Why are the “Battle Royale” genre video games so popular?

Since the early access of the battle royale styled game PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS (PUBG) was opened in early 2017, it has broken the record of having biggest number of the concurrent players in game. According to Steam Stats, ran by the game’s distributor Steam, PUBG has achieved the record by having 3,106,358 exact many players playing at the same time. So what on earth is PUBG? Why is it so popular? And most importantly: what are the business opportunities that you can seek into this emergence of new genre of games? We’re gonna find out.

PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS is a multiplayer shooting game that is designed based on the movie Battle Royale produced in Japan, 2000. The movie depicts a story where a class of junior high school students are put into an island, and their way out is to kill everyone else. The creator of the game, Brendan Greene, first started the concept by making his own modification of the game DayZ, calling it DayZ: Battle Royale. The mechanism of the game is very simple: you join the lobby with 99 other players (or play with your friends in a squad), dropped into an island with supplies, vehicles and weapon, and try to win the game by killing all other players. Rather than camping in a single hidden place to win without fighting, players are forced to move into the shrinking playzone as they can get hurt constantly outside the playzone.


With such a simple implementation, PUBG has welcomed the unexpected success of achieving 10 million copies sold within 6 months. So, what makes PUBG so addictive and entertaining? (You can also go all the way down for a TL;DR version.)

(You can also swipe all the way down for a TL;DR version.)

  • Its Humble Origin: Just like Counter-Strike derived from the Half-Life series, or DotA from the World of Warcraft III, PUBG gains player’s love instantly because of its already established fan base during the development phase as a mod in Arma 2.
  • Streamability: The reason why Hunger Games is attractive to everyone in the nation is that survival games are extremely entertaining, and same for PUBG to the streamers. PUBG has integrated a broadcasting mode, just to make streamers as the host to the battle royale show, adding the fun.
  • Instant Matching: Thanks for its popularity, PUBG can essentially match players instantly into a game: if you are out from the last round, a click of the mouse brings you to the next, waiting-free.
  • The Human Factor: You get to play with other 99 actual human being, which entertains you by striving to kill you for survival. Still thinking of using AI for your next game? Just use human themselves!
  • Simplicity: everyone who has some knowledge of the shooting game genre can get their hands on the game quickly: just shoot anyone you don’t recognize and you will win the match.
  • Fairness from Randomness: PUBG spawns players along a route that changes every match, and weapons are always scattered along the map. This helps everyone with a fair chance of grabbing a gun and able to kill someone, regardless of your skill level.
  • Microtransactions: PUBG not only makes money by selling the copies of the game, its micro-transactions system is as robust as any kind of popular games. Spending money for limited clothes and keys that opens crate that you earn from games never fail to satisfy some gamers’ desire to look good.
  • Early Access: PUBG started in 2016 as an early-access game, which allows gamers purchase the game in its development stage. This at one hand helps developers with their funding and at another hand enables gamers to provide feedback constructively.
  • Free to Play: Unlike PUBG, Fortnite Battle Royale employs another very successful profit model. Even though Fortnite Battle Royale is free to play (apart from its implementation of a microtransaction system), it ultimately leads players to purchase the full game of Fortnite, which is the full game that has other games modes such as survival mode.
The Map made by pubgmap.io depcits the amount of variations that can happen in each match.

[TL;DR] To make a game that is as influential as PUBG, you need:

  • Forgiving learning curve, foolproof mechanism
  • Randomization that is entertaining and fair
  • Implementation of Free-to-play or microtransaction model
  • Streamability, streaming is not just for fun but also a strong marketing tool
  • Interpersonal interactions: the core element of multiplayer games