Why Battlefield needs a battle royale mode

Adding a battle royale mode to Battlefield would give EA’s franchise a leg up over Call of Duty

In EA’s first quarterly earnings call of 2018, CEO Andrew Wilson was reluctant to share how the publisher might implement the white-hot battle royale genre into its portfolio. EA likely wants to be seen as a trendsetter instead of a follower. However, it’s in their best interest to go all in on battle royale, starting this fall with the next iteration of Battlefield.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds popularized the battle royale game genre last year, earning $788M on PC and digital console since it launched last March. In the game, up to 100 players parachute onto an island and scavenge for weapons and gear. A shrinking play area forces them into conflict, and the last participant or team alive wins. The simple concept of battle royale is the biggest innovation shooters have adopted since Activision Blizzard added a progression system and unlockable items in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007).

EA is in an excellent position to capitalize on the battle royale trend. The Battlefield games are known among AAA shooters for their large maps and high player numbers per match. Adding a battle royale mode to Battlefield would require fewer changes to the core experience than with games like Call of Duty that have smaller player counts and maps.

A battle royale game would also let EA expand its share of the $1.1B esports market. The publisher has a dedicated department for esports, but its current titles are not ideal for professional competition. This is because it is not feasible to build esports teams for many of Battlefield’s game modes, which top out at 32 players per team. Also, while the FIFA series continues to top sales charts, it has never been a top-tier esport. However, battle royale games have proven esports potential: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has already been featured at multiple esports tournaments with six-figure prize pools. If EA were to focus on this genre, they could reignite their esports potential.

If EA is to capitalize on the battle royale genre, it must do so quickly. The market is already getting crowded with entrants like Epic’s Fortnite: Battle Royale, which had 27.1M players in December 2017, and NetEase’s Knives Out. With this influx of new battle royale games, the genre will lose its novelty and become just another game mode like ‘deathmatch’ or ‘capture the flag’. But if EA can strike while the iron is still hot, it is in a position to be “winner winner chicken dinner.”