While PlayerUnkown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite are the battle royale titles of choice these days, it wasn’t long ago that Sony Online Entertainment’s H1Z1 was one of the most anticipated games in the industry. However, the zombie survival shooter got off to a rocky start with a pay-to-win controversy during Early Access, and it never reached the heights it potentially could have. In July 2017, a year and some change after the game introduced its proper battle royale mode, things briefly looked up when it drew a peak of 150,000 concurrent Steam users—until PUBG came around and changed everything. In the last seven months, H1Z1 has hemorrhaged its player base, dropping 91% to an average of 10,000 concurrent users.
This figure is a continuation of trends from last year, when the holiday season saw numbers already down 78%, likely due to the console release of PUBG and rise of Fortnite. Whether the mass exodus is due to continued strife between players and developers or the base simply moving on to greener, trendier pastures is beside the point for SOE—with such a precipitous fall, there’s likely little that can be done to stop the bleeding. PUBG hit 3 million concurrent users in December and Fortnite hit that mark just a couple weeks ago, and it’s unlikely that many would be convinced to return to a title with 0.3% of those figures.
As with any truly worldwide craze, many will attempt to cash in on battle royale games and try to carve out their own piece of the market, almost like a battle royale in itself. Unfortunately, that also means ruthless, cutthroat competition, and games like H1Z1 will have low margins for error. And as an older game that’s still trying to play catch up, it would be a far cry to see the title ever regain what it has lost, or claim any serious piece of the pie again.