The youngest mean the fastest: esports Battle Royale history

Posted Aug 22, 2018

Battle Royale is quite old game mode but the real success it gained only one year ago, all thanks to PlayerUnknown's Battleground. The Korean studio Bluehole is the developer of the biggest hit of 2017. Brendan Greene, who was the first made Battle Royal as a mod for Arma, is the part of their team. His biggest inspiration was the Japanese film “Battle Royale” where group of pupils were closed in the forest and forced to kill each other until somebody wins.

PUBG became the best-selling game in Steam history and the most popular section in Twitch. Greene saw the future of his game in esports, so Bluehole began to move in this direction even before the full release of their game. Many people had a lot of doubts as the game needs 100 players to play. Where organizers can find so many people and huge enough arena for LAN-finals? Fortunately, everything turned out to be ok.

The first tournament was organized in August 2017 — Gamescom PUBG Invitational 2017 with a $350.000 prize pool. It made clear that the audience like to watch esports Battle Royale matches — it gathered 400.000 people at the peak and 200.000 viewers on average. The development slowed a little for some time so next tournament was organized only three months later. IEM Oakland PUBG Invitational 2017 totaled 91.000 people at the peak and 57.000 on average.

January 2018 can be called the biggest fracture in Battle Royale history — Fortnite actively began to compete with PUBG for the popularity. PUBG started to lose it’s audience while Epic Games made quite successful marketing campaign. Everything became clear in March — the most popular Fortnite streamer Ninja totaled on his own channel more than 600,000 at once. He played together with a quite popular rapper Drake — that was the main reason for such hype.

Fortnite became a real online plague. People started to talk about this game everywhere — Internet, TV, online magazines. Epic Games turned into one of the most influential gaming company in the world in a very short time. However, PUBG still has one trump card in its sleeve — esports.

A lot of esports organizations have already signed PUBG rosters so it was necessary to organize tournaments. IEM Katowice was held in February, StarSeries i-League PUBG 2018 and PGL PUBG Spring Invitational 2018 in March. In the same time, a lot of independent organizers made their own esports league, like PandaTV PUBG League. The biggest one was PUBG China Pro Invitational 2018.

However, the most popular event have been and remain unique events, which are focused on the confrontation between popular streamers. For example, Twitch Rivals PUBG Invitational gathered 354.000 viewers at the peak and 256.000 on average.

The first esports Fortnite event — Ninja Vegas ‘18 was held in April 2018. It was organized in partnership with streamer Ninja. The result was astonishing — 635.000 viewers at the peak and 446.000 on average. Epic Games realized at once that esports has a lot of potential. The company began to prepare its grandiose plan to conquer the world.

Bluehole announced PUBG Global Invitational 2018 with a prize fund of $ 3.000.000 in late April. Players and organizers gained a lot of experience for the past year, so the tournament was supposed to be grandiose in all ways.

Epic Games decided that they should fight fire with fire. The management announced in May that the company is going to invest $100.000.000 into all upcoming Fortnite tournament for the first esports Fortnite competitive season. It is three times more than Dota 2 had for the entire 2017 year. This fact made Fortnite a tier-1 esports discipline in one second and dozens of professional teams started to find players for their rosters.

Epic Games really wants everyone to understand that the things get more serious. The company organized Celebrity Pro-Am in June with $3.000.000 prize pool. It is the unique event which involved both streamers veterans and popular stars from TV, music or cinema. 100 participants, 50 players, and 50 stars formed 50 teams with 2 players in each one. They fought each other for a huge prize pool, although it all went to charity. The result was shocking — 2.000.000 viewers at the peak and 1.300.000 people on average.

PUBG also had some tournaments in June. DreamHack Austin PUBG Showdown 2018 gathered 116.000 spectators at the peak, PUBG SEA Championship 2018 — 122.000 viewers at the peak. Seems like good enough, but it is almost nothing against the craziest popularity of Fortnite.

The middle of the summer is traditionally considered to be some kind of period of silence as there is no really big esports tournament. However, not this year.

PUBG Global Invitational 2018 was the most important event of July. It is quite amusing to observe how much PUBG esports scene grew up over the past year. All this experience transformed into views and viewers — 797.000 at the peak and 370.000 on average and it is without the Chinese audience. Together with viewers from the Middle Kingdom the tournament had 60.000.000 viewers at the peak and 17.000.000 on average.

July is quite important as Epic Games officially started their esports season from the first Fortnite Summer Skirmish on July 14. It gathered 744.000 spectators at the peak. Epic Games makes tournaments of this series every week. The prize pool was quite small at first — “only” $250.000, but organizers raised it to $1.000.000 in second week. It helped Fortnite Summer Skirmish Week 2 to gather even more viewers than PUBG Global Invitational 2018 — 804.000 at the peak. Although it is without the Chinese audience — Fortnite didn’t broadcast their tournament in the Celestial Empire.

Fortnite and PUBG are the most popular Battle Royale games right now, but they are not the only one. Hi-Rez Studios develops Realm Royale, and since the company has experience in esports (Smite and Paladins), they also decided to try their new game as esports discipline. KEEMSTAR Thursday Realm Royale # 1 was held in July, which gathered 194.000 people at the peak. It seemed that the game has great potential at the first time, but according to official statistics, Realm Royale lost 93% of its players since the release, which is catastrophic.

Esports Battle Royale scene seems quite stable and confident right now. The development of PUBG seems like reached its peak and company should start to think about how to keep its audience. On the other hand, Fortnite has just begun its journey, the most grandiose plans of Epic Games didn’t reveal yet. It will be also interesting to see how will Fortnite conquer the Chinese market. Tencent have rights to publish both PUBG and Fortnite in the Celestial Empire so there is some problem with further development — Tencent obviously don’t want to compete with itself.

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