Ubisoft, the developer of such popular games at Rainbow Six, Assassin's Creed and Just Dance 2020, is getting into the battle royale space.
Their upcoming game, "Hyper Scape", will be a free-to-play BR FPS set in a futuristic virtual world for both PC and consoles, with cross-play included. Closed beta begins next week, and the open beta will launch on July 12. The secret sauce is their full partnership with Twitch. Twitch chat will be able to download an extension that will directly influence a streamer's game dramatically (for example, changing the abilities the streamer has, like health, speed, and gravity). When a viewer buys Twitch bits through the extension when watching someone's stream, that streamer gets a share of the money.
Hyper Scape is already making waves on Twitter, with Tfue praising the game.
I've been playing hyperscape all day I think I'm addicted— Tfue (@TTfue) June 30, 2020
My first thought when I read this news was: do we really need another battle royale title? The market is pretty saturated as it is. The genre itself seems like it's already reached its peak, and any extra games that come in would cause diminishing returns. It's a difficult market to crack, especially with all the established games that already exist in the space.
Right now, as I look up live numbers on Twitch on Wednesday July 1, here's how many people are watching BR titles:
Fortnite: 178,111 viewers
Warzone: 123,582 viewers
Apex Legends: 48,864 viewers
Escape from Tarkov: 36,245 viewers
PUBG: 19,444 viewers
So, what can we take away from what's already out there of this title? Well for one, Ubisoft is a respected developer with a proven track record of successful, fun games. So right out of the gate, that's a positive.
But let's focus on this title specifically. When a BR title enters the space, it needs a hook, a differentiator. Fortnite was so popular for many reasons but two big ones stand out: the bright colored, cartoony, fun-for-all-ages vibe and the building mechanics that gave Fortnite a whole new style of gameplay. Warzone is the exact opposite -- more realistic, more aggressive, in-your-face, with contracts you can complete in game to gain advantages and loadout drops to pick up for exact preferred weapons.
Hyper Scape, from what we know, has the streamer in mind. That's a good angle to take, given that BR lends itself best to content creation. If the communication is there between the streamer community and the developer, and the devs listen and take suggestions (like what Riot is doing with VALORANT), that will be huge. Twitch chat being integrated at unprecedented levels for a BR will be an interesting experiment to try. We've seen this kind of idea before with other titles, and we know that chat enjoys this kind of power now and then -- Dr. Lupo utilizes this very well during charity streams, making fundraising goals like "I must drop all my weapons at once" and "I can't build anymore this round" as he's playing Fortnite. Whether or not the audience will appreciate this on a daily basis is another story. Will it become a paradigm shifter or just a gimmick that's fun every now and then? I'm on the fence right now. I'm actually more curious if it will translate to esports. Imagine a competition with a prize pool, with chat / the audience being able to affect what fundamental game shift happens next. That would be interesting to see for a game like this, at least once.
The other factor here is what will Hyper Scape bring to the table that doesn't already exist? If it's another "100 people drop, last person standing wins" release, it's already DOA. What outside-the-box ideas will Ubisoft bring to the table to make this stand out and compel people to play it and stick with it? What parts of the BR experience, other than chat integration, can we change? Is it the safety circles? Is it how better weapons are found or built? Maybe something changes about the end game? It needs to be something, if not a few things. We might very well be approaching BR fatigue in the sense that the audience has reached its apex (no pun intended). Another BR title won't increase the overall audience, it will fragment it -- unless the offering is so radically different that gamers everywhere, especially lapsed BR fans, flock back to try it.
Full disclosure: I had a little time to try the game. All I can say for now is that I'm optimistic.
Two more big pieces to this will be the rollout of the game and the updates: Fortnite fundamentally changed the user's expectations for update frequency. Then again, Epic Games has a massive team of people working diligently to bring regular refreshes to Fortnite so the user base of millions upon millions doesn't get bored. We have short attention spans, you know! That can be a massive strain on other BR titles. Look at Apex Legends -- it's definitely a success, but imagine if it had retained the incredible buzz it garnered at launch last February, when it surpassed Fortnite and became the talk of the town. The problem was, Fortnite came back with something different soon after, Apex Legends couldn't follow suit quickly enough and Fortnite retook the crown. Apex certainly has its space, but not many are saying it's competing for No. 1 on a regular basis. Hyper Scape will have a similar challenge -- who will be involved in the rollout? Will it be a red carpet affair with top names streaming on day one with massive social media buzz? And what about when the honeymoon phase is over, will we be getting a regular schedule of updates to the game, enough to keep users interested and not move on to the next flavor of the month shiny object?
The battle for attention is a ruthless endeavor indeed.
1. Clix has a new home, leaving Misfits and joining NRG. The popular streamer and Fortnite World Cup competitor also had a slick announcement video, involving investor Shaquille O'Neal. Very cool. Great way to join a new org!
2. Warzone is knocking on the door of the top Twitch viewership list I posted above, and developer Infinity Ward just increased player lobbies to hold up to 200 players, along with other additions that were pretty well-received. For all the talk about Modern Warfare being a "chalked" release among many long time Call of Duty fans and Call of Duty League pros, Warzone has been a boon, and remains one of the best BR titles out there.
3. Cloakzy tweeted an "It's official" contract meme with no context. But WHY? We know Cloazky signed with one of the most powerful agencies out there last year, Loaded.gg, who also handle Ninja, CouRage, AnneMunition, summit1g, Shroud among others.
4. Congrats to BenjyFishy on reaching one million subs on YouTube!
5. Lots of drama going on this week in the BR world, like Ninja and Tfue reviving their rivalry (yes, I would totally support a charity boxing match between the two, it would generate a ton of buzz and if they are both willing participants it would raise a TON of money for a good cause) or Team Ninja going back and forth with xQc / Alinity on Twitter. All I have to say about this is that controversy creates cash. Think about that the next time you see any public drama and trash talk, anywhere. CONTROVERSY. CREATES. CASH.
6. There's one quick thing I want to say about the ongoing story about Dr. Disrespect: take everything you read with a grain of salt, because the longer we don't definitively hear what the cause for his permanent ban is, the more speculation will be out there. This has gripped the gaming world, partly because such a major action has been taken against such a popular streamer, and partly because we don't have much concrete information about the matter after several days. Speculation is a natural human thing to do, but hearing something several times, no matter how outlandish it is, can lead to believing that thing, so we have to be careful.