• Ofer Zeevy

Battle Royale status analysis reveals challenges for top games

Updated: Jul 18

OVERVIEW


They say it is more difficult to stay at the top than to get there.


And such is the case with four of the leading gaming brands that all reached, and still claim, massive success within their extremely competitive market. They, namely Fortnite, Call of Duty, Apex Legends and PUBG, are all leaders within the Battle Royale gaming genre and have recorded enormous revenues as their brands are played, and enjoyed, by millions of gamers.



But in addition to competing against each other for player attention, they are all facing various individual challenges that make their business journey, well, even more challenging. The way to figure out their current market situation goes through conducting a deep-dive analysis of what players are saying about them. And for such a deep-dive, Affogata, the player feedback analysis platform, recently prepared a special analyst report.


The report covered the tracking and analysis of player feedback from February 19th, 2022 through to March 31st, 2022 time frame. Affogata monitored countless player conversations on many online channels such Discord, Reddit, Twitter, Vanilla Forums, App stores, and much more, and found out what players discuss, praise and complain about with regards to these four top games.


Affogata tracked and analyzed events taking place, during this time period, that affected player engagement and sentiment, as well as compared player insights surrounding the games major pain points. Reviewing our findings can give these brands a spotlight onto their advantages and challenges, show how they are positioned next to each other and reveal some interesting industry trends and possible future directions.


As the Battle Royale genre kept reaching new sales heights in recent years, causing industry experts to call it a cultural phenomenon, it seems that its features tell a similar story to that of the gaming industry. In order for studios and publishers to continue their success, they must mix a “last man standing” and “survival game” approach, as the competition becomes stiffer and more complex.


Having challenges such as technical bugs, changing key features in a game or facing in-app purchasing issues, can easily cause players to lose patience and churn. Then, a game’s player loss can mean the competing game’s gain. That increases the need of these brands to provide their gamers with a smooth and fun experience from start to finish, or risk disappointing their core audience.


And it all begins by figuring out their player feedback and responding to their needs and wants quickly and as accurately as possible.


As the saying goes: it is more difficult to stay at the top than to get there.


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Here’s the lowdown on the events and player feedback that these four giant video games have witnessed during the time Affogata tracked and analyzed. What follows is an individual breakdown of each game’s status during this time frame, with a full comparison between all four appearing at the second half of this report and some conclusions at the end.



Part 1 - Battle Royale player feedback analysis of each game



Apex legends


Apex legends official website


Release date: February 4th, 2019


Developer: Respawn entertainment


Publisher: Electronic Arts


Estimated sales: $1.6 billion (By Nov. 1st, 2021)



Two events caused player mention peaks during the period analyzed, tracking overall some 64,727 posts from all over the open web: the limited release of Apex Legends mobile version on March 8th as well as the earlier Feb. 23rd tweet from Twitch steamer @4_xenon. 73.6% of all mentions registered on Twitter, with Reddit and Instagram a distant second and third.



The mobile version of Apex Legends generated 7,093 mentions during the tracked period, with a peak on the game’s release date. This number represents some 12% out of all period mentions. Interestingly, the release caused many players to compare it directly to Call of Duty: Mobile (609 mentions), but less so to the other two leading genre games, drawing only 288 to PUBG and just 141 to Fortnite.


Call of duty: Mobile


Call of Duty's official website


Release date: 2019 (Original game launch: October 29th, 2003)


Developer: Infinity ward, Treyarch, Sledgehammer games, Raven software


Publisher: Activision


Estimated sales: $27 billion (As of July 2021)



The oldest of the four video games, Call of Duty, was reviewed here to cover its more recent mobile version. Released on Oct. 1st, 2019, with one of the largest launches in video game history, the mobile version generated more than $480 million within its first year.


Engagement for COD: Mobile was fairly consistent throughout the reporting period, with an overall 33,718 posts count measured by Affogata. Minor neutral peaks were recorded in response to Youtube videos released on the game’s official channel, teasing new gameplay features and events.



March 1st showed a significant peak in positive reviews on Google Play (1,312 positive

reviews) and is potentially the result of an in-game prompt. Negative mentions, in

contrast, have remained consistently low throughout the reporting period with no

significant peaks in volume.


Additionally, there are over double the number of positive mentions (12,853) compared to negative mentions (5,413), implying an overwhelmingly positive reception. As a result, COD: Mobile led all four games with a high 7.0 positive brand reputation score.


The platform with the highest level of engagement was Google Play (13,679 reviews, 40.56% of overall mentions). Other platforms showed a higher percentage of positive mentions compared with negative ones, except for two platforms - Twitter and Reddit.


This difference is most apparent on Reddit, with almost four times as many negative mentions (341) as there were positive (85) - likely due to the fact that Reddit is mostly used by a community that looks down on mobile gaming as a whole, and is less likely to react to the game in a positive way.



Fortnite


Fortnite's official website


Release date: July 25th, 2017


Developer: Epic Games


Publisher: Epic Games


Estimated sales: $14.2 billion generated revenue (by the end of 2020)



503,763 posts were tracked and analyzed for this report mentioning Fortnite. And no, this is not a printing error. This mega-successful video game still manages to cause so much player feedback, that it dwarfs all of its competitors in terms of attention and interest. That’s 2.75 times more than PUBG, almost 8 times more than Apex Legends, and a mighty 15 times greater than Call of Duty: Mobile. Talk about popularity!



As the graph above shows, the removal of building from the game on March 20th, as released in chapter 3 of season 2, created a peak in mentions that dwarfed all other events in this period.


Other significant events that spurred engagement include a login issue that occurred on March 2nd, and the announcement banning Russian players from participating in cash-prizes tournaments (that was subsequently deleted). In the latter event, the community expressed confusion as to why the original tweet was deleted and replaced with a ‘are there more wheels or doors in Fortnite tweet’, as well as Russian players and streamers expressing their

disappointment.


An amazing ⅔ of all Fortnite mentions were registered on Twitter with Instagram (20.52%) and Reddit (10.24%) way too far behind.


The bulk of Instagram mentions were posts using the hashtag ‘# fortnite’ to promote content regardless of whether said content was related to the game, explaining the high

ratio of positive to negative mentions. Conversely, both Twitter and Reddit showed a higher percentage of negative mentions compared to positive. Twitter appears to be a platform that the community uses in order to vent their frustrations about the game, while Reddit users generally look down at games considered ‘casual’.


Analysis of the highest mentions’ peak, namely the ‘build’ feature, showed that it was mentioned 14,424 times, accounting for 2.83% of mentions of Fortnite. On March 20th, the day the feature was removed from the game, it was discussed 8,121 times, which stands for 56.3% of all feature mentions and 13.38% of overall comments generated that day.

Mentions of the building updated feature on March 20th were 28.62% negative and 11.25%

positive, indicating that the community reacted negatively to such removal. Common complaints included players stating that the building was such a core element of Fortnite, and by removing it Fortnite lost a core element that used to differentiate it from its competitors.



PUBG: Battlegrounds


PUBG's official website


Release date: December 20th, 2017


Developer: PUBG Studios


Publisher: Krafton, Microsoft studios (X-Box one), Tenecent Games (mobile)


Estimated sales: $12.87 billion revenue (by April 2022)



Last but not least of the four mega Battle Royale video games is PUBG, coming in second in terms of total mentions with a very respectable 183,566. The game ranks second also in terms of overall brand sentiment score, registering 6.6 (Only “Call of Duty: Mobile” scored higher with 7.0).


Overall reception to PUBG was positive, with there being almost twice as many positive mentions (39,852) as there were negative (20,914). The main engagement driver throughout the reporting period was the release of update 16.2. There was an increase in positive Google Play reviews on March 17th with several reviews directly mentioning the update. In addition, there was an increase in neutral mentions on March 18th, mostly on Twitter, with players sharing

their experiences with the new update.



Twitter and Instagram both drew a similar amount of feedback traffic (30.21% and 29.07% of mentions respectively), but the engagement on each platform was markedly different - the game’s Twitter community was actively engaging with each other and sharing their opinions about the game, whereas on Instagram, the hashtag ‘# PUBG’ was used to promote content, regardless of whether said content was even tangentially related to the game.


Google Play came in 3rd in terms of the highest level of engagement, and reception on this

platform was overwhelmingly positive with a significant increase in mentions surrounding the release of update 16.2.



Part 2 - Battle Royale game comparison: Side by Side



Battle Royale is not a new genre, but it seems to have heated up in recent years, leading many to view it as a cultural phenomenon.


First there was the 2000 Japanese film Battle Royale, itself based on the “last man standing competition in a shrinking play zone” which appeared in a previous novel with the same name. In early 2010’s the gaming market was introduced to titles such as Minecraft, and that opened the door to even more high-volume Battle Royale video games such as the ones covered in this report.


A key time period is the 2017-2019, with the emergence of the Battle Royale top video games (or the mobile version, as in the case of Call of Duty), the ones that became industry leaders:


2017 (July): Fortnite


2017 (December) : PUBG: Battlegrounds


2019 (February): Apex Legends


2019 (October): Call of Duty: Mobile


But other than reviewing these four games' mega revenue streams, or learning about their respective challenges, it is interesting to view how they stack up against one another. And as per Affogata’s report, it is a comparison based on their player feedback all over the open web.


Deep-diving into player feedback shaped up the following comparison picture.



Battle Royale Player Feedback analysis comparison





As per the chart on the left, Call of Duty: Mobile is the game with the highest percentage of both positive and negative mentions, due to the majority of those originating from Google Play, a platform where reviews are inherently polarized.


Apex Legends and Fortnite, in comparison, have a significant percentage of

neutral mentions, due to players using hashtags related to these games in order to promote content, even in cases where said content is unrelated to the games themselves.


Overall it appears that Fortnite has the highest engagement levels across all platforms, with notable platforms being Twitter, Reddit and Instagram.



A significant and recurring theme with players is their reporting and commenting about technical game problems. PUBG leads this unfortunate section.


Common complaints include server connection issues that cause lag and

freezing throughout gameplay, including also players who claimed they were kicked out of games altogether. Other recurring complaints feature bugs, glitches and login issues.


PUBG players complain mostly about connection issues, claiming they receive

notifications from the game about slow internet connection even while other

applications and programs run smoothly.



Then there are those hacking issues.


Complaints about players cheating and using hacking in order to win matches are

another recurring topic in negative mentions of all the games examined in this report.

Notably, Fortnite has an extremely low percentage of related mentions, especially

compared to PUBG which has the highest relative percentage. Notably, Fortnite has a

peak in said mentions on March 14th due to a popular streamer contacting the police

after his account was hacked.


Across all games, these mentions are mostly complaints about matches lost due to the

presence of hackers and cheaters who use external tools in order to beat other players

on the server.



Pricing matters are always on the table for players, as it obviously contributes to the negative mentions levels.


Fortnite is the unfortunate leader here vs. the other three games. Somewhat surprisingly, the building removal from the game did not only register a content-related disappointment but also led players to complain that the game was no longer worth their money.


Other recurring topics included complaints about having to purchase over-priced in-game items in order to remain competitive. Players felt that they were asked to overspend as well as turning the game into a “pay to win”.



The final comparison item is the balancing between positive and negative mentions from players. Such balance gives an indication about player overall satisfaction from a game. It also shows studios and publishers whether player pain points are greater than their overall enjoyment from a game. In addition, gaming companies can measure the complaints’ levels and figure out just how big of an issue is each pain point, as determined by the only opinions that matter: Those of the players.


Although CoD: Mobile had the lowest amount of mentions by volume, it showed the highest

percentage of conversations and the highest percentage of both positive (34.42%) and

negative mentions (27.55%). This stems from the fact that the majority of mentions originated from Google Play, where mentions are inherently more polarized than on other platforms. Both


PUBG and CoD: mobile had a higher percentage of positive mentions compared to negative

(14.26% of PUBG’s mentions are positive and 13.91% of mentions are negative), whereas Apex

Legends and Fortnite had a higher percentage of negative mentions compared to positive (9.93% of Apex Legends’ mentions are positive and 15.47% of mentions are negative; 10.18% of Fortnite’s mentions are positive and 16.95% of mentions are negative).



Part 3 - Conclusions


A variety of engagements, but themes repeat themselves


Player engagement varies in direct relation to the type of platforms it appears on. For example,

reviews on Google Play are noticeably different than comments on Reddit, as they serve

different purposes.


However, as the negative sentiment drivers clearly showed, there were issues that

transcended these differences, and proved to be ‘make or break’ features for the entire community. Technical issues, the presence of hackers and cheaters in the game, and issues around in-game purchases, were constantly present cross-platform and cross-time.


Changes bring attention


The occurrence that drove the highest level of engagement was the removal of a building in Fortnite - a major feature, whose removal changed the core nature of the gameplay.


Interestingly, players cited the removal of said feature as a step taken to make Fortnite resemble its competitors, removing the uniqueness of the game. The opposite was true for other players, who praised the removal of said feature, as they claimed it created an overall more

balanced experience.


Players seemingly do look for unique features in their games, and it is one of the ways

they judge return on investment when shelling out money in games.


Tech issues must be resolved quickly


Technical problems remain the main negative sentiment driver across all games examined. The main complaint appeared to be connection issues, implying that potentially, the first game to offer a smooth and stable experience to its players may be able to bring in players from competing games.


In other words, running a bug-free game, or as close to it as possible, simply means retaining as many players as possible and not sending them to look for alternative competing options.


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They say it is more difficult to stay at the top than to get there.


Figuring out real-time player needs and wants, by tracking and analyzing their feedback from all over the open web, will help gaming companies to stay at the top.


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