Today, two games stand upon two massive communities within the battle royale genre, PlayerUnknown’s Battleground (PUBG) and Fortnite. These two games are the ultimate culmination of a genre which had been developing for years, so how did we get here to begin with?
It’s hard to recall exactly where the idea of a battle royale game stemmed from. The first mainstream game to blend the random spawn locations, the frantic search for weapons, and the endless player versus player gameplay was the wildly successful mod for Arma 2, DayZ, released in 2012. During this period, PlayerUnkown (Brendan Greene) was even involved with some of the mods for DayZ and Arma 2/3. As production dragged on for DayZ, however, creators eventually capitalized on the delay to create their own versions.
More than a Mod
Ark: Survival Evolved (early access in 2014) replaced zombies with dinosaurs and gave players a persistent world where they could have their buildings remain, with Rust (2014) nixxing the npc elements and continuing in this direction as well. H1Z1 (2015) kept the zombies and focused more on shorter, faster games. Eventually, games began to leave the zombies (and dinosaurs) behind with games like The Culling (2016). The Culling focused on primitive weapons, where guns were infrequent and often saved for the end game, and gave players a fairly robust perk and crafting system. Unfortunately, The Culling was mired in development issues as the game was tinkered with so frequently that players could rarely enjoy the game without it being changed a few weeks later.
New Game, Old Name
When PUBG released in 2017 none of the earlier battle royale games had quite managed to develop the pace and pattern of gameplay which now seems so intrinsic to the format. It exploded in popularity and rapidly became the most played game on Steam. In January of 2018, PUBG peaked at 3,326,027 active players, a record which still stands as the most players playing one game at any given period on SteamCharts.
Will Fortnite be just another Battle Royale game?
When Fortnite entered the market, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds already commanded the number one spot for battle royale games and seemed to be on the rise. But where others iterated in small steps, Fortnite felt like a more significant departure from its predecessors. Although similar in parts to PUBG, Fortnite’s emphasis on destruction/construction started as something which merely set it apart from other games, but as the community grew this aspect would become the central feature in its gameplay. In early 2018, construction rarely became more complex than simple towers and walls, but here in 2020 buildfighting is what sets good players apart from everyone else. Who knows where Fortnite will be in 2022.
Both Fortnite and PUBG have shown to have staying power, and while it may seem like they are competitors they actually fit different niches. I fully expect both of these games to stick around for a while, either as they are or as some version of themselves, for a long time.