EA’s DICE studio is testing a battle royale mode for Battlefield V that features similar gameplay to megahits like Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, according to someone with knowledge of the studio who asked to remain anonymous. In those last player-standing shooters, 100 players drop onto a map and fight until only one person or team is left standing, and that game type has taken over the industry.
And DICE is trying to see if it can get in on the action.
DICE is preparing Battlefield V, which I reported on in March, for launch later this year, but that isn’t stopping the studio from putting together a prototype that could compete with PUBG and Fortnite. Existing battle royale shooters have tens of millions of players, and Fortnite has even reached the nexus where gaming meets wider pop-culture icons like the rapper Drake, who is a huge fan of Epic Games free-to-play battler. So it didn’t surprise too many people when Call of Duty news site CharlieIntel reported that Activision has support studio Raven working on a battle royale for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, which debuts in October. And again, it shouldn’t shock you to hear that DICE is doing the same thing for Battlefield V.
I asked EA for a comment, and the publisher declined.
So the battle royale gold rush is on, and DICE is investigating how a massive, last player-standing mode would work with its current mechanics. But don’t expect to drop onto an island with 99 other players when Battlefield V launches this fall. The studio has not yet approved its battle royale for release, and it is still in the prototype phase. If DICE does decide that it’s happy with what it has, it won’t have it ready in time for the initial release.
If the mode does get the green light, Battlefield: Battle Royale could end up as a new part of Battlefield V as a free update. EA has provided a huge amount of support for its shooters in the form of regular expansions and downloadable content, and that is where a last-player-standing shooter makes the most sense. Anything is possible, though. EA could cancel the prototype, it could hold it off for the launch of the next Battlefield or a Star Wars: Battlefront sequel, or it could spin it out into its own game.
Battle royale is seismic shift for the shooter space, and DICE doesn’t want to ignore it. If it’s possible that the genre is not settled in terms of a dominant game, then a lot of money is up for grabs. At the same time, the odds are against any game unseating Fortnite. EA will have to tread carefully here if it decides to put significant resources into chasing Fortnite and PUBG. It has done this before with similar genres. Its Star Wars: The Old Republic massively multiplayer online role-playing game is doing well now as a free-to-play alternative to World of Warcraft, but it didn’t start that way. And the publisher ended up canceling its multiplayer online battle arena Dawngate because it knew it couldn’t compete with League of Legends and DOTA 2. Maybe we’ll get to see if it learned any lessons from that past.