For the past 20 odd years, I have had the pleasure of playing some great multiplayer games that have been enthralling. Doom and Doom 2 dominated much of my multiplayer gaming time prior to Quake appearing shortly after. They were fast and exciting in a time when gamers were only just starting to get a feel for competitive gaming. There have been strategy games such as StarCraft or Red Alert, which I still go back to from time to time, that still prove challenging. With battle royale now all the rage we could be seeing the multiplayer landscape slowly but surely changing but is it for the better?
When H1Z1 and PUBG started to gather some momentum they never appealed to me, the thought of running around a map trying to kill others with only one life did not appeal, although sales figures for the genre prove that I am definitely in the minority.
Then came Fortnite, a game that was not doing very well until Epic added their free to play battle royale mode. It’s become a phenomenon and I am still trying to understand why. Sure, it’s got the building aspect which PUBG doesn’t have, but it’s effectively the same game when you break it down. Last man standing wins as the map shrinks.
Who is the battle royale Audience?
For the record, I am an older gamer as if you hadn’t guessed from my first paragraph, and I’ll admit I’m finding this trend for battle royale quite frustrating. The younger gaming audience has embraced the genre en masse providing healthy profits for developers who continue to churn out cosmetics and shiny new loot. It’s almost as if they don’t have to try anymore and other developers are now trying their best to take a slice of the cash pie while they still can.
When I break it down to the basics, the battle royale genre is simply deathmatch without respawning. When you die you hit the exit key and start a new game then do it all over again for the next ten to fifteen minutes. It‘s as if the genre has been created to cater for gamers with an extremely short attention span. Fortnite goes one step further making it cartoony and full of bright colours so it’s hard not to conclude that it’s the young gaming audience they are trying to attract, the gamers that generally are more open to microtransactions.
Battle royale won’t be going away any time soon as long as there’s cash to be made from microtransactions and that’s part of the problem. It’s a cracking business model and it reminds me a little of what Blizzard did with World of Warcraft in the later years when all kinds of pets and mounts were put up for sale. I remember logging back into WoW after a few years break only to discover it looked like a sweet factory had exploded in Orgrimmar with weird coloured stuff floating around and, well, I logged straight back out. Blizzard had obviously moved on to a new audience.
There’s nothing wrong with catering to a younger audience, but as more developers follow suit, multiplayer could get a lot less interesting. I’m not talking about games that are battle royale only such as Fornite or PUBG, it’s developers who are now adding it to games that don’t necessarily need it. Look at BLOPS 4, even that is getting battle royale and no doubt Battlefield V will have it as well at some point based on what we know about the game so far. The big AAA publishers are playing catch-up with Fortnite and PUBG, a fact that’s not gone unnoticed by financial analysts who continually mention it prior to quarterly filings which applies pressure on publishers for even more battle royale. What is worrying is that mutliplayer modes that gamers such as myself might enjoy that require more thought and real teamplay could be scrapped in favour of battle royale and a quick cash-in.
Then there’s the constant need for progression and leveling up. Why do players feel they have to be continually rewarded for playing? I understand why the developers add progressions, it creates a sense of achievement, Blizzard are masters at this, but it’s not always necessary.
When I was playing Quake Wars: Enemy Territory daily for about a year I never once thought I needed to have loot crate rewards at the end of a match or have a bar move up a notch which would effectively be saying “thanks for playing”. The enjoyment of the gameplay was rewarding enough to keep me coming back for more. It’s more of this type of gameplay I want to see and not the constant need to restart a new game or badgering to buy and unlock stuff that you find in some games, even if they are punting purely cosmetic items.
Jumping on the hype train
It’s frustrating watching developers attempt to jump on the battle royale hype train in the hope of raking in the profits if their game hits the big time. I’ve had so much enjoyment from games such as Quake Wars: Enemy Territory, (which I could play for hours), or even more recently Paragon which Epic scrapped in favour of Fortnite. In hindsight though, the scrapping of Paragon was probably the right business decision for Epic because they had already royally screwed up Paragon. Now developers are trying to shoehorn in a battle royale mode at the expense of trying something new and that is disappointing.
Here are just a few titles that are set to release as either completely new stand-alone battle royale games or with an added battle royale game mode and we are only in May.
Upcoming Battle Royale Games
- Battlerite Royale
- Maverick Proving grounds
- Proxima Royale
- Paladin Battlegrounds
- Dying Light Bad Blood
- Europa (China)
- Fear the Wolves
- Fractured Lands
- Islands of Nyne
- Trove’s Bomber Royale
- COD: BLOPS 4
Game modes in videogames have been recycled for years but this current battle royale trend feels different because there have been two colossal sellers based solely on this multiplayer mode alone. PUBG pulled players into battle royale in huge numbers and Fornite managed to catch a wave, it was a case of right place, right time. Fortnite is sparkly and harmless enough for younger teens to play and Epic can cash-in by selling outfits and emotes.
Do we really need thousands of versions of this multiplayer model though? I’m not sure we do, especially not in games that don’t necessarily lend themselves to a battle royale mode. Why does Trove, Paladins, COD 4, and Battlerite need a battle royale mode? Simply put, they want to appeal to the gaming audience that’s spending all the money right now.
Perhaps we have reached a point in multiplayer gaming where we are simply out of ideas and it’s going to take one special game to shake things up again. A game that will make other developers try harder when it comes to multiplayer modes by creating something new or a real twist on an existing mode, much like PUBG did for battle royale. In the meantime, publishers and developers will scramble around hoping they can make a dent in Fortnite’s player numbers which is unlikely to happen.
For now, I will leave battle royale to the younger gamers and wait patiently for more innovation and modes that last generally longer than fifteen minutes. Let’s hope it happens sooner rather than later.