The fascinating future of ‘Fall Guys’

As ‘Fall Guys’ becomes one of 2020’s biggest games, here’s how Mediatonic can ensure its survival in a saturated genre

Like many of you, I have spent a good chunk of my leisure time playing Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout since its launch on August 4. It is, in my opinion, the best battle royale game on the market. Call it conjecture, call it a fad, but after 15 hours and a few crowns to my name, I’m convinced this underdog is going to go all the way.

After it was revealed that Fall Guys had sold 2million copies on Steam in the space of a week, I’ve been trying to figure out why the game has had such a disruptive effect on the industry. I think it’s useful to bear in mind that this wasn’t some big, coveted launch from a major publisher.

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. Credit: Alan Wen

Fall Guys was developed by Mediatonic, the independent studio behind pigeon dating sim Hatoful Boyfriend. It definitely had some fanfare behind it ahead of launch, and the PlayStation Plus deal gave it a lot of attention, but I don’t think anyone could have expected this indie underdog to wrestle its way into the upper echelons of a saturated market with such ease.

Yet, what I love about Fall Guys is that it doesn’t feel like a flash in the pan. In fact, it already feels like a platform. It has a deceptively simple framework as do many of its peers – 60 players to a game and one winner – but the road to victory is anyone’s guess. The sheer variety of game modes on display is the real battle royale revelation.

Other games like Fortnite and Call Of Duty: Warzone have had to admirably evolve and experiment with just one map each to enshrine the interests of their player base. But all Fall Guys needs to do is tweak, add or subtract from its minigames, which are yet to wane in interest beyond a few that have quickly become hated among the community.

Modern warfare
Call of Duty: Warzone. Credit: Infinity Ward

Personally, I groan whenever I see ‘Perfect Match’ and ‘Team Tail Tag’ come up, but crucially, I don’t think they’re irredeemable garbage – the former is just too predictable and the latter is the opposite. Cutting minigames would be to accept that they’re no fun, and I don’t think that’s the truth about any game in Fall Guys – some of them just need to be balanced!

Its characters are also blank slates, ripe for riffing with exclusive skins and future collaborations. We’ve already seen Half-Life and Team Fortress 2 characters make their way into the mix, and given the appetite from other studios and brands who want to bite off a piece of the Fall Guys pie, it looks like we’ll be seeing more iconic characters making their way into the shop in the near future.

Given my love of WarioWare and Takeshi’s Castle, I really do want to see Fall Guys stick around. It’s clear that the developers have now figured out what works about the game – community manager Oliver Age 24 is doing a fine job of keeping people excited too, turning complaints into memes and nurturing a wholesome community – but I do have a few things I’d like to see in the future.

Team Fortress 2
Team Fortress 2. Credit: Valve

I would say that most successful battle royale games operate on a “less is more” mantra in their infancy, so I wouldn’t change too much about the actual operational framework of Fall Guys. Too many systems could spoil the pot here, such as introducing a ranked mode or nurturing a competitive scene. These would kill some of the unpredictable fun for me, as introducing a hierarchy would mean that we’d start to accept that an underdog could never trounce a professional player.

Like Rocket League, the controls are just unintuitive enough in Fall Guys to the point where anyone can win, and that constitutes most of its appeal. Grabbing and diving don’t work how you might expect sometimes, but I think that’s absolutely fine. I was recently chewed out on Twitter for being “the final boss” at the end of ‘Slime Climb’, but I genuinely think that being able to grab and grief other players means you’re always on your toes. It adds even more mania to this cauldron of chaos!

I’m even somewhat opposed to the idea of a practice mode, as it would take some of the adrenaline out of performing in the middle of a match. If there’s no practice mode, any minigame can blindside the player – yet if there is, it would incentivise leaving when you don’t get the right game, and inevitably lead to the uncovering of countless exploits. The current system means that someone who plays religiously and someone who plays every few days for 10 minutes has a shot at the crown, and that’s awesome.

Rocket League
Rocket League. Credit: Psyonix

I think a good compromise for this would be to introduce gauntlets without qualification rounds, longer maps with all 60 people that combine all of the skills from other games. You could have a ‘Door Dash’ section leading into a ‘Whirlygig’, and ending on a ‘Hex-A-Gone’. Singling the modes out is what needs to be avoided in order to keep things manic and fair.

I also think there should be a system where more than four players can party up at once to play a gauntlet without any team games. Imagine streamers opening up a lobby for their followers, or big families and friendship groups being able to battle each other all at once in a tournament. Get that implemented and its popularity will skyrocket.

Having a statistics tab would be useful too. I think it must be tempting to develop the badges system to try and coax out different play styles in-game to unlock more Kudos in each round, but I also think this would get in the way of the fun, and incentivise riding play styles. Honestly, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Fall Guys
Fall Guys. Credit: Mediatonic

Beyond that, add some more cosmetic ways for players to express themselves, incentivise spectating (perhaps via a cheer system with kudos rewards?) and get this game onto every platform under the sun. Make it crossplay and I am confident that we’ve got 2020’s biggest game on our hands here.

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