A battle royale game, also spelled battle royal, is a video game genre that blends the survival, exploration and scavenging elements of a survival game with last-man-standing gameplay. Battle royale games challenge a large number of players, starting with minimal equipment, to search for weapons and armor and eliminate all other opponents while avoiding being trapped outside of a shrinking “safe area”, with the winner being the last competitor in the game. The name for the genre is taken from the 2000 Japanese film Battle Royale, which presents a similar theme of a last-man-standing competition in a shrinking play zone.
The genre’s origins arose from mods for large-scale online survival games like Minecraft and ARMA 2, before becoming popularized with standalone games such as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which had sold over 40 million copies by mid-2018. The same year, the free-to-play Fortnite Battle Royale rapidly became a cultural phenomenon, overtaking Battlegrounds in terms of player numbers and revenue.
Battle royale games are played between a large number of individual players, or a number of small squads (typically up to four or five players). In each match, the goal is to be the last player or team standing by eliminating all other opponents. A match starts by placing the player-characters into a large map space, which may have random distribution or allow players to have some control of where they start. All players start with minimal equipment, giving no player an implicit advantage at the onset. Equipment, usually used for combat, survival or transport are randomly scattered around the map, often at landmarks on the map such as within buildings. Players need to search the map for these items while avoid being killed by other players. Equipment from eliminated players can usually be looted as well. These games often include some mechanic to push opponents closer together as the game progresses, usually taking the form of a gradually decreasing safe zone wherein players outside of the zone are slowly damaged or killed. Typically, battle royale contestants are only given one life to play; any players who die are not allowed to respawn. Games with team support may allow team members to revive a downed player. The match is over when only one player or team remains, and the game typically provides some type of reward (in-game currency for more cosmetic items) to all players based on how long they survived.
The random nature of starting point, item placement, and safe area reduction lends the battle royale genre to challenge players to think and react quickly and improve strategies throughout the match as to be the last man/team standing.
In addition to standalone games, the battle royale concept may also be present as part of one of many game modes within a larger game, or may be applied as a user-created mod created for another game.
There are various modifications that can be implemented atop the fundamentals of the battle royale. For example, Fortnite introduced a temporary mode in an event which is 50-versus-50 player mode in its Fortnite Battle Royale free-to-play game; players are assigned one of the two teams, and work with their teammates to collect resources and weapons towards constructing fortifications as the safe area of the game shrinks down, with the goal to eliminate all the players on the other team.