The Fortnite Phenomenon

As Fortnite reaches its first birthday, we take a look back at the history of the game that has taken over the world.

Released as a paid-for early-access title on July 25th 2017, Fortnite: Save the World is a co-operative, sandbox survival game with construction elements as well as elements from horde/tower defence modes. The game tasked players with collecting resources on randomly-generated maps, building defences and fortifications around objectives and then defending the objectives from waves of enemies using constructed weapons and traps.

The game was warmly received by critics and by the end of August 2017 had surpassed over a million players.

But elsewhere in the gaming world, something was happening. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds had released into Steam Early Access in March 2017 and was growing fast. The battle royale game was a roaring success, and within three months of it’s early-access release had sold over five million copies and exceeded US$100million in sale revenue. PUBG’s explosive growth had popularized the battle royale genre, and Epic Games were taking note.

PUBG released late into Fortnite: Save the Worlds development cycle, and its rapid growth led Epic Games to begin looking into ways they could implement a similar mode into their game using Fortnite’s engine. Epic Games began development of Fortnite: Battle Royale as a separate entity after Fortnite: Save the Worlds release, using the core gameplay of Fortnite but otherwise with a very similar premise to PUBG. One main, defining difference however, was the inclusion of Fortnite: Save the Worlds building and construction mechanics, allowing players to build themselves fortifications which quickly became a massive tactical part of the game. Fortnite: Battle Royale was originally intended to be a seperate mode as part of the paid-for Fortnite game, but shortly before release Epic Games made the decision to release the title as a completely separate free-to-play mode. Fortnite: Battle Royale released on PC, Xbox One and PS4 on September 26th 2017; PUBGs console ports didn’t arrive until almost three months later.

Armed with more family-friendly, cartoony graphics and with it’s fast-paced building mechanics and it’s polished gameplay, Fortnite took over the gaming world quickly. The game obtained over 10 million players just two weeks after it’s release, by March 2018 it was estimated to have over 45 million players, and in June 2018 Epic Games announced that the game had over 125 million players less than a year after it’s release, with at least 40 million players per-month.

Epic Games Estimated to make US$1billion in revenue, making US$2million a day

This rapid growth of player numbers coupled with Fortnite’s business model being based around microtransactions has made the game an enormous financial success. As of today, Fortnite is estimated to have brought in nearly US$1billion in revenue, making US$2million a day. This surge of revenue has seen Epic Games valuation jump from an estimated US$825million to US$8.5billion in less than a year.

In April 2018, SuperData estimated that Fortnite: Battle Royale had surpassed both sales and player counts on all platforms over PlayerUnknownsBattlegrounds.

The impact, however, hasn’t just been financial. The game has become its own cultural phenomenon. Fortnite has drawn in players of all ages and genders. It is the talk of school playgrounds and workplaces alike. The game became the most-viewed game on Twitch, noticeably in March 2018 when the streamer Ninja played the game alongside the rapper Drake, an event which became the highest-watched stream outside of eSports tournaments.

Further to this, the game has been endorsed by several other celebrities who claim to play the game during down-time, notably by several football players such as Antoine Griezmann, who recreates emotes from the game as part of his celebrations after scoring a goal.

At this point, you will struggle to find somebody who hasn’t heard of Fortnite. Kids talk about it, adults talk about it, parents who are concerned about the number of hours their children spend playing the game talk about it. The game has become a cultural phenomenon the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the releases of World of Warcraft and MineCraft respectively.

Looking at the explosive impact of Fortnite and the financial benefits it has brought with it for Epic Games, it’s hard not to feel slightly sorry for PlayerUnknownsBattlegrounds; although still a healthy revenue stream for PUBG Corporation, it’s easy to see why they would feel that Fortnite has effectively copied them and benefited massively from it. Indeed, the South Korean company behind PUBG Corporation, Bluehole, did file a lawsuit against Epic Games in January 2018, claiming copyright infringement regarding Fortnite copying PUBG’s user interface and game items. The lawsuit was speculated to have little success, and was eventually dropped for undisclosed reasons.

While it’s easy to sympathise with PUBG Corporation—after all Fortnite: Battle Royale was quite clearly designed to capitalise on the success of PUBG—it would also be difficult to argue against the fact that PUBG Corporation didn’t invent the battle royale genre, and that Fortnite simply did it better.

As the Fortnite name reaches its first birthday (Fortnite: Battle Royale isn’t 1 until September of this year, remember) the numbers continue to reach astounding levels. With it’s fast-paced, addictive gameplay and with people of all ages talking about it, it’s hard to see its popularity dropping anytime soon. With the massive revenue stream it has generated, Epic Games is perfectly positioned to keep the game supported and evolving for years to come, the sky’s the limit for Fortnite.

Wherever it goes from here, it’s easy to say that Fortnite has far surpassed even Epic Games wildest dreams.



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