When Joe Walsh sent the pitch document for Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout to his boss at Mediatonic in January 2018, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds was already a massive hit. Fortnite was just into its second season and in the process of going supernova. The battle royale genre, in other words, was taking off. And yet Walsh never thought of his game idea as some kind of Fortnite killer.
“We were actively trying to avoid pitching battle royales for risk of becoming a flavour-of the- month kind of thing,” he says. Rather, he and his colleagues had been thinking of a new kind of multiplayer game – “something that didn’t feel overly competitive or toxic or intimidating.” The discussion turned to the idea of a large scale PvE experience, before someone suggested a game show theme. “It was PvE, it was almost like a bit of a Roguelike, and then the penny dropped and we were like, ‘Oh my god, Takeshi’s Castle is massively multiplayer obstacle courses!'”
Walsh and his team realised the battle royale format fit the idea well, but it was different enough from those two big hitters to stand out. The concept seemed to naturally bring together elements of a range of games that the development team already loved: “Very, very quickly we thought: it’s a bit like Mario Party, it’s a bit like Gang Beasts and Human Fall Flat. It had the DNA of so many games and it all seemed to fit.” It was so obvious, he says, he couldn’t believe no one had made it yet. “We had to start immediately. Otherwise someone was going to beat us to the punch.”