Battlerite, the Team Arena Brawler developed by Stunlock Studios, announced yesterday on Twitter that it has reached 3 million players. This is a substantial milestone, especially considering the game only had around 200,000 players at the end of 2016. Its significance, however, is doubly impressive: Battlerite is celebrating this success at the same time that a few other notable free-to-play multiplayer games are being shut down.

What’s so special about Battlerite?

If you don’t know what Battlerite is, think along the lines of “a bit like a MOBA, but not really.” It’s a top-down hero fighter with abilities, but that’s about where similarities to MOBA games end. There are no towers, no minions, and no big map — only teamfighting, all the time. Players are dropped into best of five duels alongside one or two partners (be they friends you queued with or random players). They are then given the option to quickly customise their loadout, before the gates open and combat begins.

This design seems to have tapped into an audience the MOBA genre was destined to fail at reaching. Some players that came to Battlerite were irritated at the time investment required of MOBA games, and found themselves enjoying the less steep learning curve of Battlerite. Others were long-time MOBA veterans that had become frustrated with the state of big titles and were after something fresh. Wherever they came from, the player numbers filled up quickly for Battlerite, especially after it went free-to-play in early November.

These aren’t simply players trying the game once and dropping it, either. SteamSpy has shown that the game saw nearly 500,000 unique players in the last two weeks. On top of that, community members are constantly organising tournaments with prize pools and allowing entry through Discord, encouraging more competitive players to stick around.

A screenshot of a Battlerite teamfight in progress.

Why is this milestone so notable?

As a game which doesn’t strictly conform to the popular MOBA, FPS, or Battle Royale formulae, Battlerite seems to have defied the odds in remaining popular whilst carving out its niche. Gamers Classified recently reported on EPIC Games’ decision to shut down their MOBA, Paragon. In the wake of this bad news many Paragon players were considering jumping ship to strategic hero shooter Gigantic, only to discover that Gigantic, too, is closing down its servers. Given this pattern, it might seem that Battlerite would be the next free-to-play experiment to be closed down.

However, Battlerite is far from being left behind. It’s updated with new community events and rewards, and new champions are added regularly (with the most recent one being Zander, revealed and released in the middle of last month). Where other studios’ “new take” projects have been cancelled in lieu of other pursuits, Battlerite is showing measurable success.

Zander, the most recent addition to Battlerite’s growing cast of champions.

Battlerite does have something in common with these other games, though; they are all accessible, free-to-play games which aimed to take a fresh spin on the styles of larger games. With the gap left behind by the departure of Paragon and Gigantic, many gamers will be looking for a niche, free-to-play game that they’re able to pick up and play instead. Perhaps a new game will emerge with a fresh style, able to challenge the current genre giants of the multiplayer gaming market. Judging by its upward path, Battlerite could just be that game.