Fortnite fever consumed the battle royale market when we weren’t looking

To get an idea of ​​what the current battle royale market looks like, we have to start at the beginning with PUBG.

Of all the battle royales flooding the gaming market, I always felt like PUBG Battlegrounds, formerly known as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, was the most grounded. Sure, the idea of ​​100 people being dropped onto an island to get away with until one remains standing is inherently fantastic, but as the first of the current battle royale craze when it launched in 2017, it always seemed the most realistic. There were no Marvel skins, guns that fired mud, or incredible superpowers; it was a simple shooter with very few frills minus some cool clothes and a brutal frying pan melee weapon.

However, as more and more games sought to participate in what PUBG presented, the original fell by the wayside. The brand is by no means a failure. Battlegrounds still has thousands of concurrent players on Steam every day, according to SteamDB, and PUBG Mobile, the mobile port for Android and iOS, recently surpassed $7 billion in player spending, according to sensor tower, making it the second highest-grossing mobile title in the world. As of July 2021, it was the highest-grossing mobile game of the year. Now that PUBG Mobile has upgraded to a free pattern, we expect the player base to grow even further.

Even still, it doesn’t get as much press in the West as Fortnite, Call of Duty: Warzone, and Apex Legends. That’s why, when I looked at what PUBG Mobile has been doing lately, I was surprised to find that it has become just like Fornite, one of its main competitors. This was only cemented by PUBG Battlegrounds switching to a free model this month.

It makes sense if you think about it. Fortnite dominates nearly every space it finds itself in, has a gigantic player base, is a merchandising machine, and is able to attract huge talent like Marshmello and Ariana Grande to play in-game gigs. is no longer just a game, but a huge cultural juggernaut. If you’re working to attract players, why not choose what works?

PUBG has also strayed from its roots steeped in limited-time shopping and events.

Microtransactions in the form of optional cosmetics have been a popular way for live service games to make money. While PUBG started out with this model, it wasn’t as robust as it was in Fortnite, but that was fine because the first PUBG wasn’t free. Over time, PUBG Mobile has long used the battle pass model (like many other mobile titles), but it has become more complex over time. Instead of only having two layers – free and premium – the game has several optional layers, including one that lets you track minutes played for experience and another called RP EZ Mission License that lets you add more more weekly quests.

With PUBG Battlegrounds going free, the progression model has changed. Every player has a Basic account, but a one-time upgrade called Battlegrounds Plus will cost $12.99 and unlock features like ranked mode and the ability to create custom matches.

PUBG has also strayed from its entrenched roots in its limited-time purchases and events, which not only feature more cartoonish skins and outfits, but also crossover items. Just recently, PUBG Mobile partnered with Riot Games to bring Arcane characters and items to the game, as well as Sony for a Spider-Man: No Way Home crossover event. Considering Fortnite also had a Spider-Man collaboration for the film’s release, comparisons are inevitable.

While researching for this article, I realized that PUBG’s strategy change was even more extreme than I originally thought. Even more telling, this isn’t just a PUBG phenomenon. Call of Duty announced earlier this month that it would be bringing DLC ​​based on the popular Attack on Titan anime to Vanguard and Warzone. For Halloween 2021, the series sold a Ghostface pack as part of a sponsorship of the new Scream movie. Crossover events aren’t anything new for Call of Duty (Elvira, for example, was an unlockable character in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare), but they’ve certainly intensified over the past two years, with characters like Rambo and Judge Dredd being playable in some games. The popular mobile battle royale called Free Fire just recently announced an Assassin’s Creed crossover, as another example.

You can’t blame PUBG for adapting the Fortnite model across its games, especially since it’s proven itself time and time again.

It seems that many developers are trying to participate in Fortnite’s success, whether it’s upgrading to a free-to-play model with a premium battle pass option, or using its history of events and crossovers more suited to kids and brand oriented. to sell microtransactions. Mark Zuckerberg’s rallying cry for the Metaverse has encouraged other companies to get in on the action, something Epic Games has already done with Fortnite. Its world of media crossovers, in-game events, and questionable exposures has built a space for players to congregate and interact beyond games. Whether we like it or not, Fortnite has been a pioneer for many years and will continue to be.

You can’t blame PUBG for adapting the Fortnite model across its games, especially since it’s proven itself time and time again. Fortnite is no longer readily available on mobile thanks to some high profile takedowns and subsequent lawsuits (although you can use NVIDIA GeForce now as a workaround), but it still did more than $9 billion in its first two years alone. I just wonder how this compliance impacts the products themselves.

Small differences between all battle royales, whether on traditional or mobile platforms, continue to exist and attract players, but this uniformity dilutes the market and does not give players much choice in the games they want to play. are playing. Fortnite’s big differentiator has always been its more colorful aesthetic and penchant for absurd gameplay and skins, but when all of its competitors embrace similar ideas, what’s left for players and, similarly, games in their whole ? Any games adopting similar aesthetics and paid models with their already familiar gameplay can potentially stifle innovation among newer games and keep the genre stagnant. Although you can play PUBG Mobile on just about any great Android phone these days, it keeps on fading.

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