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What happened to PlanetSide's battle royale?

After PlayerUnknown's: Battlegrounds and Fortnite proved the commercial potential of the emerging battle royale genre in 2018, developers jumped at the chance to develop their own large-scale multiplayer showdown games. That enthusiasm quickly oversaturated the market, however, with late 2018 and early 2019 seeing a flood of unfinished, too-similar titles competing for attention. A few of those battle royale games, such as Apex Legends, managed to rise above the pack and carve out their niche, but many did not.

One game that seemed like it had a chance to set itself apart was PlanetSide Arena. This battle royale game was built on a franchise that pioneered large-scale shooter experiences. The original PlanetSide, released in 2003, was known as the first MMOFPS. PlanetSide 2, released in 2012, built on this legacy and even set a world record for the largest first-person shooter battle, logging 1,158 players facing off in the same game.

So while things were competitive when PlanetSide Arena launched in Sept. 2019, few anticipated that the game would flop as hard as it did. Here's what happened to PlanetSide's doomed battle royale game.

PlanetSide Arena's development team was on shaky ground to start

When Daybreak Games first announced PlanetSide Arena, there was a lot for fans to get excited about. The game looked great and would launch with both a standard 150-player battle royale mode and a 500-player massive clash mode. The developers also had plans to support the game with a seasonal battle pass and add support for up to 1,000 players.

However, even at the announcement, there were indications that all was not well at Daybreak Games. Eurogamer's enthusiastic preview of PlanetSide Arena ended on a somber note, noting that the company had recently gone through multiple rounds of layoffs throughout 2018, with more than 70 employees losing their jobs. Lead game designer Tony Morton remained upbeat, however, stating, "The PlanetSide Arena team was relatively unimpacted, so we're pushing forward, doing what we can."

The developers stuck with their proposed Jan. 29, 2019, release date, barely a month away from the Eurogamer article's publication. Morton ended the interview positively, explaining, "We have to do our due diligence for everybody to make sure this thing gets out the door in the best shape it can."

Long delays led to a short run time for PlanetSide Arena

It wouldn't take long for PlanetSide Arena to start missing deadlines. The first delay hit on Jan. 25, 2019, four days before the game was supposed to go live. That delay pushed the release window until March, with the promise that anyone who had preordered the game would gain access to a preview version, called the Founders Season, before the end of February alongside exclusive items.

However, in February, another delay was announced, postponing the game until the summer. More disturbing than the additional delay was the revelation that all preorders were to be refunded and that Daybreak Games had canceled the exclusive content planned for the Founders Season.

PlanetSide Arena just barely made that summer launch, arriving in Early Access on Steam late in September. First impressions were hesitantly optimistic, with one reviewer calling the game "overwhelming," but a promising start. Unfortunately, Daybreak Games announced that it was closing PlanetSide Arena's servers mere months later. After reaching its peak concurrent players on launch day, the game rarely had enough people online to fill a single battle royale match. PlanetSide Arena would cease to be on Jan. 10, 2020.