As of this article being written, I have played 517 games of Fortnite: Battle Royale, for a grand total of 65 hours. In those 517 games, I have only been a part of a winning team eight times; this means that for every win, I lose about 64 times. To make it even sadder, I get one win for about every eight hours of playtime. The appropriate question one should ask is why the hell do I continue to play?
That’s the great question that many players like myself have continued to ask. With Fortnite: Battle Royale hitting over 40 million players last week and Epic Games also announcing that it was seeing over two million current players on at points, it is plausible to make an argument for Fortnite being the most popular game right now.
If you don’t believe me, go to Twitch, a streaming site where viewers can watch their favorite personalities play video games, and check at which games are being the most viewed. If it isn’t Fortnite, it’s close to the top. It has been such a hit that it is moving from a popular video game to a part of our current culture. Check out Twitter or Instagram; it won’t take you long to find a video of the game. Whether it is college kids playing through a window during a fire drill or people celebrating at a win, this game has blown up.
— Fortnite Battle Royale Insider (@Fortnite_BR) January 25, 2018
With the gaming industry at a point where micro-transactions have taken over and companies are moving away from the players’ voices, Fortnite: Battle Royale continues to be an outlier. So the question that needs to be asked is: how did we get here?
Fortnite: Battle Royale, is a standalone version of Fortnite, whose date isn’t set for release at the time of me writing this. For the sake of simplicity, I will refer to Fortnite: Battle Royale as Fortnite for the rest of this article. Released on September 26th, 2017, the game only hit the 100-day mark a few days ago, yet its popularity has turned it into something that few would have predicted.
For those who don’t know what Fortnite is, Epic Games, the developer of the game, describe it as, “… the FREE 100-player PvP mode in Fortnite. One giant map. A battle bus. Fortnite building skills and destructible environments combined with intense PvP combat. The last one standing wins.”
To give more of an explanation of those words, allow me to help. Being able to play alone, in a duo, or in a squad game mode that lets you play with up to three other friends, you and 99 other players are put onto a flying bus that goes over a random section of the map. From here, you can choose when and where you and your partners (if you play with people) will land. It is after you land that the game truly begins; starting with only a glider and a pickaxe, you have to search throughout the map for any weapons, bandages, potions, or a variety of other fun items while also needing to gain materials by destroying buildings and/or trees. With said materials, you are given the option of either building your own fort, finding a building to hide in, or the even more fun choice, taking over someone else’s fort.
For the sake of the players’ time, the game also has a storm which features a safe zone in the middle of it. This will close into a specific area over time, which not only forces the player(s) to move, but it makes the games go quicker compared to not having it.
Depending on your result, a game can go anywhere from a minute to up to 30 at most; this makes the game easy and quick to play. The moment your (and your team) are eliminated, you can go back to the menu and search again!
With all this in mind, it leaves you with only one rule: last person (or team) wins!
This seems like a lot to take in, to be fair, it is when you first play. But after you figure out how everything works, where to go, and what to do, it becomes a game you can sink hours into without even realizing it.
It is important to mention that the concept behind this game is not original; the concept of a Battle Royale aka “last person alive wins” is not new to gaming. With the WWE match, the Royal Rumble in 1988 and the movie Battle Royale in 2000, this idea has existed for a long time. But from a gaming aspect, you could find elements of it in games like Call of Duty or others. It wasn’t until 2012 that the genre took off with mods in Minecraft or Arma II. From there, the “Battle Royale” genre has grown enough that a Fortnite-type game was bound to blow up.
What the luckiest part of this entire success story is that the Battle Royale mode of the game was never even supposed to happen. Fortnite was announced in 2011 as a PC-exclusive; it wasn’t until some point in 2017 that the workings of this popular game mode began. Inspired by PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (also referred to as PUBG), which was released for PC in March 2017, is also popular, the developers at Epic Games wanted to include their own version of this mode into their game. This has led to some controversy, which I will come back to.
The game has been a hit since it was released. Amassing 10 million players within two weeks of its release, Fortnite has set the gaming scene alight. This has come with a nomination for PC Gamers “Best Multiplayer Game” and being honored as “Best Spectator Game” by IGN in its Best of 2017 Awards. With the game only being out for a few months, these awards should increase with time.
As mentioned earlier, the game has faced issues with PUBG. Bluehole, the developer of PUBG, have threatened to take legal action against Epic Games due to similarities between the two. “The PUBG community has and continues to provide evidence of the many similarities as we contemplate further action.” While this never took off into anything serious, mostly due to the fact that Bluehouse is paying to use a copy of Epic Games’ engine, it has done nothing to prevent the massive debate of which game is better and if Fortnite is, in fact, a copy of PUBG. To be fair to PUBG, they have a fair argument; the games are like one another, but this article isn’t about PUBG, it’s about Fortnite.
Now we’ve looked through how the game has come to this point, here are my reasons that the game has become an instant success:
The Price: Fortnite being free has without a doubt been the biggest reason this game has been so huge. I wouldn’t have even considered getting it had my friends not told me it was free. While you can spend money on skins, they have no impact on the gameplay. So it doesn’t matter if you spend $0 or $10,000, you can never “buy” yourself a victory. With this model, I do not mind spending money; I can support a company that keeps the game the same for all of its players, not just the ones that have bigger wallets (cough, cough, 2k…)
The Simplicity: Despite that the game can intimidate in the beginning, it is a simple concept: don’t die and be the last alive. While there’s a definite learning curve, which all good games need to have, it doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out how to fight or build, regardless of one’s previous gaming experience. This is vital for any game, it doesn’t scare people away.
A Great Community: Epic Games has created one of the best gaming communities I have ever been a part of. Between their constant communication with players through Reddit, which includes the inclusion of players’ ideas into the actual game and the quickness of fixing any “broken” aspects of the game, Epic Games has shown how a developing company should treat its consumers: with respect. The players have also taken this and created a welcoming environment for new players that compared to other games like Call of Duty or NBA 2K, is refreshing and fun!
It Doesn’t Take Itself Too Seriously: In an era where people (myself included) are demanding realism from many of their games, Fortnite is a wonderful, fresh breath of air. Its arcade-style gameplay and unrealistic graphics are just a few catalysts of what makes this game so much fun. Do you want to build a massive fort in the middle of the air? You can do it. Do you want to put down a jump pad that can send you flying across the map? Go for it. Do you want to throw a grenade that makes your enemies forcibly dance? It’s in the game. Fortnite may not be the most realistic game, but that in no way makes it a bad game. In fact, I believe it makes it that much better!
It’s Fun: While the game itself is new, the feelings it brings to many players isn’t. I keep seeing a tweet around social media, “Fortnite has brought back that middle school late night gaming. It’s brought back the competition and teamwork in gaming, and excitement in winning that hasn’t been there since [Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.] And has strengthened many friendships and connected you back with old friends. Thank you fortnite.” This tweet I believe nails something about the game that is so true; my friends and I haven’t had as much fun with a game since that time. Whether it is the simple aspect of the game itself or the joy one receives from winning, it makes me enjoy playing video games like I am 10, again.
Fortnite: Battle Royale, is something to be admired. The game itself shouldn’t be so popular, but it is, and perhaps this is a statement to the current big developers, or maybe it is just a message to future ones: don’t forget about us. We are the ones who have made the Call of Dutys, Halos, Maddens, or any other popular gaming franchise that has ever existed; the market should always begin and end with our best intentions in mind.
It may sound selfish, but we’re the ones dishing out our money to ensure that you guys continue to make bigger and better things. Maybe Fortnite is a sign that if you truly want to look at what makes a great game, it may be right in front of you.
Fortnite, assuming they never forget this target, has all the makings of a legendary game that could hold a long-lasting legacy. It sounds far-fetched, but if you continue to update and listen to your player base, they’ll never leave you behind. It’s that loyalty and mutual respect that seems all but gone in the gaming community nowadays. If Epic Games could bring this back, even just a bit, I can assure that this game will mean even more, for all of us.
You can follow Steven on Twitter @Steven_Keehner