The Battle Royale Genre Is Going Mainstream, And It’s Getting Boring

The battle royale genre is a veritable wildfire.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

The battle royale genre is a veritable wildfire. There’s no other way to describe it, and nearly everyone and their grandmother is hopping onto the bandwagon. PlayerUnknown’s Battleground popularized it, Fortnite made it a phenomenon, and now major game franchises are incorporating it into their newest titles. 

It doesn’t seem like it might be losing steam either. Fortnite launched in South Korea (a country known for its strong gaming culture and dominance in esports) early in November, and Epic Games Korea even stated that the game now has an eye-watering 8.3 million concurrent players worldwide. To put things in perspective, Fortnite’s previous peak was 3.4 million concurrent players way back in February. 

Despite all that, I can’t help but feel like the genre is getting a little bit stale, the inadvertent victim of its own success. Both Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 and Battlefield V have their own battle royale modes, termed Blackout and Firestorm respectively. Few games are more representative of the so-called mainstream in the first-person shooter genre, and the fact that they’re both getting on board is pretty telling. 

Battle royale games are no longer novel. They’re no longer a fringe, upstart genre with the luster of something new and great. Not with 8.3 million concurrent players on Fortnite, and certainly not with COD and Battlefield on board. 

The genre has officially entered the mainstream, an inevitable fact given how players have flocked to it. At first glance, it’s difficult to see how this could be a bad thing. A massive player base and more developers catching on are certainly felicitous tidings. But the thing to remember is that the genre isn’t a stakeholder in and of itself. 

The stakeholders are developers like Epic Games, and recent developments only translate into more competition for everyone. That’s great news for you, the player, since you get so much more choice. But everything is starting to feel like everything else. Blackout feels a lot like PUBG and I don’t see Firestorm being a whole lot different, even if it does introduce some new game mechanics. 

The space is too crowded by the big players now, and there doesn’t seem to be any room for something like Realm Royale, which actually feels pretty unique, to take hold. Just as how no one expects a new Counter Strike or COD to take the community by storm, I think we’ve pretty much seen the best that the battle royale genre has to offer at this point. 2019 will be the year of something else.