Background information

These games didn’t survive the battle royale hype

Translation: Megan Cornish

A few years ago, new battle royale games were sprouting up all over the place. But not all games survived the boom.

The battle royale genre is still very popular. Games like «Fortnite», «Warzone 2.0» and «Apex Legends» are played by millions of fans every month. However, the number of battle royale games has dropped drastically in recent years.

The «PUBG» genre boom started in 2017. The game concept, which was still new at the time, attracted high praise from fans and critics and was popular with millions of people. 100 players fight for survival on a constantly shrinking map. The last surviving team or individual player wins the round.

Shortly after the release of «PUBG», Epic Games converted their co-op survival game «Fortnite» into a battle royale game. Thanks to the free-to-play model, the new «Fortnite» version was able to attract even more players than «PUBG».

In the years that followed, more and more publishers and developer studios wanted a piece of the battle royale pie. New games sprouted up like weeds. But it became clear relatively quickly that there was limited space in the battle royale market. If I play «Fortnite» and «PUBG», I don’t have time for ten other battle royale games.

Many games that were released during the battle royale boom between 2017 and 2021 are no longer available. I’ve collated the most spectacular, absurd and tragic failures in this article.

«Radical Heights» was a desperate rescue attempt

When legendary game designer Cliff Bleszinski announced that he was founding his own studio in 2014, shooter fans were delighted. Bleszinski is best known for his work on the «Gears of War» trilogy. After the third game, he resigned from Epic Games and took a break. After a two-year hiatus, Bleszinski started his studio «Boss Key Games».

The newly founded studio’s first game was «Law Breakers». The hero shooter wasn’t well received by critics or fans. The competition from games like «Overwatch» was too great. The servers were shut down around a year after launch.

Panic spread at Boss Key Games. The money was slowly running out. So, the studio decided to hop on the battle royale hype train. In virtually no time, the team cobbled together a game called «Radical Heights», which was released in April 2018 as an early access version on Steam.

The game used the aesthetics of 80s game shows and managed to stand out from the competition, at least visually. Unfortunately, «Radical Heights» was fairly unfinished at launch, even for an early access game. Missing textures, a questionable physics system and numerous visual and gameplay bugs left a bad first impression.

Some interiors even featured placeholder textures.
Some interiors even featured placeholder textures.
Screenshot: Gamestar/YouTube

About a month after the release of Radical Heights, Bleszinski announced on Twitter that Boss Key Games was ceasing trading. He admitted the game was a desperate and ultimately failed attempt to save the studio from going under. «Radical Heights» and «Law Breakers» are no longer playable today. Cliff Bleszinski has completely retired from game development.

«The Culling» failed due to questionable monetisation

The first «The Culling» game was released in 2016. The battle royale game, which specialises in close combat, managed to build up a loyal fan base. Until «PUBG» was released in 2017. After the release of «PUBG», the number of players entered a steep nosedive and development studio Xaviant decided to stop work on «The Culling».

Instead, it focused on a sequel. «The Culling 2» was released in 2018 and was labelled a cheap and unfinished «PUBG» clone by fans of the first instalment. The launch was so catastrophic that the game was withdrawn from all digital shops a week (!) after publication.

After the embarrassing climbdown, Xaviant refocused on the first «The Culling» game. The plan was for the game to be re-released as a free-to-play title, but that didn’t really work out. «The Culling» didn’t generate enough revenue for the studio. So Xaviant decided to convert the free-to-play model into a «pay-per-match model». That means you can play once per day for free, then you have to pay for each additional match.

Not even the special close combat gameplay could save «The Culling» from its absurd payment model.
Not even the special close combat gameplay could save «The Culling» from its absurd payment model.
Screenshot: Xaviant

The absurd payment model wasn’t well received by the fans. It was the final nail in the coffin of the «The Culling» franchise. Around eight months after the change, the game’s servers were shut down.

«Hyper Scape»: dead despite a promising concept

The launch of «Hyper Scape» in August 2020 was actually quite promising. Ubisoft’s battle royale game managed to clearly differentiate itself from the competition, both visually and in terms of gameplay. The futuristic city in the game was designed vertically compared to the flat architecture of «PUBG» or «Fortnite». The fighting took place not only on the ground, but also on the rooftops of high-rise buildings. Nice gimmicks – like the ability of Twitch viewers to influence gameplay with votes – rounded off the overall package.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to hold its own against the competition. The servers for the game were switched off around two years after release. Ubisoft has never given an official reason for this.

«Islands of Nyne»: failure despite crowdfunding

Another futuristic battle royale game that didn’t survive long. «Islands of Nyne» was financed via crowdfunding campaigns and released as an early access game in summer 2018. The game impressed with extremely fast gameplay and a look reminiscent of the legendary shooter «Crysis».

After only six months in early access, the developer studio «Define Human» announced bad news on a Steam community page. The studio was dissolved and work on «Islands of Nine» stopped. The reason for this was the low number of players, which was only in triple digits in the last 30 days.

There’s still a small ray of hope for this game. Last year, one of the developers announced plans to make «Islands of Nyne» playable again. The game is currently available on Steam again. The developer has provided a private test server in Florida for the resurrection – so «Islands of Nyne» is theoretically playable again. The small community uses a Discord server to gather enough people for a match.

I downloaded it and was able to play a round despite the remote server. And I won! Okay, there was only one opponent. But a win’s a win.

There’s not much going on here, but «Islands of Nyne» is playable again.
There’s not much going on here, but «Islands of Nyne» is playable again.
Screenshot: Domagoj Belancic

Even magic couldn’t save «Spellbreak»

«Spellbreak» dispensed with guns and knives and instead relied on magic and spells. Even though the game was visually very reminiscent of «Fortnite», it managed to clearly differentiate itself from the rest of the battle royale crowd. The game was released on consoles and for PC in 2020.

Despite a successful launch, the number of players decreased rapidly over time. Last year, the numbers on Steam were in the low triple digits. In the highly competitive battle royale market, even a unique magic twist isn’t enough to build and keep a large fan base in the long term.

In June 2022, the developer studio behind «Spellbreak», Proletariat Inc., was bought by Activision Blizzard. The entire workforce is due to work on future «World of Warcraft» expansions. With the takeover of the studio, the decision was also made to stop work on «Spellbreak» entirely. The servers were shut down in January 2023.

«Rumbleverse»: even Epic Games makes mistakes

«Fortnite» wasn’t enough for Epic Games. A second battle royale high-flyer was needed. And because the market was already saturated, the new game needed an unprecedented twist. «Rumbleverse» had this – and yet it wasn’t enough for lasting success.

«Rumbleverse» was a combat game in a battle royale environment. You didn’t fight with guns; you fought with your fists. And your head. And your feet. Generally speaking, with everything that your virtual body had to offer.

«Rumbleverse» was released in August 2022 – and by the end of February 2023, the servers for the game had already been shut down. The developer studio Iron Galaxy and publisher Epic Games have not given an official reason for the end of the game. Maybe the combination of two such different genres was too much of a good thing. Many potential players were also bothered by the game’s over-the-top comic art style. In some trailers and screenshots, «Rumbleverse» looked like a cheap «Fortnite» knockoff on smartphones.

After all: in a farewell letter, Iron Galaxy gives the fans a bit of hope. It hopes that «Rumbleverse» will continue at some point in the future. I’m excited.

«Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier»: a failed mobile experiment

«Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier» is set 18 years before the events of «Final Fantasy VII». You could play a super soldier for the Shinra Electric Power Company. You had to prove yourself against other super soldiers on the battle royale battlefield using your guns, swords and magic skills.

The game was released for Android and iOS in late 2021. It survived for a little over a year. The servers were shut down in January 2023. Square Enix wasn’t happy with the quality of the game. The publisher tweeted that they «failed to deliver the gaming experience all fans deserve».

Personally, I’m happy that this experiment failed. I hope that in the future Square Enix will focus more on its key strengths and stay away from free-to-play experiments, battle royale games and weird NFT projects.

«Apex Legends Mobile» failed to establish itself in the mobile sector

Unlike «Apex Legends» on consoles and PC, «Apex Legends Mobile» didn’t manage to establish itself in the highly competitive mobile gaming market. The game was released for Android and iOS in May 2022, around three years after the release of the main game. The game’s big problem is that it doesn’t support cross-play or cross-progression with the other «Apex Legends» versions.

The mobile version of the successful battle royale shooter was its own little microcosm. You were unable to play with other «Apex Legends» players on PC and console, and your purchases couldn’t be carried over to the main game. And that was also the reason why EA will shut down the game on 1 May 2023.

In the future, the video game giant intends to focus on «cross-platform ecosystems» when developing mobile games which offer a similar user experience on all devices. In addition, they weren’t satisfied with the controls and the quantity and quality of the updates for «Apex Legends Mobile».

«Apex Legends» in the Digitec Playground Cup

Speaking of «Apex Legends», the grand finale of volume nine of the Digitec Playground Cup will take place on 18 March. The best «Apex Legends» players in Switzerland give it their all in the pro tournament. And amateurs can also prove themselves on the virtual battlefield in the second tournament.

The final of the Playground Cup promises hard-hitting «Apex Legends» action. It’s worth tuning in!
The final of the Playground Cup promises hard-hitting «Apex Legends» action. It’s worth tuning in!
Screenshot: Domagoj Belancic

Both tournaments will be broadcast live on Twitch and YouTube. The show starts at 12:00 p.m.

You can watch past cups on the Digitec Playground Playlist, from «Rocket League» to «League of Legends» and other games.

If you don’t want to miss anything about the Digitec Playground Cup, you can click on «Follow» below. You can also reach us on the Digitec Discord server and get answers to your questions about the tournament.

Header image: Ubisoft

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My love of video games was unleashed at the tender age of five by the original Gameboy. Over the years, it's grown in leaps and bounds.

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