Why Realm Royale is “Dying” and How To “Save” It

Introduction

Update (9/14/2018): Since the writing of this article, Hi Rez removed classes from the game and made many other drastic changes. There is also only one queue at the time of writing this which is 6-man squads, but ranked solo / duo queues are supposed to come later. These controversial changes have further damaged the game’s reputation and many players have left. At this point, the future of Realm Royale looks even bleaker than it did at the time of writing this article and we are uncertain if we will continue covering the game if it continues with updates that completely rewrite the core gameplay that we loved.

Let’s address the most debated topic by far when it comes to Realm Royale: Is the game dead? This question is sparked by the rather depressing looking Steam player count graph seen below.

Realm Royale went from having a peak of 104k players on June 9th to a peak of 6 – 7k players daily recently (mid August). The downtrend doesn’t seem to be stopping either as the peak player count at just the beginning of August was closer to 9k. That means Realm Royale has declined over 90% from its peak and 30% in just the 2 weeks prior to this article. No matter how optimistic you are, these numbers are discouraging.

First, we’ll be clear about our position: We do not believe Realm is “dead,” although there is a real possibility that it “dies” in the future. Realm is, at its core, a very enjoyable game that captured the hearts of many players, streamers and content creators. There is a demographic that finds Realm to be the “ideal” Battle Royale for them due its focus on classes and abilities.

However, the game has been handled relatively poorly lately and the numbers above reflect that. We hope that the newly announced Heroic Leap Games is able to steer Realm on the right course towards success. In this article, we’ll cover our thoughts on why we think Realm is currently declining and how you can help reverse that situation. 

The Cause

The first question we’d like to address is why this even happened in the first place. There are a number of factors contributing to this, but we’ll discuss what are likely the biggest ones:

Hype Cycles

Let’s get the real simple reason for decline out of the way first: Hype. Realm Royale had an absurd level of hype when it was first launched due to Ninja and TimTheTatman both streaming it on June 7th. Many more streamers jumped on board as they found the game enjoyable and saw it fitting its own niche within the Battle Royale genre.

Realm was quickly dubbed the “Fortnite killer” as its player count graph skyrocketed the first few days and it became the 4th most played game on Steam (# of concurrent players). No matter what happened next, the nature of all such hype cycles is to have a fall off period afterward. This behavior is not unique to games: It is seen in financial markets, fashion trends and anywhere else you can imagine.

However, falloffs from hype alone are usually not so extreme. While a decline of 60 – 80% would be understandable, Realm Royale has declined over 90% from its peak and still hasn’t flattened out. There is just-cause to believe that there are other factors impacting the decline in Realm Royale’s concurrent player count.

Technical Difficulties

One of the major issues for Realm Royale when it first launched on Steam was the unbearable lag that most players experienced. For many people, it made the game completely unplayable (rubberbanding, lack of hit registration, so on so forth). While initially players were willing to look past such issues since the game just launched, it quickly wore on people’s patience. Hi Rez moved rapidly to expand region availability, adding servers for other locations such as SEA and NA West Coast.

However, it wasn’t until July 2nd that there were any major improvements to server performance and by then, player counts had already declined to 20k. We’ll talk more about why player counts were already that low in the next section. Lag wasn’t the only technical issue players were facing though.

While Realm Royale is currently in alpha and is expected to have bugs, the astronomical growth of the game led to it being interpreted differently. Many players felt entitled to a better performing game because of how popular Realm was. Whether it was the T-Pose, A-Pose, bindings not saving, sensitivity getting reset or abilities not working … There were plenty of bugs that frustrated players.

Hi Rez also hasn’t helped players feel like the game is in alpha due to monetization of the game through cosmetics and the Battle Pass. While many players wanted Hi Rez to monetize the game (us included), the unfortunate reality is that doing so led to higher expectations for the game which Hi Rez has, at least up until this point, struggled to live up to.

Communication & Controversial Patches

Early on, Hi Rez Erez spent a significant amount of time on a variety of streams providing upcoming information about Realm Royale. While some of these statements were concerning, others were refreshing and celebrated by the community. Twitter was active with a variety of different Hi Rez employees communicating frequently about patches.

Despite this, there was no saving Realm from the first “disaster” patch known as the “Forge” patch. It’s worth noting that the Forge and economy elements of Realm Royale are part of what sets it apart from other Battle Royales. However, this patch made chests provide far more powerful items based on RNG and removed the option to create Legendary class weapons from Forges. In essence, it removed a fundamental part of the game that players enjoyed. This patch was left in for the weekend and by the time Hi Rez “fixed” it, the player count had already declined over 25%.

While there is no specific patch to point to when it comes to weapon balancing, it’s worth noting that there was a significant amount of tinkering with the gunplay in Realm Royale. The weapon meta shifted nearly every week. In the beginning, the Heirloom Rifle was king and Shotguns were unusable. It wouldn’t be much longer until Shotguns became the strongest weapon and the Heirloom went to the middle of the pack. The Poison Pistol went from unusable to excellent to removed. Semi-auto and automatic weapons were tested. Weapon damage scaling was changed numerous times. Projectile speeds were adjusted. Bloom was removed, added and adjusted. Hitscan was removed, then added, then removed, then added again.

We could go on and on about how much has changed with Realm gunplay, but there’s enough for an article about just that. The problem is that many of the changes were redundant in that they had been tested before for community feedback, yet were tried again anyway. The community responded negatively to the first introduction of the Assault Rifle, yet it was introduced again with oppressive numbers in the infamous “SMG” patch. Now it’s been nerfed to being nearly unusable. The Slug Rifle has dominated the game for a long time yet remains mostly untouched.

Meanwhile, class balance has been almost completely ignored with two classes (Assassin and Engineer) dominating the meta. The Warrior was nerfed from being the second best class to having the worst win percentage in all game modes. Hi Rez noted that they would move to class balance after they finished weapon balancing, but have still not taken solid enough actions to demonstrate that. As evidence of that, our class tier list hasn’t changed since July 20th.

Battle Royale Genre Fatigue

It’s a well known fact that the gaming industry goes through cycles where certain types of games are “in” and then move “out.” MMOs dominated the 2000s, MOBAs dominated the early 2010s and Battle Royales (BRs) have dominated since PUBG blew up. However, there is always an “end” to such trends and the tail-end of games made within that genre usually suffer the consequences. It’s too early to say whether or not the BR genre is moving out yet, but it’s not unreasonable to assume that people just don’t want to commit themselves to another BR outside of Fortnite / PUBG.

Content Creator Migration & Momentum

Back at the peak of Realm’s popularity, everyone was jumping on board and playing. Ninja was talking about the possibility of having it be a secondary game for him to stream. Summit1g was playing the game everyday along with JoshOG and even Dafran jumped on board for a bit. A following started to grow that was dedicated to Realm Royale and would watch even relatively unknown streamers like Bird or Overpowered for high level Realm gameplay.

Excitement peaked when Keemstar announced the massive 100k weekly tournaments which would contain many top streamers. The YouTube scene also started to bud with many new content creators popping up to produce both informative and highlight videos. Numerous web developers, myself included, started work on websites and tools dedicated to the game.

Since then, a lot has changed. Many opportunists have left the game as they watch the numbers, and subsequently money, decline. Among those who genuinely enjoy the game, many are disappointed with the direction it has taken with the various patches. Some simply grew bored as Battle Royales weren’t their “typical” genre of choice. Regardless, many streamers and content creators no longer promote the game which has had a significant impact on the game’s public opinion.

Notably, many people think the game is dead now. Even those who were fervent supporters have started to waver due to poor patch history, declining player numbers and declining viewership on Twitch. As such, many people are quitting not necessarily because they don’t enjoy playing anymore, but simply because they do not want to invest more time into a game that won’t be around much longer in their perspective. 

The Solution

Enough depressing stuff – let’s talk about how we turn this around. If you are reading this article, you likely have at least some interest in the success of Realm Royale. Here’s our thoughts on what you can do, no matter who you are, to have the game “survive” and thrive:

Players

– If you enjoy the game, play it! Don’t let yourself be controlled by player count as that is a self-destructive cycle, especially in a BR where the lobbies have a high amount of players.

– Support your favorite content creators by interacting with them, whether it’s a Twitch streamer, a YouTuber, or a personality on Twitter. Always remember that the “ecosystem” that surrounds any game is just as important as the player count itself.

– Post on Reddit or Discord (positive or negative) as these are often used as a measure of community activity by new players. 

– Provide feedback on either Steam Discussion forums or on Reddit. 

– While it’s certainly easy to let developers know when they do something wrong (I love to), make sure you also remember to let them know when they do something right so it stays. 

Content Creators

– Play the game if you enjoy it, don’t if you don’t: It’s that simple in most instances! There is no obligation for you to do either, so don’t force yourself.

– If you no longer enjoy Realm Royale for whatever reason, try to not to switch to a “spiteful” attitude unless you plan on providing feedback.

– Consider encouraging your respective community to participate with the greater Realm community whether it’s by promoting / collaborating with other content creators or by encouraging discussion on relevant mediums. 

Hi Rez | Heroic Leap Games

– Please listen to your community to an acceptable degree. We understand that you must make controversial changes due to a small PTS population, but the length of time that controversial changes remain live despite strong negative feedback is concerning.

– Remain transparent with your community, especially during rough patches. Now, more than ever, would be the time to deploy some sort of “damage control.”

– Keep aware of the fact many of your players don’t see your game as an “Alpha”. Take caution when making drastic changes to the game. 

– There are many players waiting on the sidelines to see what you do moving forward. Give them a reason to return.

Wrapping It Up

We hope we gave you some sort of understanding of what’s been going on with Realm Royale the past few weeks. It has been rough, but we have faith that the game has a future. We encourage everyone to have patience, especially as other catalysts like console remain on the horizon. Please feel free to provide your thoughts in the comments as we’d be happy to hear them. Happy clucking!

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