RIP: All The Battle Royales That Failed, Flopped, Or Died After Fortnite And PUBG Blew Up
It’s almost poetic that, in a genre built on many people fighting to stay alive until just a few remain, so many battle royale games have launched, flopped, and died over the last few years. Not every new battle royale can find the same success as Warzone or PUBG. In fact, most will be lucky to survive at all. And many haven’t, as this list shows.
While fan-made mods have added battle royale-like modes to games like Arma, the genre truly exploded with the release of Player Unknown’s Battleground and, shortly after, Fortnite’s take on the genre. These games exploded in popularity, with Fortnite alone jumping from 20 million users in 2017 to 125 million in 2018. Publishers took notice, and more studios began spitting out battle royales to cash in on the trend. And it makes sense. These games aren’t too tricky to make if you already have a shooter engine or existing IP that works within the genre and a talented team of devs. However, they need constant upkeep, fresh content, and a large player base to live. And that’s not easy to achieve.
So, as we wrap up our fantastic week focused on battle royale games, it seems like the perfect time to stop and acknowledge all the games that tried to survive and thrive, but in the end, for various reasons, didn’t make it. They all got sniped from afar and were left in a ditch, surrounded by digital corpses of other failed attempts to be the next Apex Legends or Fortnite.
Fallout 76: Nuclear Winter
(June 2019 - September 2021)
Fallout 76 has never been nearly as popular as Bethesda probably hoped it would be. At launch, it was a mess with horrible performance problems, very little content, and no human NPCs. And while in recent years it’s gotten better, the game’s awful development makes it hard to even enjoy the good moments.
So, at a time when Fallout 76’s future looked the most bleak, it made total sense that Bethesda would cram a battle royale mode into the online MMO-lite. And while it didn’t explode like Fortnite, it did have a brief period of popularity and was the first sign the game might have a future. Though a lack of players and updates eventually killed it, the main Fallout 76 game remains.
(April 2018 - June 2018)
The odds were always stacked against this game. Radical Heights was a last-ditch hail mary from a studio that didn’t have long to live. Developed by Boss Key Studios in only five months, Radical Heights was an attempt to save things after the company’s first game—online FPS Lawbreakers—flopped hard. While it had some fans and a few neat ideas involving BMX bikes and in-game cash, it was too little, too late to save the studio and Radical Heights died shortly after it arrived mainly because its studio, Boss Key, ran out of time and money.
(Nov. 2018 - Aug. 2021)
Rapture Rejects was a top-down 2D animated battle royale inspired by the webcomic Cyanide & Happiness. Thanks to the comic’s built-in fan base and neat art style, it got some early positive previews and impressions. But it never caught on with a larger audience and a lack of updates killed its momentum. It was officially pulled from Steam at the request of its own developers in August 2021.
(Aug. 2022 - Feb. 2023 )
While many of the most popular battle royale games out there feature guns and bulletproof vests, Rumbleverse tried to do something different. Developed by Iron Galaxy and published by Epic, Rumbleverse was an excellent wrestling-themed battle royale.
So no shotguns or snipers. Instead, players used their fists, chairs, elbow drops, and grapples to defeat other wrestlers in a colorful city built for fighting. And it was a lot of fun! However, it failed to bring in players and less than a year after launch it was dead.
Apex Legends Mobile
(May 2022 - May 2023)
Apex Legends is doing fine, with a large community, frequent updates, and lots of angry posts on Reddit. (A good sign that people are still playing your game in 2023.) However, its mobile spin-off won’t be sticking around. Technically, as I’m writing this, you can still play it. But not for much longer.
As for why this game is getting left behind, EA pointed to content quality issues. But it’s just as likely that players weren’t flocking to the game and EA, like so many other companies in 2023, is looking to cut anything to help improve its bottom line.
The Culling 2
(July 10, 2018 - July 18, 2018)
The original Culling, released in March 2016, was one of the first standalone battle royale games ever on Steam, beating PUBG to the punch. However, once bigger games like PUBG were released, The Culling’s player count dried up and its devs announced plans to make something new.
That ended up being The Culling 2, released in July 2018. The game was a disaster. Very few people played it and the few who did complained about how awful it was and within less than 48 hours it had only one person playing it on Steam. About a week later it was removed from storefronts.
(July 2020 - April 2022 )
It’s no shock that Ubisoft would try and cash in on the battle royale genre and in 2020 it released its first big swing at that market: Free-to-play urban first-person shooter, Hyper Scape. The game boasted tight, responsive combat controls, lots of verticality, and deep integration with Twitch.
Initially, thanks to its surprise July 2020 launch, Ubisoft’s slick-looking battle royale attracted a lot of streamers and players. But soon after that, things went south for the game. In October 2020, Ubisoft announced plans to overhaul and improve the game. But that wasn’t enough and it all shut down in April 2022.
Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier
(Nov. 2021 - Jan. 2023)
I will sing this game’s praises until Square Enix raises it from the dead. Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier was a compelling battle royale game, one that took the beloved RPG series and compacted it into one of the most popular genres in the industry. The problem wasn’t necessarily its performance issues, though that definitely played a part in its death this past January.
Instead, for some silly reason, Square Enix made The First Soldier a mobile-only game, and that more than likely put most of the nails into the battle royale shooter’s coffin. Had it been on PC at the very least, I’m sure it would’ve found a more sustainable audience. But it’s dead now, and I will forever weep over its grave. - Levi Winslow, staff writer
(Sep. 2020 - Jan. 2023)
Here’s an odd one. Spellbreak, a third-person magic-themed battle royale game that former Kotaku writer Ari Notis loved, didn’t die because of low player counts, negative reviews, technical issues, or a lack of funding. Instead, it died earlier this year because its studio, Proletariat Games, got bought up by Blizzard to help work on future World of Warcraft expansions.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Frontline
( Never released officially, canned in July 2021 )
Finally, let’s end with a battle royale that was never actually released: Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Frontline. Did the world need another gritty military online shooter? It seems not, as this thing died during its beta. But at least we can all marvel at the game’s description on Wikipedia:
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Frontline is a canceled live-service first-person massively multiplayer online PvP class-based tactical shooter battle royale game
If you know of another battle royale that didn’t make it, let us know in the comments below.
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