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Activision Blizzard jumping on battle royale bandwagon

Executives say Fortnite and PUBG have expanded the industry; publisher is "very quick to figure out how to capture inspiration from innovation"

The success of battle royale games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and Fortnite has not been ignored by Activision Blizzard. Within the first few minutes of a post-earnings investor call today, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick praised Fortnite for "attracting new gamers of all ages and genders," just one of numerous times the games and battle royale modes in general would be brought up during the call.

"New battle royale modes that have recently entered the space have compelling survivor mechanics and large, in-game player pools. They have also brought tens of millions of completely new players into gaming both on traditional platforms like console and PC, but also on newer platforms for the genre like mobile. We are very, very encouraged by this," Activision COO Coddy Johnson said.

Activision CFO Spencer Neumann continued with this line of thought during the Q&A portion of the conference call. "The battle royale mode is contributing to the innovation and expansion we're seeing in the industry. It's not only bringing the younger audiences and millions of new gamers into the shooter genre where we're already a leader in the space but importantly, it's also highlighting the ability to bring immersive gaming experiences like battle royale to mobile in both Western and Eastern markets."

"When we see people innovate in an interesting and impactful way, we are very quick to figure out how to capture inspiration from innovation"

Bobby Kotick

Activision CEO Bobby Kotick added, "When we see people innovate in an interesting and impactful way, we are very quick to figure out how to capture inspiration from innovation. When we see things that appeal to our audiences, we are very good at being inspired by those."

Kotaku reported last month that the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 would have a battle royale mode. Although that has yet to be confirmed by Activision, they did stress that the next iteration of the popular shooter franchise would see a shift from its predecessors.

"This is a game that is not going to just build on our strengths. It will need to push the envelope in innovation," Johnson said.

While executives didn't pinpoint specific games they believed might have lost players to Fortnite and PUBG, it's clear the publisher has noticed their sudden popularity negatively affecting its own efforts.

"We've seen some near-term impact from battle royale, but as you heard on the call today, our business continues to perform at record levels," Neumann said.

One game that has apparently not reached the level of success expected of it is Destiny 2. When one investor asked how Activision planned to fix Destiny 2 and bring back its users, Johnson didn't dispute the question's premise, instead offering an explanation for where Bungie's first-person franchise is headed in the future.

"The three things we know we're going to do and that the community is looking for is: make the player more powerful, provide rewards, and make the endgame more meaningful," Johnson said.

Although there were no details on what will be added to Destiny 2 in the future, Johnson did hint at what will be included in the upcoming Warmind expansion as well as a bigger change coming this fall.

"Bungie recently hosted a large cohort of the top worldwide Destiny players up at their studio in Seattle and they walked through the features and updates that they're planning," Johnson said. "They also gave hands-on with not just Warmind, the expansion coming shortly, but also part of the big fall release. And it was a very positive response, even more for what's coming this fall and to the innovations in gameplay there including what we think will be an incredibly engaging new mode, one that introduces a whole new style of play for first-person-shooter gaming generally and certainly for the sharable shooter space that Destiny created."

Activision was more positive about Overwatch, especially in regards to the Overwatch League. "Viewership has been very strong and consistent each week, we've had millions of fans tuning in, and our average viewer spends more than an hour watching each day," said Blizzard CEO Michael Morhaime.

Kotick added, "[The league] has reinforced that the thing they spend hours and hours a day playing is something that they feel like is now being validated in a way that it never has before in a video game. All of our players feel like this is truly a recognition of the sense of belonging they get playing the game and the sense of accomplishment they feel playing the game and I think more than anything that's been an enormous benefit as a result of the creation of the league."

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