In the wake of Fortnite’s impressive popularity, many developers are trying to emulate the game’s achievements in the battle royale genre, although Xbox boss Phil Spencer does not count himself among them. Replying to a tweet from his official Twitter account, Spencer stated that, unless the company is able to find “something special” on offer, it will not be producing its own battle royale title.
Millions are playing BR games right now. I don't want to just build one because others have built them. FNBR is massive, PUBG is huge, new BR variants being built by some very quality devs, I'd rather support unless we find something special in 1P that's a different take.
— Phil Spencer (@XboxP3) April 29, 2018
Spencer is right to be cautious. Only last week new battle royale game Radical Heights reported an 82 percent drop in player count while in Steam early access. It is largely because of risks like this that Spencer is keen to distance Microsoft’s 1st party developers from reactionary battle royale projects.
This does not mean that Microsoft will not be involved with the genre further, after bringing PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds to the Xbox through Early Access. Further talks indicate that the developers of Radical Heights, Boss Key Studios, would like to bring the game to the Xbox in the future.
With that being the case it makes sense for Spencer to protect Microsoft from losses while still taking advantage of the genre’s surge in popularity. This is being done by encouraging external developers to bring their projects to the Xbox One while still distancing the company’s 1st party developers from risky endeavors, instead focusing on franchise titles like Gears of War.
There is already a raft of upcoming games in the genre pegged for release in 2018, including some interesting variations on the formula like Maelstrom, a boats-meets-monsters combat game set on the open ocean that recently reached its Kickstarter goal.
All Spencer is trying to do in this situation is continue to produce the games that 1st party developers are already committed to, as well as protecting the Xbox brand from high-profile failures. For now, the future of the genre looks relatively stable, particularly with Fortnite and PUBG going from strength to strength, but it is fairly certain that the rush to churn out games of this kind will lead to many developers overcommitting to capitalize on the hype.