From A Novel to A Billion-dollar industry: The Birth of Battle Royales

Nutan Lele
8/May/2020 04:04 pm

Cover picture courtesy TechRadar
Thumbnail courtesy Twitter
Other pictures courtesy Mubi, Youtube

  • The concept of Battle Royale came from a 1999 Japanese novel of the same name.
  • It was first picked up by Minecraft as a mod then moved to games like Arma and DayZ.
  • Z1 Battle Royale creator Brendan Greene (Player Unknown) was picked up to design PUBG.
  • PUBG became a worldwide sensation breaking numerous records and still goes strong today.

You’ve dropped onto an unfamiliar land with nothing but your bare hands. Everyone out there wants to kill you. You scavenge nearby ruins for what you can find; armour, first aid and weapons. As the counter on top shows how many have fallen and how many remain, you’re forced towards a safe zone. It's either hunt or be hunted till you’re the last one standing. This is battle royale. 

Ever since the launch of PUBG, the battle royale genre has exploded. Everyone is hooked. The simple battle royale format has been expanded by games like Fortnite which adds a building element to make the game even more fast-paced and the lack of graphic violence makes it kid-friendly. Other games have introduced their own twists such as Call of Duty: Warzone which has 1v1 duels in the Gulag, where you can collect cash and spend it on respawning teammates or killstreaks at Buy Stations. Let’s take a look back at how it all started.

How It All Began

The concept traces its roots back to the 1999 Japanese dystopian novel called Battle Royale. The book follows 100 high school juniors who are taken to a deserted island and told that the last person standing will be allowed to leave. Given weapons, rations and no rules except to stay in designated zones, the students do whatever it takes to survive. The novel was later adapted into a film in 2000 which perfectly captured the violence and horror of the whole ordeal. The concept was later borrowed by author Suzanne Collins for her book trilogy, ‘The Hunger Games’ in 2008. The first novel from the series was turned into a movie in 2012. 

Battle Royale (2000) Promotional Poster

The same year, the concept of Battle Royales took hold in gaming with Minecraft’s own Hunger Games, later called Minecraft Survival Games, on many of its servers. A dedicated community soon sprung up around the mod. Despite its cult following, it was still a very basic experience. The organic interactions between players in survival games inspired modders to create new and more competitive scenarios.

The Brainchild Of ‘Player Unknown’ Brendan Greene

One creator wanted to keep the “what’s going to happen next” suspense alive throughout the game. Brendan Greene, the creator of PUBG, built similar mods for games like DayZ and Arma III. These helped flesh out the many aspects of battle royale as a game type, including the genre name which he took from the movie adaption of the 1999 novel. 

The original DayZ mod was a huge success leading to its release as a standalone title in December 2013. Daybreak Game Company ended up hiring Greene as a consultant for the battle royale mode called Z1 Battle Royale as they split their own survival game H1Z1 into two. 

In the period between 2014 and 2016, studios saw the potential of the genre and started trying to cash in. Many games like Rust, Unturned, The Culling, and Darwin Project faded away as 2017’s PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds entered the arena. 

Why Is The Genre So Popular?

A definitive battle royale experience, PUBG went through alpha, beta and then into early access in March 2017. Streamers took the game up during this stage, propelling it to one of the most streamed game on Twitch in no time. The game finally came out in December 2017 and blew everyone’s expectations. In 10 months, the game sold 10 million copies. It also broke Dota 2’s record of most concurrent players with over 3 million players in-game at one time. 

Battle Royales have a high skill cap, lots of clip-worthy moments, and unpredictability, making them extremely streamer friendly. Many of the streamers today became famous streaming battle royales, including Dr DisRespect, Shroud, Ninja and Summit1g. The genre that started off as a Minecraft mod has now turned into a 7 billion dollar industry. Whether the genre continues its foothold or not, only time will tell. 


Nutan Leletwitter_link


Nutan Lele is AFK Gaming's source for everything from Twitch to the Twitterati. Her focus lies in distilling mobile esports content from around the world. She is also the former captain of Girlaxy India.