Although the battle royale concept has existed in one form or another since the late 1990s, it wasn’t until the release of The Hunger Games movie in 2012 that the genre really picked up steam in the gaming community.
After the release of that film, modders created a server plug-in for the hit game Minecraft
called Survival Games
. The format then took off when Fortnite Battle Royale
and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
(PUBG) were released and millions of players entered the fight to be the last person (or team) standing.
The concept is quite simple: players compete for resources, attack each other with acquired guns and ammo, and set out to eliminate everyone else from the arena. Once a player is eliminated, they typically cannot respawn (there are exceptions in certain games) and need to jump into a new match. If you’re the last one standing, you’re the victor.
Both games, along with more recent entries into the genre like Apex Legends, have tens of millions of players active at any one time. Let’s now take a look at exactly what has made these games so popular and why they’re here to stay.
Why is Fortnite so popular?
1. Unpredictable gameplay
One of the biggest draws to games like Fortnite
is the opportunity to create viral moments and experience adventures with your friends. Given the format, players spend a significant amount of time traversing the arena before encountering other players. Those interactions can be as simple as two players going for the same gun at the same time, or as complex as an all-out firefight between 10 different players.
2. Easily shareable
Regardless of the circumstances, this style of gameplay offers endless replay value and is also easily shareable. Celebrities like Drake and professional streamer Ninja
have achieved record-setting streaming numbers when playing Fortnite online for their respective audiences on Twitch. With up to 100 people participating in each round, there are infinite opportunities to create and recount the moments you experience in every game because you never know how it’s going to end.
3. Intuitive design
Fortnite’s intuitive design is also a key reason why it has become a cultural phenomenon. Because of how the game is structured, every kill feels satisfying and defeated players often drop a great variety of loot that can be used in the ensuing moments.
The maps are big and the areas are varied. Plus, the weapons are cleverly designed, allowing players to use different gadgets and weapons can be used in a number of variations. Players can also specialize in different combat, such as sniping or close-quarters fighting.
4. Visual appeal
The world of Fortnite is very cartoonish, and the character designs are visually appealing to gamers of all ages. Also, because it’s a third-person shooter, you can always see your own character’s design, which makes customization a big bonus.
Unlike PUBG and other battle royale games, this game doesn’t take itself seriously. That also means there’s a complete lack of gore and blood, which makes it easy for parents and their kids to play together. You can’t really say the same for more visually realistic shooters like Call of Duty or Battlefield.
PUBG vs Fortnite
5. Price of entry
The biggest difference between the two is that PUBG is not free to play. It retails for $30 on Steam and other digital download platforms, though it is free for smartphone gamers. Fortnite is free regardless of platform.
6. Visuals and gameplay style
Unlike its cartoony competition, PUBG is not for the faint of heart. It features a much more realistic environment, and has a more hardcore player base. It is ultimately less forgiving than Fortnite as well, which means beginners will experience a steeper learning curve. Also, you can play PUBG in first or third-person mode, while Fortnite is strictly third-person.
For those who like to take their time, PUBG is also a lot slower-paced, too. Players typically start the match farther apart on the multiple maps that the game offers, and the guns and ammo are a bit sparser in comparison.
Even so, it’s worth pointing out that PUBG is a shooter only whereas Fortnite incorporates building elements into the gameplay. As a result, the skill ceiling can feel rather high in Fortnite when you’re just starting out and encountering someone who builds a giant fort in front of you in seconds.
7. Vastly different origins and updates
Created by Brenden Greene, aka PLAYERUNKNOWN, PUBG started as a mod for ARMA 2, a military shooter released in 2009. Inspired by the Japanese film Battle Royale, Greene set out to create a mod that simulated the movie’s sensibilities while also freshening up the world of competitive shooters.
As a result, Greene ended up as a pioneer of the battle royale genre and even worked with Sony to develop the idea further. Greene eventually left Sony, however, and created his own company to work on PUBG.
The result is that PUBG has a much more independent feel than Fortnite, and it has a much smaller development team. Fortnite is developed by Epic Games, a large studio that also created the Gears of War and Unreal franchises and has the resources to create frequent updates. On the other hand, PUBG is only updated periodically and known for having more bugs and glitches.
8. Customization options
In terms of personalization, PUBG simply offers more opportunities to create your own character. You can change both their appearance and the equipment they carry, allowing for a deeper level of immersion.
You can customize many elements of Fortnite as well, but you’re doing so with preset character model skins that need to be purchased or unlocked. You can then pair them with cosmetics and wearables like gliders, backpacks, hats, and companion creatures.
Other popular battle royale games
Fortnite and PUBG are the most well-known games in the battle royale genre, but there are several other titles that are gaining steam and watching their playerbase grow.
is a free-to-play battle royale game available on PC, Xbox One, and PS4. It was created by Respawn Entertainment, the company behind the first-person/mech series Titanfall
, and it’s considered by many as a worthy competitor in the genre. Boasting more than 50 million players in its first month of launch, Apex Legends
is played exclusively in fireteams of 3 with a maximum of 60 players in each match.
Similar to other battle royale titles, Apex Legends has players traverse the map to arm themselves, but it follows the hero shooter format. This means that each of its 10 heroes - as of this writing, because new heroes are added every few months - serve specific roles on the fireteam, such as offense, defense, support, and recon. This adds a level of depth to the genre not seen in other games, and also forces teams to work together to defeat enemy teams and collect their loot.
Apex Legends also features a pinging system that allows members of a team to point out loot or enemy combatants without communicating via their microphones. This system has proven to be so popular that Fortnite even adopted it.
Call of Duty 4: Black Ops Blackout
Like its mainstay franchise, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
’s Blackout mode combines battle royale gameplay, the series’ signature gunplay, and features from the standard multiplayer mode like sentry turrets. Pairing those features with the battle royale genre has helped the game gain popularity outside of typical fans of the Call of Duty
franchise. Additionally, Blackout
drops down all of the franchise’s iconic weapons as loot for players to pick up, including the Swat RTF assault rifle and the S6 Stingray, giving it a unique flavor that keeps players coming back for more.
Battlefield V - Battlestorm
EA made significant efforts to reimagine the battle royale genre for its longtime Battlefield
franchise. Like other entries in the series, Battlefield V
features varying multiplayer modes to enjoy, but the big draw is the battle royale mode, known as Battlestorm
. It allows up to 64 players in squads of 4 to compete, and it features iconic vehicles from the franchise. Additionally, Battlestorm
has objectives similar to the game’s Conquest mode, which differentiates it from the stricter kill-or-be-killed model that battle royale games generally follow.
There are many reasons why the battle royale genre has proven to be so popular in the last few years. Games like Fortnite Battle Royale are at the forefront of gaming primarily because they’ve made such a huge cultural splash. They also provide an endless replay value, because each match is different than the last.
While some gamers haven’t tried the genre or simply don’t like it, there’s no arguing against the fact that it’s here to stay. The same goes for some of the bigger games, especially PUBG and Fortnite, both of which have become incredibly popular on mobile devices.