It's official: Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is making the jump into the Battle Royale shooter genre. Alongside the more traditional gameplay modes of its standard multiplayer fore and Zombies mode, this year's entry will also include the Blackout Battle Royale mode. Blackout aims to celebrate the history of the Black Ops series so far, taking on elements from the franchise such as RC-XDs, traps, and zombies to form something big.
Already, developer Treyarch has clearly set its sights on the main prize: the Battle Royale crown currently held by Fortnite. The free-to-play shooter has become a tour de force, not only taking over streaming services like Twitch but also mainstream pop culture as shown by the number of major personalities showcasing their love for the game. The end result for Fortnite has been massive cash returns, but also a significant position in terms of gaming popularity.
It's going to take a serious effort for Call of Duty to trump Fortnite - or, indeed, to beat former concurrent Twitch stream record holder PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds - but if there's one game that could break that top spot it's hard to look past the hugely successful Call of Duty franchise. The series is consistently in the top selling games lists, year on year, and it's unlikely that Black Ops 4 is going to be any different, even with all of the major changes that Treyarch is bringing.
Already, the developer has been talking up the quality of Blackout. Treyarch has claimed that Blackout is better than Fortnite, and although for now that's clearly creators talking up their own project it's easy to see the potential that Blackout has. The fact that it is planning to call back to previous Black Ops games is an interesting one, and if Treyarch is able to pull together those disparate elements into a cohesive experience then it could turn out to be something special.
The scope of Blackout is also wide. Treyarch is promising a game map 1,500 times bigger than Black Ops classic Nuketown, including land, air, and sea vehicles alongside a variety of characters from previous games. Although the specifics aren't entirely known, at the very least it sounds like Blackout is going to offer up something quite different from the Battle Royale games that have hit the market so far.
Black Ops 4's Blackout could also be very well placed in the market at the time of release. Although there are reportedly some big name Battle Royale games coming, with rumors circulating about a Red Dead Redemption 2 Battle Royale mode and suggestions that The Division's developers are making a Battle Royale game, Black Ops 4 should certainly pip these two potential releases to the post. Meanwhile, by then market saturation from the likes of H1Z1 and the ill-fated Radical Heights will also not be an issue, so Blackout could sit as both the first big-name franchise to take on the Battle Royale formula and enter the market without other, smaller names getting in the way.
However, the big sticking point for Blackout may well be its financial model. Fortnite has in part managed to become a behemoth of the industry due to its accessibility, be it thanks to its availability on every device under the sun or its free-at-entry price tag. Fortnite avoids putting the kind of loot box and microtransaction pressures on players seen in other games, but nonetheless users are more than willing to part ways with cash for extras. Black Ops 4 is dropping the season pass for regular multiplayer, which suggests a move to a different model, but the developers will have to be careful to make its replacement not feel predatory.
This, then, could be the biggest barrier for Blackout. Fortnite delivers a fun, easy, and free game, and so its Black Ops counterpart will need to offer more to justify its initial cost and potentially further costs down the line. However, there's every chance that Blackout could finally be the game to beat Fortnite.