Dear Battle Royales: Please Stop

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In 2017-2018, the gaming world witnessed the beginning of a new gaming concept when games like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, H1Z1, and of course Fortnite were released to the public. The concept was the multiplayer online “Battle Royale” game mode. In short, a video game concept that follows the rules of The Hunger Games. Players spawn on a map, search for weapons and other useful loot, and then fight either alongside teammates, or by themselves to become the last player (or team) standing in the game. All this takes place while the map shrinks around the players, forcing enemies close together and prompting more and more fighting as the game goes on. 

The concept, thanks largely to Fortnite’s unprecedented and unbelievable success, led to new releases by all kinds of studios, making way for games like Apex Legends, Call of Duty: Warzone, Spellbreak, Realm Royale and a number of other titles. It has even squeaked itself into the world of VR with Population: One.

One of the reasons these games have generated so much traction is that most of them are completely free to play, opening themselves up to thousands of users with easy access to new and highly popular games. Unfortunately, after spending thousands of hours playing so many of these, it became increasingly clear that unless you’re a pro-gamer, battle royales are pretty much a waste of time. So let’s talk about why.

Wins

Games of all kinds are all about winning. And winning usually means you performed better than your opponents. But winning in battle royales doesn’t always mean that you performed the best. In fact, sometimes it means that you kinda got lucky at the end of the game. Or sometimes it means that you snuck around and didn’t really do anything while you waited for the better players to pick each other off so that you could take advantage of them once they were low on health. 

Additionally, in my brief Google research, it seems that a pretty average win rate for most battle royales hovers somewhere between the 2-5% range. All of this is to say that as you log your hours and you log your games, you’re still only going to win about 2-5 games out of every 100. So when you consider that rate plus the number of wins people get using what I’ll call random or cheap methods (I call them that because that is what it feels like both when I have gotten those wins and when I have spectated them), you realize there’s a statistically tiny opportunity, especially as a casual gamer, to feel great about the win you’ve achieved.

When I play a game of any kind, I want to have a sense of accomplishment, to feel like I’ve achieved something, whether that’s a win because I had a great game, or a loss despite the fact that I played well but was outplayed by someone else. I am certainly not jumping into a game thinking, “Boy, I have a 2-5% chance to win this one if I play a pretty boring game where I sit back and don’t try that hard for a while – how exciting!”

Time Well Spent?

For anyone who has played through a round or two of a battle royale, you’ll know that the initial looting phase is highly important and also happens to be hugely based on RNG. Basically, you spawn into the game and run around trying to find the best weapons before everyone else so that you have a better chance to win fights as the game goes on. Unfortunately, this is probably why battle royales are the biggest waste of time.

Most games consist of running around looting for 15-20 minutes of game time, and fighting for about 1-5 total minutes. Parlay that off of our previous point about win rate and you’ve reduced the “Time having fun” (let’s call it THF) factor exponentially. Is it fun to run around and find good loot? Okay fine, maybe it’s relatively fun, but the only reason you find it fun is because in theory it’s supposed to create a better opportunity to win fights. If you aren’t fighting very often, then the actual THF in the game is pretty small. On top of that, if you’re only winning at a 2-5% clip (again this is the general battle royale average), then the chances of you dying in your first couple enemy interactions become pretty high.

Essentially, when you take all this into account, the amount of time you spend looting vs. having the opportunity to actually win a fight, and even more so the whole game (and don’t forget not to get salty after spending 15 minutes looting and then dying nearly immediately) really doesn’t lend itself to much fun at all. On the contrary, it ends up becoming a chore to play the game and makes you realize just how much time you’re wasting by queuing up in the first place.

A Match Made in Hell

Whenever I’ve played or read about a battle royale game, one of the most commonly discussed issues relates to their matchmaking system. In fact, early on, Fortnite didn’t use any matchmaking at all, which meant completely brand new players could wind up in the same lobbies fighting against pros like Ninja and Tfue. Realizing how insane this was, they finally introduced some level of skill-based matchmaking in 2019. Nevertheless, the skill gap within games can still be extreme in any battle royale games, even if it isn’t supposed to be. I can’t even count how many times I’ve queued into a game of Fortnite, Warzone, or even Apex Legends (which I’ve played far less than the rest and should really be viewed as a complete noob) where I’ve gotten absolutely dumpstered by some player who winds up with 10-12 kills. Of course, the devil’s advocate argument here would be that I am just a trash player, but if that’s the case, shouldn’t better matchmaking put me in a lobby with other trash players? 

Of course, after all this thinking about my days spent playing battle royales, I redownloaded and flipped on Fortnite and played for about an hour, and the biggest problem of all is that it wasn’t even that bad. It was even somewhat fun for a little while. This is what battle royales do. They break you down, they make you think they’re kind of fun, they even make you think for a little while that you have a chance at being sort of okay. But then after a few hours you realize you’ve just spent 95% of your time trying to find great loot only to wind up with a 2-5% chance of maybe feeling good about yourself. 

So I think I can probably sum this all up by concluding with a quick statement directed at all battle royale games and the companies in the process of making new ones – I’m gonna need you to just stop please and rethink everything. Games are supposed to be more fun than this. Thanks.