Battlebots and Robot Wars lead a robot combat renaissance

Battlebots and Robot Wars lead a robot combat renaissance

Whichever side of the Atlantic you lived on, the late 90s and early 00's were an exciting time for anybody who was a fan of watching remote controlled fighting machines smashing each other to smithereens.

The US had Comedy Central's BattleBots and Europe had the BBC's Robot Wars. Both shows revolved around the premise of teams entering home made robotic gladiators into a specially built combat arena and seeing who came out on top.

In their heydays both Battlebots and Robot Wars drew in millions of viewers and Robot Wars in particular enjoyed international success, with the UK made show being exported to TV stations in countries around the world.

In 2002 however, not long after airing its 5th season, BattleBots was cancelled. While it still drew in reasonable viewer numbers a takeover of Comedy Central by Viacom resulted in a strategic change for the channel, and network bosses decided that BattleBots was no longer the kind of show they needed.

At the same time, Robot Wars was encountering its own problems. Viewing figures were starting to drop off, and rising production costs caused by the need to safely contain the ever increasing power of the competitor robots resulted in the BBC choosing not to renew the series after the 6th Wars had aired in 2003.

The show did have a brief spell on Five (now Channel 5), one of the BBC's commercial rivals, however viewer numbers were poor and the show was cancelled altogether after the 7th series finished airing in early 2004.

The iconic Robot Wars House Robots

The House Robots were one of the most iconic and recognisable elements of Robot Wars

While the TV shows may have been finished for the time being, robot combat as a sport successfully transitioned into a live spectacle as the roboteers who had competed on the TV shows organised their own leagues and competitions. In the US these shows tended to happen just once or twice a year, with big events like RoboGames usually being the highlight.

The UK took a slightly different approach and instead several companies like Roaming Robots and Robots Live! tour the country with mobile arenas, running smaller but more regular weekend-long shows that remain popular to this day.

2015 - Battlebots Returns

Then in early 2015, more than 12 years after it last aired, it was announced that Battlebots was to return to television with a 6 episode series on ABC. For this first series, the top teams from both the original show and those that had since appeared on the live circuit were invited to compete with their robots in a newly constructed arena.

Warhead and Biteforce face-off in Battlebots 2015

The 2015 series of Battlebots included brand new machines like Biteforce as well as old favourites like Warhead

The series proved popular, drawing in good viewing figures and re-igniting more mainstream interest in robot combat. A second series has been commissioned for 2016 which is likely to be more similar to the older series of Battlebots - featuring more robots and teams, multiple weight classes and to run for more episodes.

2016 - Robot Wars Returns

Efforts to bring Robot Wars back onto TV had been going on for some years. The success of the new series of Battlebots could have been what gave those efforts the final convincing push they needed however, as almost exactly a year after the news about Battlebots returning first broke the BBC announced it was going to bring Robot Wars back.

Like Battlebots the new Robot Wars will be starting off small with plans for a 6 episode series to be filmed around March 2016, which is then expected to air on BBC 2 around Autumn time.

The BBC is hoping that after a 12 year absence demand for new episodes of the show will have reignited - and if the successful return of Battlebots is any indication, the world is definitely ready for a robot combat renaissance.