Interviews & Opinion

INSIGHT: Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII could absolutely rule the battle royale genre on PC

INSIGHT: Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII could absolutely rule the battle royale genre on PC

With the success of Playerunknown's Battlegrounds and Fortnite in the last two years, it was only a matter of time before the triple-A big boys of this industry decided they wanted to get in on the battle royale action.

EA is giving it a go with Battlefield V - post-launch - while Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII is placing this kind of gameplay front and centre with its Blackout mode. The beta is currently live and generating a lot of buzz, too, with the firm reporting "strong" pre-orders during its most recent financial call 

In fact, Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII could stand to be the biggest iteration for a while and it's entirely thanks to battle royale.

Activision and developer Treyarch have decided to forgo a single-player campaign this year in favour of multiplayer and battle royale - amid rumours about just why the story missions were ditched. It's a risky strategy, but one that could pay off big time.

If you look at the current battle royale genre you have two massive players - Fortnite and Playerunknown's Battlegrounds.

The former is free-to-play, has a younger and more casual audience. It's cross-platform and has been available on console for some time, drawing in huge numbers of players. Not only that; it's accessible and easy to pick up and play. On PC it also boots via the Epic client, which has built-in anti-cheat measures among other features. 

Meanwhile, Playerunknown's Battlegrounds is gritty, violent and not particularly accessible thanks to a whole load of complicated systems such as, um, firing a gun and what various weapon attachments do. It's also entirely focused on the core battle royale style of play - fighting for survival in an ever-decreasing playspace until one person or team is left alive. There are no frills - no construction mechanics to worry about (or, in my case, flat out ignore).

Despite being the first big battle royale title, PUBG has been fighting an uphill war with cheaters - mostly from China - with these bad actors being a constant source of frustration for the community. Oh, and it's a pretty janky and buggy affair most of the time - even nine months after the 1.0 version was released.

If you look at the Venn diagram of the current battle royale market, Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII's Blackout mode sits right in the middle. It's a polished military sim title that slides into that sweet spot between the casual fare of Fortnite and the hardcore Playerunknown's Battlegrounds. The Call of Duty name is so big and well known that it'll attract a decent fanbase, despite not being free-to-play. And this mode is singularly focused on combat and survival - none of that construction nonsense (have I mentioned I intensely dislike that mechanic in Fortnite?).

Oh, and it's the Call of Duty's franchise's first foray on Blizzard's platform. Not only will this likely be a higher wall for cheaters to climb, this move also suggests a higher level of investment in the game's PC edition than before. But we'll have to cross our fingers for that one.

How the game evolves will be a large factor for sure. Infinity Ward is next in the Call of Duty development rotation with many staff who worked on the first two Modern Warfare games returning from Respawn Entertainment. So next year could be a more fully featured entry, including the campaigns that that studio delivered in the past. 

Fortnite and Playerunknown's Battlegrounds are more service-based affairs, while Call of Duty's yearly cycle could be an issue when it comes to the franchise's userbase. That being said, Activision supports its Call of Duty games for longer now with Black Ops III coming up to its third year of post-launch support. 

Of course, nothing is certain in this industry and instead of winning over everyone, players might just stick to what they are already playing. But I'm confident in saying that Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII could be leading the battle royale market on PC in the near future. 

Alright Activision, I've done your bidding. Now please let my family go. 

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.