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The games industry is largely built on taking what came before and improving or iterating on it.

Battle royale is the latest trend that’s been sweeping across the games industry. In most examples of the growing genre, 100 players are dropped into a zone where they must find loot and kill each other off solo or as a squad as the size of the map gradually shrinks. Though PUBG is the game that really kicked things off when it was released in Steam Early Access last year, it’s since been aped by Epic’s Fortnite Battle Royale, a game that has gradually become a juggernaut in its own right. While everyone was quick to write Fortnite off as a shameless copycat, it’s very quickly proven to be its own thing, striking a particular chord with gamers after it went free to play. It’s even managed to get celebrities like Drake to catch the fever.

Battle royale catching on in the AAA games space may be a good thing.

Despite PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite having some sort of pedigree – Microsoft published the Xbox One version of the former, and Epic, prior to Fortnite, is best known for Gears of War and Unreal Tournament – the battle royale trend hasn’t really hit the AAA games space, but it looks like that tune will be changing later this year. According to recent reports, both Battlefield V and Call of Duty: Black Ops IV will be trying their hands at a battle royale mode when they launch this year, though maybe not at the same time. DICE has only recently begun to prototype what a battle royale mode would look like for Battlefield to hit the game at a later date, while Call of Duty will supposedly have the mode at launch in exchange for the “traditional single player” not being ready for the game’s mid-October arrival.

The games industry is largely built on taking what came before and improving or iterating on it.

While it’s easy to despair about how quickly the AAA games industry is jumping onto this bandwagon, it’s not entirely new. Following the debut of horde mode in 2008’s Gears of War 2, multiple shooters had some version of it in the years following. Darksiders and the new God of War rather openly copied the Metroidvania method and Sleeping Dogs and the Middle-Earth games copied the combat style of the Arkham series. The games industry is by and large built on taking what came before and improving or iterating on it, and that will never really change.

In the case of battle royale specifically catching on in the AAA games space, it may be a good thing, as it’s possibly the easiest thing to emulate and put a unique spin on. The problem with mimicking a horde mode or a Metroidvania is that it can become easy to expect what comes next; play enough Metroidvania games, and you’ll see what locked area corresponds with what future item you’ll receive, and so on. But battle royale is more flexible in that its stylings and fun can be dependent on game to game.

There needs to be tangible differences made to battle royale that make it worth playing.

Fortnite Battle Royale took off in part because it let players build on the fly so they could protect themselves from incoming attacks and gain higher ground to pick off foes and stave off the inevitable. Call of Duty and Battlefield are both shooters, sure, but they’ve been their own beasts for quite some time now. A Call of Duty-style battle royale mode with the verticality of Black Ops III and that series’ wild perks or Specialist abilities has the potential to add more fast-paced madness to the proceedings. With Bioware’s Anthem due out next year, it makes sense for EA to use Battlefield as a test to see how players will take to it in a more unproven IP. Similarly, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if Microsoft decided to have the respective developers of Crackdown 3 and Halo shoot for a mode as well, each with their own spin. The idea of 100 superpowered cops in Crackdown blasting each other and flying around frankly sounds like too good of an opportunity for Microsoft to pass up. Even outside of those two franchises, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility if something battle royale-like was being cooked up for Sea of Thieves.

The games industry is going to keep chasing after what’s popular, and battle royale is currently on everyone’s mind. It isn’t for every game, obviously; you wouldn’t say that it would be able to work in an Overwatch or Splatoon. But as Radical Heights has shown us, there needs to be genuine and tangible differences made to the mode that make it worth playing. It’s a mode in its youth, and there’s more than enough time for developers to figure out which franchises actually work with it rather than just slapping it onto anything with a hefty name. Unlike the mode itself, this doesn’t necessarily have to be one against everyone.

Justin is a freelance writer in living in Kansas City and eating too many Frostys. You can find him on Twitter @GigawattConduit.



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