Does Battle Royale have a long-term future on mobile?

By Collin MacGregor 29 Jun 2018 5

The video game industry is constantly chasing the hottest and most lucrative trends. From military shooters to virtual reality, there is always a new concept asserting its dominance – this is as true for consoles and PC as it is mobile, although our app stores have yet to shake from the over-arching grip of Free-to-Play.

Want to get better at Fortnite on mobile? We’ve got a handy tips & tricks guide for you.

It's hard to ignore the battle royale genre's hold on the wider gaming scene as massive franchises attempt to be the next multiplayer hit. The mobile market is also chasing this latest craze: a boon of battle royale games that range in quality and name recognition have cropped up over the past few months. But despite the massive popularity of this genre, one has to wonder if this is just a fad or is this multiplayer-focused experience destined to become a mobile staple?

Fortmob

King of the Fort

The current king of this genre is Epic Games’ smash hit, Fortnite. What separates this one from other BR games is a unique building mechanic that allows players to rapidly assemble cover, structures, and traps. This elevates firefights and allows for a player’s creativity to shine through. Unlike other titles such as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), Fortnite thrives on its speed and accessibility, something that causes the mobile port to suffer more compared to the PC/console iteration.

This isn’t to say that the mobile version of Fortnite is unplayable or even bad - it’s actually quite fun - but this iteration is absent a sense of momentum. Since playing on a phone lacks the fluidity of a controller or keyboard, many engagements are supremely awkward. Instead of seeing who can quickly construct cover and outmanoeuvre their opponents, players often just use the environment to block incoming bullets. Even with the auto-build function, it takes a lot of practice to learn how to quickly produce anything outside of a basic wall or ramp.

What you’re left with is an odd version of Fortnite that closely resembles the PC version but lacks the kinetic energy that helped it climb to the top of the charts in the first place. Shooting others is still satisfying and the large arsenal of weapons always keep battles feeling fresh. There is still a plethora of unique gadgets that shake up combat and Epic has done a great job with keeping the mobile version updated with the latest changes. However, due to the limitations of playing on a phone or tablet, Fortnite simply cannot deliver the same quality gameplay on a mobile device.

Player Unknown

In contrast, PUBG’s mobile version fairs far better due to the title’s core pacing and mechanics. Gameplay in this title has always been much slower (A legacy of its heritage as an ArmA mod, perhaps  -ED), with most matches encouraging methodical approaches to gunfights. Taking your time to line up the perfect shot or reposition into cover is par for the course. This allows PUBG's mobile design to flourish since these principles work perfectly with this version's condensed control scheme.

PUBG

Even though both mobile versions of these hit multiplayer titles have issues, they prove that the battle royale genre is perfect for this platform. Like the best mobile titles, both games offer quick, entertaining sessions that still possess challenge. There are no time gates or any of the usual cynical trappings of mobile free-to-play. The formula of forcing 100 players into a shrinking safe area still crafts memorable moments that very few mobile titles can replicate.

Regardless of what sacrifices these titles have had to make during their transition, the core foundation is still solid. These are complete games and it's remarkable how little was lost during their transition to mobile. Because of this, players can continue to grow and flesh out their understanding of the mechanics. For people like myself who are coming from PC, it's great to take my previous experiences and apply them in-game.

Royale with Cheese

This transition from PC to mobile is a double-edged sword. While bringing Fortnite to phones offers a ton of positives, it's important to remember that this title was not designed for handheld devices. There's a lot to keep track of, which can severely hinder the controls. The UIs for PUBG and Fortnite are quite cluttered due to the myriad of mechanics that users need to keep track of.

PUBGPAra

Mundane tasks such as sprinting, crouching, or jumping are relegated to button prompts or specific commands. This not only floods the screen with icons but can create an awkward experience for those with bigger fingers. Nothing is more disheartening than having your perfect sniper position given away because you accidentally grazed the fire button. Yes, it's possible to customize the screen, but that only mitigates the poor UI instead of fixing it.

But battle royale games never-the-less posses a very compelling gameplay loop that’s easy to learn, but hard to master: drop into a location, scramble for loot, and try to claw your way to the top Being able to pick up Fortnite or PUBG and play a quick round on the go is what will give this genre its’ sustainability. There are no bases to manage or mechanics one has to worry about when the game is closed. Even when this latest craze has died down on PC, I predict the mobile versions will continue to thrive.

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