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Gaming’s Newest Trend: The Rise of the “Battle Royale” Genre

I remember receiving a movie recommendation when I was either a freshman or sophomore in college as a buddy of mine was talking about foreign films that he really, really loved and he mentioned “Battle Royale.” Having never heard of it but definitely intrigued by his description of it, I went out of my way to check it out and I’m glad I did because it’s awesome. The film revolves around a group of junior high school students forced by the Japanese government to fight to the death. Wearing collars rigged to explode if they are uncooperative or manage to end up in a daily “danger zone” they receive “supplies” and are sent out onto the island to begin killing each other off. The supplies are food, water, a map, compass, and a random weapon. And that’s it. The movie is violent, bloody, and has an interesting plot. It has since become a cult classic and that’s where others began to take notice.

Like any great idea, stealing the core concept and modifying it enough to try and pass off your own version of it isn’t something new. Until recently, the most shameless ripoff of Battle Royale had to have been committed by Suzanne Collins, the author of The Hunger Games. Granted I have never read the books, but just by watching the first movie I immediately knew that she had “Vanilla Ice’d” Battle Royale. People who were oblivious/unaware of the amazing Japanese movie that Hunger Games ripped off were enthralled by the series leading to sales in the millions to tens (or even hundreds) of millions depending on the source. As one of the lucky few, I was astonished that such a blatant thievery could occur. But I wasn’t the only one making the connection. However, despite this, if we go even further we can make a loose connection between Battle Royale and the late 80’s Arnold Schwarzenegger movie The Running Man. So copycats and similarities are bound to occur throughout time. It’s inevitable. Like death or taxes.

The smash hit and arguably most popular “Battle Royale” game.

How does this tie-in to video games you ask? Enter PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (or PUBG as it has been come to be known) to the gaming landscape. While not the first in the genre, it definitely popularized the “genre” as we have come to determine. Virtually overnight the game became a massive hit selling millions in a short time span while still being in “early access” on steam. How similar is it to Battle Royale? In this game, 100 players jump out of a moving plane, parachuting to the ground below where they have to scavenge weapons, armor, healing supplies, etc. The objective is to kill or be killed with the last person standing being declared the winner of a “chicken dinner” no less and receiving in-game currency. If that isn’t enough to convince you, here’s the actual wikipedia entry on the subject:

A battle royale game, also spelled battle royal, is a video game genre that blends the survival, exploration and scavenging elements of a survival game with last man standing gameplay. Battle royale games challenge a large number of players, starting with minimal equipment, to search for weapons and armor and eliminate other opponents all while avoiding being trapped outside of a shrinking “safe area”, with the winner being the last competitor in the game. The name for the genre is taken from the 2000 Japanese film Battle Royale.

And there we go. End of story right? Well, depending on how you look at it this is either the beginning of something wonderful or the rise of something annoying. PUBG’s success has obviously inspired a lot of people to try and get a slice of that sweet battle royale genre pie. The first being Epic Game’s Fortnite, which launched its own BR mode (for free) and managed to beat PUBG to consoles. This was a hugely successful move for Epic, even if it did result in them deciding to shut down one of their other games to focus on Fornite Battle Royale‘s development.


The heir apparent to the throne. RIP Paragon.


But even with the successful “copy of a copy of a copy” the landscape is only looking to get even more crowded for the BR genre.

Games that are currently in development that are attempting to put their own spin on the genre:

The “Director” mode also sounds like the movie, “Cabin in the Woods”

The Darwin Project: this game only has 10 players fighting for survival but is closer to the Battle Royale film than potentially any of the others because it introduces an actual “director” to the action. I played a bit of the closed beta and it was fun. Hard to say at this point if it will be able to carve out it’s own niche in the genre though. The thing it does have going for it is that the matches don’t last nearly as long due to the smaller amount of initial combatants.

notmycar: This game attempts to put a Twisted Metal-esque style spin on the genre by making it so you control a vehicle that drops out of a plane onto the map and you obtain weapons/resources and attempt to destroy the other players’ vehicles. I played a bit of the alpha and let’s just say that it has a bit of a ways to go before being a contender.

Fear the Wolves: Just announced, not much is known about this game other than the premise. “Fear the Wolves drops players, in squads or as lone wolves, into the oppressive environments of a radiation-ravaged Chernobyl. The classic Battle Royale mode forces them to fight to be the last man standing out of 100 fighters. Across the hostile wastes, everyone is threatened by deadly anomalies and the dynamically-changing weather. Along with a day-night cycle, this constantly forces survivors to adapt their strategies, and players can find protective gear that allows them to explore dangerous off-limit zones. All the while, the howls of mutated creatures echo through the wasteland..” To me, this would appear to be trying to blend both PUBG and Hunt: Showdown. An intriguing concept to say the least.

There are of course, some older BR genre games available to play right now such as H1Z1: king of the hill (recently renamed “Just Survive“), Last Man Standing, and The Culling. Just Survive is likely the most popular/widely known of these three but if you want to play a game in the genre you might as well go with PUBG. Just saying.

The explosion of the Battle Royale genre means that companies are able to compete…for now. However, with everyone trying to get a piece of the action it’s only a matter of time before games start to go too far off of the rails and we once again return to a lull in mostly player versus player focused games. I love co-operative games but maybe that’s just me mellowing out a bit as I get older. Regardless of your preference (or mine) we probably won’t see that lull for at least a few years though. So in the meantime, strap in and try to survive.