Games like PUBG and Warzone are becoming Fortnite, and that’s a problem.
To understand what the current battle royale market is like, you have to start with PUBG.
Of all the battle royale games flooding the video game market, I’ve always felt that PUBG Battlegrounds, formerly known as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, is the most grounded. Of course, the idea of 100 people parachuting from one island to another until one is still standing is inherently fantastical, but as the first of the current battle royale craze that launched in 2017, it always makes people feel It feels most realistic. There aren’t any Marvel skins, slime-firing guns, or amazing superpowers; it’s a simple shooter with little to no frills other than some cool clothes and a brutal frying pan melee weapon.
However, the original was shelved as more and more games tried to incorporate what PUBG had to offer. The brand is not a failure by any means. PUBG still has thousands of concurrent players on Steam on any given day, according to SteamDB, while PUBG Mobile, the mobile port of Android and iOS, has recently surpassed $7 billion in player spending, according to Sensor Tower It became the second highest-selling mobile game worldwide. As of July 2021, it was the highest-grossing mobile game of the year. Now that PUBG Mobile has transitioned to free mode, we expect the player base to get bigger.
Even so, it hasn’t gotten as much attention in the West as Fortnite, Call of Duty: Warzone, and Apex Legends. That’s why when I looked at what PUBG Mobile was doing lately, I was surprised to see that it became like Fornite, one of its main competitors. This is further cemented by PUBG Battlegrounds’ transition to free mode this month.
This makes sense if you think about it. Fortnite occupies nearly every space it’s in, has a massive player base, is a sales machine, and has the ability to attract huge talents like Marshmello and Ariana Grande to in-game concerts. It is no longer just a game, but a huge cultural giant. If you’re struggling to attract players, why not choose what works?
PUBG has also strayed from its roots of purchases and limited-time events.
Microtransactions in the form of optional cosmetics have been a popular way to make money from games on live streaming services. While PUBG starts with this model, it’s not as powerful as Fortnite, but that’s fine because the first PUBG isn’t a free-to-play game. PUBG Mobile has long used a battle pass model (like many other mobile games) over time, but it has gotten more complicated over time. Not only does the game have both free and premium tiers, it also has several optional tiers, one of which lets you track your playtime to gain experience, and the other, called the RP EZ Quest License, which lets you add more weekly Task.
With the free-to-play PUBG Battlegrounds, the progression model has changed. Every player has a base account, but a one-time upgrade called Battlegrounds Plus will cost $12.99 and will unlock features like ranked mode and creating custom matches.
PUBG has also strayed from its roots of purchases and limited-time events that feature not only more cartoon skins and outfits, but also crossover items. Just recently, PUBG Mobile partnered with Riot Games to bring arcane characters and items to the game, and hosted a Spider-Man: Homeless crossover event with Sony. Considering that Fortnite also collaborated with Spider-Man on the film’s release, the comparison is inevitable.
Multiverses collide 💥, new faces appear on the battlefield! 😲
Be sure to greet your friendly neighbor Spider-Man™ 🕸️
Spider-Man: Nowhere to Go, now in theaters only!#PUBGMOBILE #Spiderman #SpiderManNoWayHome #PUBGMXSpiderManNoWayHome pic.twitter.com/ss9wm4qpe4
— PUBG MOBILE (@PUBGMOBILE) January 17, 2022
While researching for this article, I realized that PUBG’s strategy changes are more extreme than I originally thought. What’s even more eye-opening is that this isn’t just a PUBG phenomenon. Call of Duty announced earlier this month that it would bring DLC based on the popular anime Attack on Titan to Vanguard and Warzone. During Halloween 2021, the series is selling a Ghostface bundle as part of the new Scream movie sponsorship. Crossover events are nothing new to Call of Duty (for example, Elvira is an unlockable character in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare), but they’ve definitely increased over the past few years, like Rambo And characters like Judge Dredd are playable in some games. As another example, the popular mobile battle royale called Free Fire just recently announced the Assassin’s Creed crossover.
You can’t blame PUBG for tweaking the Fortnite model in its games, especially since it’s proven successful time and time again.
It seems a lot of developers are trying to build on Fortnite’s success, whether it’s moving to a free-to-play mode with premium battle pass options or selling microtransactions using its history of more kid-friendly, brand-focused events and crossovers. Mark Zuckerberg’s appeal to the Metaverse encourages other companies to get involved, something Epic Games has already partnered with Fortnite. Its world of media crossovers, in-game events, and problematic exhibits has built a space where players can gather and interact, not just games. Whether we like it or not, Fortnite has been a trendsetter for years and will continue to be.
You can’t blame PUBG for tweaking the Fortnite model in its games, especially since it’s proven successful time and time again. Fortnite is no longer available on mobile due to some high-profile delistings and subsequent lawsuits (though you can now use NVIDIA GeForce as a workaround), but it still made over $9 billion in its first two years. I just wonder how this consistency affects the product itself.
All the small differences between battle royale, whether on traditional or mobile platforms, continue to exist and attract players, but this uniformity dilutes the market and doesn’t give players a lot of choice in what game to play. Fortnite’s biggest differentiator is its more colorful aesthetic and penchant for ridiculous games and skins, but when all of its competitors adopt similar ideas, what’s left for players, and likewise, the game as a whole? All games with similar aesthetics and pay-to-play models, along with their already-familiar gameplay, can stifle innovation in new games and stagnate the genre. While you can play PUBG Mobile on just about any great Android phone these days, it’s still fading away.
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