Is The Battle Royale Past Its Prime?
The battle royale genre is as synonymous with gaming as Fortnite is with the battle royale genre.
The cultural phenomenon that was widely introduced to the gaming world via the cartoony free-to-play title that went over to take over the world is a massive staple not just for those interested in gaming, but outside of gaming spaces too. For many, Fortnite exemplifies video games at large, let alone the modern free-to-play framework. So it's fair to see why so many game studios are fighting for a piece of the pie all these years since the game's initial launch.
While Epic Games' most lucrative project remains at the top of the pile, Apex Legends, Warzone, and PUBG aren't that far behind, squabbling amongst themselves for the top spot. And while they've (for the most part) earned their audiences, and they discern themselves from each other in significant enough a way to stand as separate entities, they're all immediately identified under exactly the same banner.
In the wider gaming world that isn't directly involved in the genre, they're all the same battle royale game - and maybe that's indicative of something that has been festering inside the hive of closing rings and thirst for survival for some time now. Creativity, for the most part, has departed the upper echelons of the genre, and as such, there's every chance that the peak of the genre sits comfortably behind us. So, we have to ask the question - where do we go from here?
What's Next For The Battle Royale?
Wondering exactly what comes next for the genre at large and the games at the head of the spear is difficult. Though it may have been difficult to have predicted where Fortnite would go even when the third chapter of its roadmap finally arrived, it has managed to remain engaging with new features that have surprised players. The addition of the game's soft-parkour and the option of a no-build mode has kept players incredibly happy - and again, it's hard to see what's next for the battle royale giant.
The same can be said for the genre at large, as very few games beyond the titans at the top of the pile manage to make a good impression - and the excitement of battle royales at this stage, typically, comes from their reliance on the rest of the gaming world and pop culture to perk them up with cosmetics, with the exception of Apex Legends, which has prospered - but is still largely the same game it was ten seasons ago.
All we can do is hope that the long-standing giants will be able to reinvent the genre without alienating their dedicated fanbases. Because heaven knows that the new breed isn't going to be able to pull it off.
New Battle Royales Simply Aren't Working
As we've seen in the last couple of years, there's not an awful lot that new battle royale games can do to compete with the big boys. We've seen it on the sad failures - Hyper Scape didn't last long at all despite a couple of genius features, and Naraka Bladepoint hasn't enjoyed nearly as much success as it has deserved with its incredible creativity.
There are so many boxes that need to be ticked by a battle royale to succeed in the shadow of Fortnite and Warzone among others, with it being free-to-play, recognisable, and not so different that it's jarring to the genre's audience, yet still different enough to keep them from simply playing what they're familiar with. It's a catch-22 that isn't particularly likely to see any resolution, unless Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodhunt can beat the odds and become the next bloodsucking big thing.
We may cross our fingers that a game like this could arrive, but the chances of it having all of these things and a good enough developmental process to actively compete in terms of actual game quality, grow slimmer the further into the new generation we float. The creativity of the battle royale genre may finally be spent.
Will Battle Royales Stagnate From Here?
The likely answer to this conundrum is that the titans will be fine as ever, and the genre will be ever less accessible to newcomers behind the scenes. If there's going to be a new competitor on the scene, it's going to be the long-awaited Halo Infinite BR - for no reason other than its recognisability. We can't sit here crossing our fingers that any game will be able to come out of the blue to take on the likes of Fortnite and Apex Legends, because the chances of that dream coming to life are infinitesimally slim.
The battle royale may have exhausted itself creatively - but that doesn't mean it's going away. Fortnite is too whopping a title to simply fizzle away, but there's a fair chance that the landscape of battle royales that we know now will be the landscape of battle royales for many years to come. I hope you like it now, because it's not about to go away any time soon.