Published on June 27th, 2019 | by gareth1
Are Battle Royale Games Declining In Popularity in 2019?
Special Content by Katie Greene
Battle royale games have been one of the most popular and lucrative video game genres in recent years. In fact, Business Insider projected that the battle royale genre would become a $20 billion dollar industry in 2019. And while it’s impossible to deny the success of battle royale games, one can’t help but wonder if they’ve reached a peak, and will actually start a decline.
In this article, we’re going to present some statistics that make a case for the battle royale genre declining in popularity, rather than rising, and what the causes may be.
Battle Royale player base on the decline
When Apex Legends was released earlier this year, it quickly became the most hyped game of 2019. Apex Legends overtook all other games, including PUBG and Fortnite, similar battle royale games, to become the #1 most watched and streamed game on the Twitch platform. This was in part thanks to some guerrilla marketing from Epic Games.
This hype lasted for around a month, at which point Apex Legends started to decline, and now it sits at the #12 spot on Twitch’s most watched games. In short, Apex Legends managed to go viral, but it didn’t stay viral. 2 million concurrent players at launch is impressive, but games go viral all the time. Google Feud has been played nearly a billion times by over 30 million players. I can name dozens of viral games over the years like Flappy Bird, Happy Glass (click here to play), Slither.IO – and the amazing thing is, most of them don’t have a professional development team behind them.
So Apex Legends was a flash in the pan, and Fortnite reclaimed the #1 spot, while PUBG sits at #9. You might think, Fortnite being #1 means something for the battle royale genre, but Fortnite is just one game by itself. The most watched games list on Twitch is woefully absent of battle royale titles, aside from Fortnite and PUBG.
According to this chart, mentions of Fortnite and PUBG on social media had been steadily declining throughout 2018.
When Apex Legends was released, it sent a surge of Fortnite and PUBG players to try out this new game, but battle royale players have been trickling back to Fortnite and PUBG. This shows that people wanted a fresh and unique battle royale experience, and were ready to leave Fortnite and PUBG en masse – but Apex Legends was full of disappointing patches and updates, which sent battle royale fans begrudgingly back to the solid choices (which, as mentioned, they’ve already grown tired of).
This is indicative of a lack of stimulation in the battle royale market. When people are ready to leave the reigning titles in search of something new, but return because there’s nothing really new available, it’s evidence of a decline in the genre, not the opposite.
Battle royale clone city
One of the problems with the genre is the sheer amount of clones, and battle royale mode being added to games as an afterthought. Games like Battlefield V, GTA Online, Call of Duty, and Paladins have added battle royale modes to their games, but this breathes nothing new into the genre itself, it is merely fan service.
The number of true battle royale games released in recent times is immense, but how many can you name off the top of your head that aren’t Fortnite, PUBG, Apex Legends, or Z1? Even a quick glance at Steam’s “most popular / top selling” battle royale games shows very to choose from, mostly early access games from indie developers.
Almost no AAA developers have released battle royale exclusive games, and it’s probably for good reason – they see this as passing hype, similar to the zombie genre of several years ago (yes, Left 4 Dead was very successful).
The future of the battle royale genre
It’s highly unlikely the top titles mentioned above will be disappearing any time soon. Counter Strike: Global Offensive is nearly 7 years old, but still enjoys a massive playerbase. But as far as the battle royale genre becoming a $20 billion USD market, it’s hard to imagine, without a sudden influx of new titles that stimulate competition in the industry. So far, that doesn’t seem to be on the horizon.
We could be totally wrong. The battle royale genre could suddenly become the most dominant game genre in 2020, beating out MOBAs. But statistics don’t lie, and neither do declining player bases. We are, of course, focusing on the PC player base of battle royale games. They have been enjoying great success on mobile platforms.