The Trends We Hope Battle Royale Games Adopt In 2020 And Beyond
Battle royale games are still among the most popular, so what's next for the genre this year?
Love them or hate them, battle royale games are big right now. Fortnite, Apex Legends, and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds are some of the most-played games out there, and they've inspired developers for popular franchises to jump on the craze and implement battle royale modes into their own multiplayer-based shooters (like Treyarch putting Blackout into Call of Duty: Black Ops 4). And with rumors brewing that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is getting a standalone BR mode--something which may somehow also tie into 2020's Call of Duty game, it certainly looks like the genre is here to stay.
But what can we expect from battle royale games in 2020? It's a new year, and that means there's gotta be innovations and experiences on the way, right? Whether it's Activision paving the way with whatever these rumors are around a new CoD battle royale, or a new contender introducing a flurry of new mechanics we didn't know we wanted until now, 2020 could potentially be another exciting year for BR games. Still, we can't help but dream and wonder about all the specific things we hope will happen.
Below you can find everything that the GameSpot team wants to see in a new BR game in 2020. We detail what we want to see change about certain aspects of the genre at large, its various modes, and the customization options in between. You'll notice that some of our points are in opposition to one other, but these are the individual opinions of those on the team and we each share different views on how battle royale should evolve and change. What do you want to see in a new battle royale game in 2020? Don't hesitate to shout your thoughts and feelings out in the comments section!
Battle Royale Needs Better Storytelling
While battle royale games are all about the combat, there are periods where developers spice things up with in-world events and storylines that play out on the battlefield. With new trailers and ominous blog posts hinting at a growing story, it drives players to jump back into the fray to uncover bits of passive storytelling to piece together a deeper message. It can be a fun exercise in worldbuilding, and seeing more developers take the premise of the nonsensical battle royale set-up seriously is certainly fun. However, there's a big problem I have with trying to enjoy these moments. This is all happening in a massive deathmatch where EVERYONE is waiting for the chance to snipe opponents who are distracted by static clues left on a wall.
To put it plainly, the very conceit of battle royale gets in the way of the larger storytelling. While I appreciate the efforts devs make in trying to get their story across--I really do--there needs to be a better way of getting it across in a BR game. I can only imagine the number of kills someone got from distracted players trying to soak up the story, which likely leaves the deceased players frustrated for wasting their time. So far, Fortnite has been the model that games like PUBG and Apex Legends follow. While Epic Games leverages social media and livestreams to draw people into the game, frequently, the payoff can feel diminished when you're stuck in the blitz of the free-for-all. What I would really like to see is for games to play more with the concept of the BR game type, keeping players more in the moment, while also drawing their eye to the larger story that's in motion.
I would love to have more dynamic moments of storytelling during a good match of Fortnite or PUBG where the game itself somehow challenges me to question why exactly am I here, and why am I engaging in this brutal combat for ultimately nothing. I haven't quite felt this sensation yet in a BR game, even when games like Fortnite embrace how self-aware it is with their dimension-hopping antics with guest appearances like Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars. Apex Legends seems to be onto something though with its recent event focusing on Revenant, which didn't focus too much on static details and more on subverting expectations from what the fans expected. Still, I hope that the storytelling in BR games will see some improvements and innovations in the future now that the genre is here to stay. | Alessandro Fillari, Editor
A Bite-Sized BR Game That Moves Faster
My matches in PUBG often consisted of me perched up on the back of a toilet tank, like some bathroom gargoyle, waiting with sweaty palms and an itchy trigger finger for my next victim to storm in through the door, so I could unload an entire clip of my gun in the small hope they’d meet their demise in a place no human wants to die. Battle royale tends to be a waiting game. A test of patience. Two things I don’t get down with.
In most cases, after waiting for 20 minutes straight, I’m usually the one found dead in the bathroom--that says more about me as a player and my skills than the game, I know. I then just have to wait in another lobby, drop from a plane, scramble for shelter, and a gun (if I’m lucky), and hope for the best. I see the thrill in this format, and I do like it, but I’d like an alternative. I’d like something smaller, faster, and to the point.
Sure, I could just play a normal deathmatch from any other shooter, right? But I’d be losing out on the excitement of the more roguelike elements of it all. So basically, I want a quick match version of battle royale. Something I could fly into, through a warehouse window, and pick something up and go guns blazing. | Kurt Indovina, Host
Single-Player Practice Rounds And Tutorials
Since battle royale games have gotten big in the last few years, I have yet to play a single one. It sucks to admit, but I'm so intimidated by the high-pressure reflexes and skills they demand. Despite being a fan of competitive shooters, I cannot handle the stress of just dropping onto an island so ill-prepared for the practical situations and firefights BR games want me to excel at--much less the possibility of disappointing my friends or randos during a team match due to my incompetence. So that's why I'm hoping that the next big BR game that comes along has an in-depth practice mode that lets you play exhibition rounds with AI combatants.
I understand that most of the fun of battle royale comes from its brutal and impulsive challenge with live players. But all I'm asking for is a mode that helps you get comfortable with how they play and the tense moments that organically emerge during a match. And it would be all the better if it could offer in-depth onboarding tutorials too. I've had to avoid BR games for years now, but if one can provide a practice mode that goes beyond just a simple firing range, I'd be more than eager to give the genre a shot. Seriously, someone, please do this. | Matt Espineli, Editor
"A Game Within A Game" And A Social Hub (Basically, Sword Art Battle Royale)
Apex Legends proved that a fascinating narrative could live within a battle royale game; its characters with their own backstories and the actual matches tied into the game's world in a sensible way. The way it's framed as the "Apex Games" kind of takes the edge off the idea of people killing each other to survive, but that's more-or-less ancillary to Apex Legends as a whole. What if instead, you have a character who is playing a BR game in their own world, essentially you (the player) being one more step removed from the savagery of the killing fields. Honestly, this is my roundabout way of justifying the call for a battle royale that's like the Sword Art or Gun Gale Online manga/anime.
Hear me out: this premise could lead towards introducing a hub area to the genre where players can hang out, engage in minigames, customize their avatars, and socialize in between actual matches. Social hubs are key parts of games like Destiny and The Division, which are open-world loot shooters, but integrating that idea into a BR game would be a nice touch. It could help occupy your time between matches as you wait for them to fill up, instead of flipping through menus of gun skins and outfits. If you take me up on this Sword Art/Gun Gale idea, maybe some slice-of-life elements can be added to fill the world outside of battle royale, which could then lead to narrative opportunities that evolve over time or with new seasons of content. And a good anime-inspired art style would seal the deal, thank you. | Michael Higham, Associate Editor
I was a PUBG diehard back in its heyday, and I thrived on doing nothing for, like, 20 minutes. Holing up in a shack somewhere with nothing but a SCAR and a dream, waiting to see whose circle luck would hold out and who would have to move, was actually exhilarating. My squad would goof off and chat until, inevitably, one of us would yell at the others to shut up because maybe there was a gunshot from the southeast. It was a lot of fun.
With Black Ops 4's Blackout mode, we got PUBG with the kinks ironed out. I absolutely loved Blackout, especially because Call of Duty players are used to going fast as heck, and I got eight kills one round just by sitting in a barn where a care package dropped as everyone rushed it (and went on to win the round with all their loot). This style of battle royale was designed for patience, and that made every victory so much sweeter.
I like Apex Legends, I really do. But everyone I know wants to drop spicy, and that's just not my thing. It's a much faster-paced game, and it therefore does not leave me enough time to loot and sit there. And in this go-go-go world, I'd appreciate a game that lets me escape to a place where I can actually rest for a minute--and where getting one kill at the very end is all the effort I need to put forth to feel accomplished. | Kallie Plagge, Reviews Editor
Loadouts Over Looting
It's battle royale blasphemy to say the looting phase should be scrapped. But no one likes landing with a bunch of opponents, finding nothing but scopes and extended magazines, and getting quickly gunned down by the first person who happened to find a weapon.
If we're looking at what's out there now, Apex Legends at least gives you some abilities to use until you can get fully equipped. But what if those Legends also dropped in fully armed? An assault rifle fits nicely in Bangalore's veteran hands; a Sentinel sniper complements Wraith and Revenant's stealthy approach. If the characters weren't assigned specific weapons at the start of a game, perhaps Call of Duty-style loadouts could be implemented. Looting could be reserved for picking up shields and attachments.
Dropping in with weapons could really mean not "dropping in" at all--it would lead to every squad landing in a bunch and immediately shooting each other. To compensate, squads could simply spawn randomly around the map. Perhaps that change also goes against the battle royale spirit, but isn't that kind of change the exact thing that would spice up the genre? | Tony Wilson, Video Producer
More Than Murders
When Apex Legends launched, it became my new go-to battle royale game--not because the shooting was tight or that the map was well-designed--although both were true--but because of all the other little things it brought to the genre. Much has been made about the excellent ping system that makes communicating with teammates fluid and easy, and the game's verticality, its introduction of hero characters, and its class roles expanded on the usual BR formula. The thing about Apex Legends is that it just feels like there's more to do in any given match than just catching opponents and shooting them, and that got me thinking about all the different ways I could play any given match.
We've seen a few interesting ideas come into the genre, but not a lot of them have stuck. The Darwin Project, for instance, impressed me when it hit early access a few years ago because of the inclusion of The Director, a flying camera controlled by a player that both added a viewpoint for spectating and gave viewers a way to affect the match, by voting on in-game events that added obstacles for the contenders. The short-lived reality show-like BR game SOS included mechanics that pushed players not to just be good fighters, but to also be good performers for the people watching--and included ways to win a match by being entertaining instead of just cracking headshots. And honestly, the one BR game I've sunk more time into than any other is Tetris 99 because of the way it takes a creative approach to the battle royale idea, putting a lot of the emphasis of the game experience on outlasting other players rather than outflanking them.
Apart from gimmicky seasonal events and the occasional Fortnite concert, battle royale is mostly all the same thing right now, and I'm ready for the genre to introduce new ideas, the same way first- and third-person shooters at large have evolved over time. More options for spectating and streaming would obviously help, and I want to see more interesting thinking about the way you play a BR game that goes beyond figuring out which guns to use in which situations. | Phil Hornshaw, Editor
Actual Character Creation & Customization
Any Destiny players out there know that making your character look fabulous is often half the fun. But in most battle royale games, the cost of looking good is unusually prohibitive--if the option even exists at all. In PUBG, for example, good luck indulging your high fashion sense without dropping tons of cash (and even then, your options are limited). The same goes for Apex, whose customization is prohibited further by the fact that you're working with existing characters.
Tying cosmetics to microtransactions is nothing new. But it would be nice for a BR game to feature an actual, robust character creation tool that allowed you to make an avatar that looks the way you want--and then outfit it with swanky gear without breaking the bank. | Mike Rougeau, Entertainment Managing Editor