With PlayerUnknown’s Battleground’s monumental success throughout 2017 and Fortnite’s rise at the start of 2018, the Battle Royale sub-genre is rapidly taking over multiplayer gaming. PUBG broke countless Steam records at the height of its popularity, and Fortnite’s free mode has become so huge that even stars like Drake are jumping on to play with streamers. Now both titles are set to take over a whole new facet of the gaming industry.
Recently, both titles made their way to the mobile phone platform, and at roughly the same time, too. For the first time ever, these two rivals are juking it out on the same level playing field. Both are so far performing very well indeed – certainly much better than expected – but Fortnite is starting to run away with it according to download charts and revenue figures.
At face value, PUBG is the better mobile experience. It runs smoother than Fortnite and its draw distance doesn’t suffer quite so much (not that it has lost the PC version’s signature jank). Being a slower game, its control also better suits a touchscreen interface. Indeed, Fortnite’s building mechanics can be extremely finicky on a touchscreen, often spoiling the flow of the gameplay as you fumble around trying to navigate build menus. The icon placement, in particular, is poorly implemented, distracting your eyes from the rest of the action. In essence, PUBG simply has less to gets your hands twisted over, making it easier to jump into, both for transitioning veteran players and newcomers.
Apparently, though, none of this is making one iota of difference. Fortnite’s dominance elsewhere means that its blemishes in-game might count for far less than they probably should.
At the time of writing, PUBG sits at just under two million concurrent players on Steam which, while impressive still, is significantly lower than it was a couple of months ago. Most importantly, it’s ground that has been ceded to Fortnite, which continues to grow at an astonishing rate. Just a couple of months ago, Epic’s Battle Royale game surpassed PUBG’s concurrent players record. Ultimately, Fortnite’s status as number one everywhere else has given it a massive boost that might very well have won the battle before it’s even begun. While you might argue that the free-to-play nature of PUBG mobile might entice current Fortnite players to make the switch out of curiosity, the allure of the Fortnite scene, currently so in-vogue, might well be too much to abandon.
And this brings us to the most impressive aspect of Fortnite’s port to mobile: the manner in which Epic has managed to integrate the platform with PC and console. As long as players link their Epic account to Fortnite mobile, they’ll unlock new skins, level up, and complete challenges on their phones just as they would on any other platform. That cross progression makes playing Fortnite mobile so much more appealing. You aren’t wasting time leveling up a character that you’re not invested in, you’re working towards the same objectives you would do anyway, just on a smaller screen. Being a free version, it’s understandable that PUBG doesn’t offer that feature, but it’s certainly a key reason why Fortnite mobile is proving more popular.
Fortnite’s more casual audience may also be playing a part in the success of its mobile version. With its cartoony graphics, shorter matches, and speedier gameplay, Epic’s game arguably better suits a mobile experience. And it’s also a design that seems to be drawing in a younger audience. Even before the mobile version, parents were lamenting their children’s addiction to the game. Of course, its popularity was sure to transfer over to the mobile version, especially since the demographic is so engrossed in their phones anyway. That’s already becoming so true that it’s causing havoc in schools, with teachers complaining that the game has ruined lessons. If a younger gamer is already hugely invested in a game, they’re inevitably going to be when they can play it wherever they are; even more so if that means at school too. PUBG beating Fortnite to Android devices and to full release is going to make it the game some players stick with, but Fortnite is seemingly winning over the iOS players, settling above its rival in the free app charts.
Fortnite’s iOS version is already making astronomical amounts of money, even despite imperfections that make it arguably a less enjoyable gameplay experience than its rival. In fact, the fate of these mobile versions of gaming’s hottest multiplayer franchises is almost symbolic of the greater struggle for supremacy as a whole: PUBG has lost the battle royale mindshare, and it doesn’t look likely to claim it back. Fortnite has forged a reputation for quality where PUBG has disappointed, and its consistency has translated to a constantly tweaked and honed package adored by its community. As a result, it has become the most accessible go-to for the battle royale experience, and that has ultimately meant a greater capacity to resonate with a large pool of younger gamers.
All of this momentum means that Fortnite’s foray into mobile gaming might yet become its most dominant and successful yet, and the free-to-play mobile showdown with its rival is looking extremely one side right now.