Electronic Arts (EA) and Activision want a slice of the battle royale pie. The companies responsible for some of the largest first-person shooter franchises around (Battlefield and Call of Duty, respectively) no longer seem content to let other developers gobble up a burgeoning genre's audience. Neither is ready to introduce their own takes on the battle royale yet, but they have teased gamers with sneak peeks of how they plan on hopping on the bandwagon.
Today, EA debuted a Gamescom trailer for Battlefield V (below) that includes information about a battle royale mode. All the top battle royale games today have some kind of ever-shrinking circle of death--PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds has toxic gas, Fortnite and Realm Royale have storms, et cetera. The new trailer makes it clear that Battlefield V's hazard of choice is an oddly circular ring of fire closing in on a forest town.
Meanwhile this week, Activision released a teaser for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's battle royale mode, Blackout, which centered on the announcement of a private beta for PlayStation 4 players starting on September 10 (below). The brief video also confirmed that Blackout will feature the same modes as many other battle royale titles: solo, duos and quads (apparently every developer thinks a trio option would be too weird).
Despite the dearth of information, it's clear that EA and Activision don't want anyone to forget that the next installment of their long-running franchises will feature the battle royale modes so many people are clamoring to play. AAA developers are finally starting to fire up their ovens and give the likes of Epic Games, PUBG Corp. and the many other developers working on battle royale titles a little bit more competition.
Late as they might seem, the introduction of these modes to established franchises could be coming at just the right time. While there are many valid criticisms to be made of both companies, as well as the development studios behind specific entries in the series, there's no denying that Battlefield and Call of Duty became so immensely popular because many people like the fundamental aspects of their gameplay.
Remember that PUBG rose to prominence when it was pretty much the only battle royale-specific game on the market. After competitors debuted, the game's popularity fell, and its players have been so vocal about their problems with the game that its parent company announced the Fix PUBG campaign earlier this month to address concerns. PUBG only led the battle royale genre when it was the solo real option.
Not that all of its competitors have been much better. Realm Royale, for instance, has received so much backlash since its debut that its player base on Steam reportedly fell 93% over the course of two months. It's now being managed by an independent studio, Heroic Leap Games, within original developer Hi-Rez Studios in a bid to establish the game's identity and convince people it was more than just a flash in the pan.
Fortnite is now the leader in the genre. The game is more kid-friendly than PUBG, it runs well and Epic releases substantial updates more often than its competitor. Kid-friendliness aside, EA and Activision could bring similar advantages to their own titles. Both are massive companies used to spending a lot of money to convince people to buy annual releases of very similar games.
They also have the advantages of familiarity and variety. Battle royale gameplay is merely part of Battlefield V and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. Both games still bear many of the modes fans of the series expect--Black Ops 4's lack of a single-player campaign aside--so they can keep players around even when they don't feel like playing a battle royale. It's like baking a popular new flavor into a pie a lot of people already like.
Of course, the games still have to contend with Fortnite's promise of free-to-play goodness, but it's not like Battlefield and Call of Duty haven't faced stiff competition before. Like we said: these series have been around for a long time. While a lot of people won't bother with them because they've already decided they don't like the series, many will buy the games sight unseen simply because they're loyal to the franchise.
EA and Activision have the potential to prove not only that they still know how to make good Battlefield and Call of Duty games, but also that they can apply their experience to the battle royale genre to improve it, not just to say they're capable of making the flavor of the week. We'll know more when both games debut this fall. In the meantime, well, Epic is more than happy to let Fortnite remain pretty much uncontested.