Best of 2019: Battle Royale Games

Hope Corrigan
Games Fortnite
Games Fortnite
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Battle Royale remains one of the biggest genres that players keep coming back to even in the dumpster fire that is 2019. With games like Fortnite and PUBG continuing to make serious bank and everyone else out there bringing their own new takes like Respawn’s popular entry Apex Legends, it’s clear this style of game isn’t going away any time soon. 2019 saw some fantastic Battle Royale moments but these are the ones that made it to the final circle.

The Apex of Legends

One of those moments is Apex Legends itself. Seemingly out of nowhere, EA dropped this surprise hit at the beginning of the year. It came out about two weeks before the company was also releasing Anthem, the big heavy hitter from Bioware that subsequently flopped.

Possibly because of this, Apex Legends saw practically no advertising and just sort of suddenly existed. Despite this, it still made more money during the month of its release than any other free-to-play title, and that’s pretty huge.

Those familiar with Respawn – responsible for Titanfall and later Jedi Fallen Order – were not surprised at all when Apex Legends was actually pretty damn good. But everyone was kind of surprised it existed.

The way Respawn turned Titanfall 2 into a Battle Royale spinoff that can stand on its own is fascinating and you can read more about that here. It had good gunplay (we’ll forget about the Mozambique shotgun), unique characters and abilities, and one of the best systems for teamwork yet to be implemented in a battle royale, or maybe even any genre. Apex Legends was designed to be played in teams and the context-sensitive ability to point enemies, items, directions, and more out to your teammates meant even those without mics could get a cohesive game together and that was kind of huge.

Since release, Respawn has continued to support the game with patches, balance fixes, new characters, and maps. It even has its own growing esports scene. Though it wasn’t still pulling the crazy numbers of its launch, even in June this year Apex Legends was seeing up to 10 million players a week. This has kept players engaged to the point where Apex Legends picked up the Golden Joystick award for Best Multiplayer Game this year, and that makes it a Champion for 2019.

Ninja Ditched Twitch

The biggest person in Battle Royales is undeniably the famous Fortnite Twitch Streamer, Ninja. Otherwise known as Tyler Blevins, Ninja is probably one of the most recognisable faces in gaming today, especially to younger audiences. This is why when the most popular Twitch Streamer jumped ship from the platform he built his brand on to Microsoft’s underwhelming streaming platform Mixer, the whole world took notice.

Ninja’s manager and wife, Jessica Blevins cited Twitch not listening to their needs and limiting licensing deals which were problematic for brand expansion as the main reason for leaving. While Ninja’s official management company also said the decision wasn’t driven by money, when you consider that he famously pulled in around $500,000 a month on Twitch, some dollars had to be relevant.

So Ninja left Twitch and his 14 million followers there (more than double the next most popular person at the time) to move to a newer and smaller platform. It took him only five days to get 1 million subscribers on Mixer but this was during a period with a special free deal from Microsoft. As of right now, his account has over 2.5 million followers and 2.3 million subscribers which isn’t anywhere near his old Twitch count.

Based on all this it’s hard to say if the move has been a good one for the streamer or not. By pure numbers, since his move Mixer has far more content creators on it than it did before, but fewer hours of the platform as a whole are being watched. That being said if a deal with Mixer offered more freedom and a greater sense of being, switching to it could well have been worth the move.

A 16-Year-Old Beat 40 Million People to Become a Multi-Millionaire

We aren’t saying they’re related or anything, but Ninja’s move from Twitch to Mixer came not too long after a 16-year-old won the Fortnite Cup. Kyle Giersdorf, or ‘Bugha’, took down the biggest Battle Royale competition ever to win $3 million USD, making him the 10th highest esports earner in the world (now 12th), just for that single win. He’s also the highest-rated player in the North America East division currently.

The competition itself started out online with over 40 million registered participants until it whittled down to the final teams to compete at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York. Bugha took out the solo comps earning him the 3 million of the total $30 million dollar prize pool, which is a pretty hefty paycheck for a 16-year-old.

Bugha also has his own following online, which has skyrocketed since the event. His Twitter followers went from 200k to now nearly 600k, and we’d wager his Twitch has also jumped since the last reported follower count of 140,000. However, the way you can really tell this is a big deal is when googling the result, most of the first results were mainstream sites which don’t normally cover much to do with esports.

A Black Screen Breaks Viewership Records

For a few brief moments, parents everywhere thought the gaming gods had heard their prayers when Fortnite encountered The End. This event marked the final moments of the Early Access Battle Royale Island at the end of season X in October this year.

Once it all ‘ended’ players were greeted with a black hole on their screen. No guns, no building, no bus driver to thank, just a large black hole.

Eventually, it started to spit out a repeating sequence of numbers which translated to “I was not alone, others are outside the loop, this was not calculated, The Nothing is now inevitable, Moment I was not alone”. This event had a few other interesting quirks you can read about and is also known as The Black Out.

So this may not seem that special, but for the biggest game in the world to go totally dark for two whole (hole?) days was pretty huge. The social media platforms didn’t post for the two days either, after leaving only a post stating “This is The End.” No one knew what was going on.

This caused a literal black screen to break records for viewership on Twitch, Twitter, and it even gained a lot of traction on YouTube. According to developer Epic, the total concurrent views reached 4.3 million people across all the channels — they weren’t watching gameplay, they were watching a black hole spew out occasional numbers.

It’s a pretty gutsy move for a game to go dead like this and really felt like a testament to the popularity and power of Fortnite. Even when not playable, it can still bring in some of the biggest numbers the world has ever seen.

So what came after, ‘The End?’ Well, Chapter 2 of course. Season 1 of Chapter 2 has a whole bunch of new features but is basically a new dimension of the game. The Black Hole caused a big bang and boom, new Fortnite. The Island is new, there are new characters, a new progression system, and a bunch of other stuff has been added to the game.

Unfortunately for Epic, it hasn’t quite reached the viewership highs that it gained from a blank screen with this new chapter, yet.

Hope Corrigan
Secretly several dogs stacked on top of one another in a large coat, Hope has a habit of writing and talking far too much about video games and tech. You can usually find her whinging about how Jet Set Radio Future never got a sequel on Twitter.