it is brand new everytime.
There is no winner in this genre, each game has its own special something to offer, which makes it different
than the genre of traditional shooter games, where the point is to just shoot at other people. I believe there is
also a secondary genre for BR games which actually defines their audience. Because, eventually, everybody
likes testing their survival skills, but with the secondary genre combined, it gives a whole new perspective.
For example, people would consider the secondary genre for Fortnite as cartoon-style survival game.
However, for PUBG, I would say the secondary genre is rather grim and horror survival game.
So, is comparing BR games the same as comparing apples and oranges? No, but it is completely justified
to be appealed by one and not be appealed by the other.

I will end this post with a Fortnite dance, because I can.

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