The battle royale game mode isn't exactly new, but its current mainstream spotlight can be attributed to the virality of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. After it sold tens of millions of copies on Steam during its early access period alone, there was bound to be a wave of games trying to capitalize on the genre's exploding popularity. As of now, though, Fortnite: Battle Royale is the frontrunner in challenging PUBG's dominance. And while many have dubbed Fortnite's rendition a PUBG clone, there are just as many stark differences as there are similarities between the two.
A drastic contrast in presentation will hit you first. PUBG has a realistic, military-inspired look that's layered on top of the already nerve-racking concept. Fortnite looks like a cartoon; it's bright, colorful, and animated in a way that takes the edge off the imposing battle royale mode. Oddly enough, both games use Epic's Unreal Engine 4 despite the divergent graphical styles. These games were also born out of disparate foundations.
At its core, PUBG shares much of the same DNA as its predecessors. Brendan "PlayerUnknown" Greene himself helped create the original battle royale mods for Arma, and through several iterations these mods eventually led to H1Z1: King of the Kill, which became the premiere battle royale game just before PUBG came onto the scene. However, PUBG offers a more accessible and streamlined experience than its forebears while retaining the military sim framework that taps into your tactical instincts.
This begs the question: How did Fortnite, of all games, become the one to go toe-to-toe with PUBG? Fortnite has its own tumultuous development history, but its initial vision was a mashup of Gears of War's Horde mode and Minecraft's construction mechanics, driven by a loot grind to hook players. At first, a game that controls fast and loose, almost like an arena shooter, doesn't seem ripe for battle royale. However, Epic was able to adapt Fortnite into its own battle royal mode early on and capitalize on the trend, carving out its own piece of the pie.
Fortnite also had two key advantages over PUBG when its battle royale mode launched: it was both free to play and available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. PUBG recently hit the Xbox One in an early access phase, but it has a long way to go to match how smooth and stable Fortnite runs. Even on PC, you're likely to run higher framerates and have a lower chance of experiencing game-breaking bugs.
When it comes to the overall concept, PUBG's influence on Fortnite is clear. In both games, a 60-second warm-up takes place on an isolated island off the shore of the main island. 100 players are crammed into an air vessel and parachute down to the main island where a single-life deathmatch takes place. You're continuously forced into smaller zones at random via a lethal circle as the match progresses; you'll never know exactly where the final firefight will take place, either. Everyone scrambles for weapons, ammo, and health items across the map's numerous towns and structures. You can either do this alone, as a duo, or with a squad of four, but it ends the same: the last person or squad standing is declared the winner. Conceptually, these games are the same, but in practice, they play very differently.