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‘Rocket Arena’ could be another ‘Fortnite’ if fans still have the appetite

When Electronic Arts debuted the “Rocket Arena” trailer in late June, people were quick to nickname the video game “Fortnite 2.”

“Rocket Arena,” debuting July 14, is a new multi-player shooter game unrelated to the mega-popular “Fortnite” — but many called out the art style, font and rapid-fire playing style as similar.

“I think it’s flattering that people say that. But I also think it’s important for us to to say that we really believe that this is its own thing,” said Jonas Norberg, executive producer at Final Strike Games, the indie studio behind “Rocket Arena,” which will be available for Xbox, PlayStation 4 and PC with cross-platform play possible.

This is Final Strike’s first game, and the studio insists that the game is based on an original idea. The developers say they learned from the success of current games like “Fortnite,” “Super Smash Bros” and “Rocket League,” but that the gameplay is different.

For one, “Rocket Arena” is not battle royale like “Fortnite.” In Fortnite, teams must survive to the end in a shrinking map, but in “Rocket Arena” there are five game modes, including Rocketball — in which players shoot rockets at each other while attempting to score in a soccer game — and Mega Rocket, in which players must fight to secure giant rockets and capture them before the other team does.

Also, in “Rocket Arena,” there is no death, though there are knockouts.

Unlike dying in other games, which can happen quickly and punishes users with a time-out and sometimes loss of progress, in “Rocket Arena” players can work to prevent getting knocked out, using their rockets to shoot at the ground and stay afloat within the game’s boundaries. Aiming at an opponent doesn’t injure them, but it makes them more likely to fly out of the ring, just like in Nintendo’s “Super Smash Bros.”

“[The origin] was actually a very organic process,” said Gregg Metzler, “Rocket Arena” lead designer. “I remember hearing a comment: ‘I really like playing your game, but I just keep dying. The design that came out of that was, well what if we made a game where no one dies?”

Still, like “Fortnite,” “Rocket Arena” feels kid-friendly and cartoonish with tons of color projectiles darting by and . There’s no specific target demographic, according to Final Strike, which wants to appeal to the broadest possible audience for the game.

CNN Business played the game and found one of the characters, Rev, to be particularly easy and fun to whiz through the skies with, sending enemies flying off the map with a few well-aimed rockets.

The monster success of “Fortnite” has driven not only comparisons to other games but outright rivals. Last February, Electronic Arts launched its own rival title called “Apex Legends.” The game had a strong start, surpassing “Fortnite” in online views in February 2019, but then it drew criticism from fans as it rolled out content too slowly, introducing its first substantial update over a month after launch.

Final Strike appears to have taken notes, as “Rocket Arena” is slated for frequent updates after launch.

“We try to gather as much information as we can from other games, but in the end, every game is different so we really focus on providing the value for players,” Mike Kerr, another Final Strike executive producer, said of the update strategy.

The studio also carefully planned its business model, which focuses on the $29.99 baseline price, a battle pass that unlocks more rewards and in-game purchases for additional cosmetics.

Norberg, the Final Strike executive producer, noted the “Final Strike” has neither controversial loot boxes nor “pay-to-win” purchases — items players can buy which make the game easier to win.

“Rocket Arena” will also launch with a competitive “ranked” mode available, which could open up the possibility of the game becoming an e-sport down the line.

Multiplayer online games are already a crowded space. “Fortnite” itself recently rolled out its Season 3, Chapter 2 update. Ubisoft just launched a new battle royale title, “Hyper Scape.” Amazon’s “Crucible” launched in May and reportedly attracted dismally few players — so few that on on June 30 Amazon announced it was rolling the game game into closed beta testing mode.

“We’re listening to the audience that we have now, and as we go live, we’re going to continue to listen to the audience,” said Kerr. “Once we can get people into that gameplay, we feel pretty confident they’re gonna love it, and hopefully we can build a great community out of it.”

CNN

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