Games

Why Fortnite is so insanely popular right now

Why Fortnite is so insanely po...
Recent figures put the Fortnite player base at 125 million
Recent figures put the Fortnite player base at 125 million
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Fortnite's battle royale mode is totally free to play, so the barrier to entry is a games machine (an iPhone will do) and an internet connection
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Fortnite's battle royale mode is totally free to play, so the barrier to entry is a games machine (an iPhone will do) and an internet connection
Fortnite is fun enough alone, but it's an unabashed joy to play with others
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Fortnite is fun enough alone, but it's an unabashed joy to play with others
Fortnite – a veritable orgy of primary colors – like an explosion at a rainbow factory
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Fortnite – a veritable orgy of primary colors – like an explosion at a rainbow factory
Fortnite lets players build towers and bases to camp out in
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Fortnite lets players build towers and bases to camp out in
So far, Fortnite hasn't put a foot wrong. It's a sheer joy to play
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So far, Fortnite hasn't put a foot wrong. It's a sheer joy to play
The 5th season of Fortnite was heralded by the appearance of energy rifts causing objects from the map to go missing
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The 5th season of Fortnite was heralded by the appearance of energy rifts causing objects from the map to go missing
Recent figures put the Fortnite player base at 125 million
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Recent figures put the Fortnite player base at 125 million

Fortnite – if you haven't heard of it, then welcome back to civilization, Henry David Thoreau. It's one of the most popular games in the world right now – and the most popular in the booming battle royale genre. For the uninitiated, battle royale games see a hundred or so players thrown together into one game world, and fight for survival in a last-avatar-standing face-off as the "safe zone" relentlessly shrinks, forcing the surviving players closer and closer together to deliver the coup de grace. But why is Fortnite flying where its competitors, like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (aka PUBG) falter? Let's take a look, shall we?

It's free to play

Fortnite's battle royale mode is totally free to play, so the barrier to entry is a games machine (an iPhone will do) and an internet connection. But where other free-to-play games seem to involve interminable grind to make any meaningful progress, Fortnite plops 100 players onto an island for anarchic larks.

Fortnite's battle royale mode is totally free to play, so the barrier to entry is a games machine (an iPhone will do) and an internet connection
Fortnite's battle royale mode is totally free to play, so the barrier to entry is a games machine (an iPhone will do) and an internet connection

And though there are ways to pay for the game (and its maker Epic Games is absolutely coining it in, make no mistake), they don't confer any player advantage. They're purely cosmetic. So whether you pay or not, it's a game with fairness in its very guts.

It's colorful and brash (in a lovely way)

Have you seen video games lately? Audible groan. As games consoles and PCs become more powerful, games makers strive to make them ever more realistic, at least in terms of looks. Sometimes that's a nice thing, but it's also a bit drab, isn't it? If I wanted ultra-realism, I'd go outside where the 4K graphics run at a consistent 60 frames-per-second on my current aging hardware.

Fortnite – a veritable orgy of primary colors – like an explosion at a rainbow factory
Fortnite – a veritable orgy of primary colors – like an explosion at a rainbow factory

Contrast the visceral, cartoonish splendor of Fortnite – a veritable orgy of primary colors – like an explosion at a rainbow factory. The visuals are gorgeous, but also welcoming. "This is a game for everyone," it says, through its technicolor vuvuzela.

It's hugely social

Fortnite is fun enough alone, but it's an unabashed joy to play with others. It supports crossplay, so you're not limited to battling with people with the same games platform as you. But it's also fun to take turns and spectate – you know, in real life – an increasingly rare thing in gaming these days.

Fortnite is fun enough alone, but it's an unabashed joy to play with others
Fortnite is fun enough alone, but it's an unabashed joy to play with others

What better way to recover from coming 99th out of 100 than by giving a friend all sorts of useful pointers about what they're doing wrong? "Shoot the stripy bear!" It's also enormously popular on streaming services like Twitch – yet another way Fortniters can "engage" each other, as is the modern way.

It's not really about shooting each other

Part of the genius of Fortnite is its season pass system, known in-game as the Battle Pass. This lets players pony up a relatively modest sum every few months for a host of unlockable player skins, items and activities. So when you parachute into the fray, your first priority may not be to hunt down the opposition but to find, say, a quacking rubber duck (no, really), or a loot chest at a particular location.

Fortnite lets players build towers and bases to camp out in
Fortnite lets players build towers and bases to camp out in

But even if you are gunning for the number one spot, the violence is so cartoonish that it's a far cry from the majority of "gritty" shooters on the market. It's possible to take someone down with an "axe" made of balloons, for pity's sake. Stealthy tactics are perfectly legit, and Fortnite lets players build towers and bases to camp out in – so if shooting's not your bag, why not construct your way to victory, like Christopher Wren with a PlayStation?

Its changing, dynamic world

The world of Fortnite feels alive. Whether you fork out for the Battle Passes or not, each season brings with it a host of changes to Fortnite's sole map. Recent weeks have teased the start of Season 5 with a launch of a rocket – a one-time only event that you had to be online at a certain time to witness. It was followed by the appearance of energy rifts causing objects from the map to go missing.

The 5th season of Fortnite was heralded by the appearance of energy rifts causing objects from the map to go missing
The 5th season of Fortnite was heralded by the appearance of energy rifts causing objects from the map to go missing

Now Season 5 proper has launched, these little hints have come to fruition, spelling wholesale changes to the map, including the addition of an anachronistic Norse longship at the top of a waterfall. Season 4 was ushered in by a comet in the sky, which, when it came crashing to terra firma, led to the appearance of a massive crater – Dusty Divot in the game's playful aliterative parlance. There's a greater sense of this weird, unfolding narrative, told through the game world itself, without a single paragraph of tedious expositional text to read. Developers – this is how to do story-telling.

In summary, then…

Fortnite may have been beaten to market by the also huge PUBG, but where that game has struggled to maintain an enthusiastic player base, with unpopular additions, a season pass seen as cynical (PUBG, unlike Fortnite, isn't free to play in the first place) and ongoing technical issues, Epic Games' behemoth goes from strength to strength.

So far, Fortnite hasn't put a foot wrong. It's a sheer joy to play
So far, Fortnite hasn't put a foot wrong. It's a sheer joy to play

Even as recognizable franchises like Call of Duty and Battlefield seek to muscle in on the battle royale format with their forthcoming releases, and numerous other titles ready themselves for market, it would be hard to bet against Fortnite retaining the top spot for the foreseeable future. So far, it hasn't put a foot wrong. It's a sheer joy to play.

2 comments
ChairmanLMAO
Ya PUBG was fun. Especially with team and Discord.
ilan
This isn't the real reason why fortnite is so popular. People don't care so much about the bright colors or graphics, or a changing social world. So many games already have this, and they are no where near as big a fortnite. Fornite especially stands out in a couple ways(credit to the game theorist.) Fornite has a specific way of making new/inexperienced players feel accomplished while still doing the same for experienced players. Epic may have figured this out accident. Essentially, new players stick to the edges of the map, where they are much more likely to place higher, but they most likely won't get kills and have a long game. They feel happy bc they maybe placed in the top 75% or so. Those people keep playing. With experienced players, they most likely play to populated areas and play 5 games in the time it takes an inexperienced player to play one, but they might win one of the 5 games, and they feel accomplished. Fornite is so welcoming to new players in this way and it makes it easy to get hooked. Many elements are focused on making you want to play just ONE more game. Oh, just have to finish this achievement, or finish this level. The brain remembers incomplete things much more vividly, and this is where fortinite excels. Everything is incomplete, and so you always come back for more, and then more quests and levels come along for you to finish. It's a cycle. In some video games people who have completed everything literally don't find it fun or play anymore. Fornite draws people in like this, and THAT is why it is so popular. The game itself(graphics and gameplay) aren't as important as the psychology.