Is the Battle Royale genre dominated by PUBG?

Polygon has reported that Bluehole, the developer behind PUBG, has released a press release that would suggest that the PUBG Corp., a subsidiary of Bluehole, and Bluehole themselves feel slighted by Epic Games, due to the release of their battle royale mode in Fortnite.

There are two things that seem to have upset Bluehole and PUBG Corp. First, a lack of advanced notice - since PUBG uses Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, it looks like they were expecting a little more than learning the news from a public press statement from Epic. Second, Bluehole feels there is a concerning amount of mechanical similarities between PUBG and the Fortnite battle royale mode.

Commenting on the first issue, Chang Han-Kim, a producer at Bluehole, noted the relationship between PUBG and Epic Games in a press release. “We’ve had an ongoing relationship with Epic Games throughout PUBG’s development as they are the creators of UE4, the engine we licensed for the game.” He also noted that while Epic Games refers to PUBG in their battle royale announcement trailer, Bluehole and PUBG Corp. were still never given any prior notice.

However, it seems that Bluehole’s feelings of mechanical similarities was what most grinded their gears. “After listening to the growing feedback from our community and reviewing the gameplay for ourselves, we are concerned that Fortnite may be replicating the experience for which PUBG is known.” A statement in a Reddit AMA from the original ARMA-modder who started PUBG, Brendan Greene, which reinforces Han-Kim's feelings. “Other companies will, of course, enter the marketplace,” Greene said. “But I would just hope they put their own spin on the game mode and not just make a carbon copy!”

While PUBG is keeping the battle royale genre at the front of mainstream gaming, It’s hard to sympathize with their claims of having another game be too mechanically similar when the genre has been around before PUBG. Similarly, many would agree that, while PUBG is very popular, however, as many are quick to point out, PUBG is somewhat of a “carbon copy” as well, to use Greene’s phrase.

PUBG is what happens when a modder gets extreme attention. Much like the DayZ mod, PUBG started out on the ARMA engine before later getting picked up by a publisher and developer. In fact, the success of the DayZ mod arguably paved the way for the success of the PUBG mod. The two games, at a base level, are arguably the exact same. One just has zombies for added shock value. Strip the game of zombies and add more guns, and you get PUBG.

Even before DayZ another game known as The Culling kept the battle royale genre afloat. The Culling - which also ran on the Unreal Engine - was similar, forcing players to be the last one standing on an island to win. The game even had occasional item drops, and a “play area” consisting of a circular wall of god-knows-what that shrinks and threatens your survival, pushing you closer to other players. The game even includes a feature PUBG lacks: crafting. From weapons to bandages to even traps players are able to craft whatever they need and was one of the game's biggest draw-ins. Unfortunately for The Culling, the game has been nearly abandoned by players. For those interested in trying to find players, taking to Reddit might be the best option.

Fortnite’s battle royale mode is perhaps more similar to The Culling than PUBG. Though the number of players available is higher at 100, it does feature a limited crafting and trap system - which stems from the base Fortnite game. Still, beneath the surface layer of features, is still the base game: parachute onto an island, play area shrink, defeat others to win. Rinse, repeat. Full discretion, PUBG itself has a bit of a crafting system, allowing you to upgrade your weapons with different modifications like scopes and extended magazines and the like. Though, nothing like Fortnite’s ability to craft stairs, floors, and walls.

One thing that differs heavily in Fortnite, however, is the introduction of exploding projectile weapons, like grenade and rocket launchers. Though rare, they do exist and can be a boon to a player. Also, Fortnite’s mode has introduced a bit of an RNG element, in that, weapons come with random stats. Each weapon has a minimum and maximum damage value that is calculated whenever you use it. This use of RNG been a point of contention for players, however, since luck plays a heavy role in your success in a firefight.

If you’d like a more in-depth look at Fortnite, check out EGF’s Josh Sharp. Josh writes more about the game, its gameplay, and reviews his thoughts on the game (link).

The fact of the matter is that the battle royale market is like any genre market. There should be little concern for a “carbon copy” because, like any genre, the games all stem from the same concept. Even the genre’s name itself is from another work, coming from the title of a Japanese novel and movie of the same name, in which students are forced to fight to the death with one another. The best way to make a battle royale game is to take what’s well known about the genre, like it’s last man standing idea, and make their own creative twists. This is something we already seen. The Culling has a low player count and crafting, while Fortnite is RNG and trap-based. It will be important, in the following years when more games of this genre will suddenly make their way onto the scene, as it is inevitable with popular mainstream games.