From Arma to Fortnite: how Battle Royales got so damn big
The battle royale genre is just getting started. Multiple games following the Hunger Games-style format are already wildly popular on both PC and consoles, and the growth shows no signs of stopping. With Fortnite's current level of influence, you might be surprised to hear that battle royale genre wasn't always the all-conquering behemoth it is today. In this article – and in the video above – I'll be explaining how everyone's favourite free-for-all slugfest rose to prominence from relatively humble origins.
The man behind it all
It started with one man: Brandon “PLAYERUNKNOWN” Greene, whose various Arma mods that launched over four years ago. Up until very recently, PLAYERUNKNOWN was the driving force of the genre, with his involvement in H1Z1 as well as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) being the keys to the success the games had. Both had the same formula, albeit wildly different metagames: parachute in, grab your guns, and fight it out for that sweet sweet victory (or, in PUBG’s case, Chicken Dinner). It's entirely possible the battle royale genre wouldn't have ever been a thing if not for Greene’s involvement.
[caption id="attachment_103670" align="alignnone" width="600"] PlayerUnknown was involved with H1Z1 before PUBG[/caption]
We now appear to be entering something of a copycat era for battle royale games, started by Fortnite and continued on by the likes of Radical Heights, Darwin Project and other lesser-known, up-and-coming titles. Now out of Greene’s hands, the genre has evolved to not only be able to sustain multiple esports scenes but also bear more of an influence on wider culture. Celebrities, kids and parents alike can now all get into the genre – there are games for everyone's tastes and preferred playstyles.
Challenges to overcome
The genre has always faced technical challenges. Cheating has been something of an issue, but far more damaging has been problems with the stability of game servers. Performance issues plagued H1Z1 and PUBG, resulting in frustrated players. Very recently, Fortnite also suffered its first major outage as well. In most cases, the servers stabilized, but not before players moved on to the next big thing in the genre.
These challenges probably go some way to explaining why it took so long to refine these games. With so many people playing at once, on one map, there are bound to be a few connection issues. On top of that, with popular games such as these, there are bound to be players who hack or cheat to get their wins. It’s there that developers have a big decision to make: does a game focus on stability, anti-cheat or aesthetics/loot boxes/money? Success for many of these titles depended largely on what their answer was.
Only the beginning
Regardless, to really understand how the genre started, you need to go back to where it began. The video attached to this article is a quick primer on how battle royales started, something to sink your teeth to better understand how the genre has evolved over the course of its short lifespan. It may seem like there are too many battle royale games already, but the current selection is nothing compared to what's on the way, as companies rush to capitalise on the hype. So brush up on your knowledge – you'll be needing it.