IHS Markit put out a pretty extensive report this week that covered a lot of topics in the mobile games industry, but a good chunk of the 13-page report was specifically about the Battle Royale genre. So, this week, instead of our usual dive into the news from the genre I want to look at what this report has to say about Battle Royale games.
The report begins with two charts side by side as seen above. One is the top 10 mobile games by net revenue and the other is the top 10 by the number of downloads. Right away we can see that PUBG mobile, with 274 million downloads doesn’t make the revenue chart at all while a game like Pokemon Go which brought in $729 million isn’t in the chart for downloads at all. In fact, the only game that appears on both charts is Candy Crush Saga which lands at number 9 for downloads and number 1 for net revenue. On the other side, Fortnite makes the chart for revenue near the bottom with $390 million in revenue and isn’t anywhere to be seen on the number of downloads. Clearly, we’re seeing that having a lot of downloads doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be making all of the money. Other Battle Royale titles on the charts include Garena Free Fire…and that’s all. Quite a lot of the games on the charts are considered to be hyper-casual games. The sort that makes adult women the largest demographic of gamers in the world right now, and yes, that is true.
In another chart, focusing just on Battle Royale games, we can see revenue and downloads together in one place. Downloads for PUBG Mobile are massive thanks to China, however, the game isn’t able to monetize that audience so they’re losing out in a big way. The revenue they do have for PUBG Mobile is for the international version of the game which can be monetized, but as you can see, that doesn’t amount to much. The revenue on that chart for Fortnite, by the way, is only for iOS since Epic has quite famously decided not to use the Google Play store to release the Android version of the game. Even with just one revenue source, we can look at how Fortnite still manages to completely dominate the industry. We can only imagine what that would look like with Android thrown in on top.
The report goes on to predict that the Battle Royale genre will go in a way that is similar to what we saw with the MOBA genre. They’re predicting that there will be a few high profile failures coming in the near future because of the extreme influx of competition. This is something we here at MMOGames have also been predicting since Battle Royale fever took over the industry. They also predict that we will see the genre filled with a lot of titles that never stand a chance at being at the top, and that there will be a high turnover for these games. We’re already seeing this on Steam with indie Battle Royale titles that sometimes only get a daily concurrent player count in the dozens. This is especially difficult for the Battle Royale genre because the games require a higher number of players to get a match going than you would see with other games. So, when a player logs in and is never able to get a match going they stop logging in. This in turn makes it even more difficult to get a match going and quickly the game is considered dead.
This isn’t all bad news for the industry and once again, our old friend esports is predicted to swoop in and save the day. While esports may not be bringing in much, if any money right now for Battle Royale games, it does keep interest in the games, which keeps people playing. Epic also announced in mid-2018 that they would be providing $100 million for prize pool funding to establish Fortnite’s esports scene.
Ultimately, however, the report points out that Battle Royale is more of a game mode than a fully fledged game genre in its own right. With this in mind, they say that we will see RPGs in Asia adding Battle Royale modes to their games as they did with MOBAs. Battle Royale games are limited in their scope and really, there’s only so much you can do with a Battle Royale game. That’s one of the reasons we’re seeing a decline in Fortnite. Players are growing tired of the same old formula and doing the same old thing, and Epic hasn’t yet found a way to keep things new and exciting all of the time.
One example of a game that has done this well is Pokemon Go. On the surface, Pokemon Go doesn’t really have a whole lot to it. Catch Pokemon, visit locations out in the real world, and catch more Pokemon. However, Niantic found its footing in 2018 with a constant stream of in-game events that take place at the very least once a month, though usually more often than that thanks to real life holidays and events. The game went from declining to one of the highest earning mobile games on the market thanks to this shift. For Fortnite to continue to enjoy being top dog in the genre it needs to find its footing like Pokemon Go did and work out a way to keep players interested more consistently. Otherwise, it risks losing the interest of players while only enjoying brief moments of popularity after new content releases.
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