Whether or not you have played Fortnite, the chances are that you have heard about the game one way or another. And, whether or not you enjoyed playing the game, Fortnite has changed the gaming industry in two important ways.
After its release on July 21, 2017, Fortnite began to pick up in popularity around the holidays and into the spring season of 2018. It was at that time that Fortnite, created by Epic Games, began smashing records in the gaming industry. In August of 2018, Fortnite reached its highest record of active players in a month, which was 78.3 million (this is still Fortnite’s highest monthly active user record). In February 2019, Fortnite hosted a “Marshmello Concert” in a specific area of the map, where 10.8 million concurrent gamers played at the same time to join in on the event. There are 250 million registered players, as of March 2019. The launch of its fifth season saw web traffic peak at 37 TBPS, five times that of the 2016 US presidential election.
The game is completely free to play.
Change 1: Its Gaming Business Model
This free game brings in billions of dollars in profits. Between July 2017 and May 2018, when the game was soaring in popularity, Fortnite made $1.2 billion in revenue. In May 2018 alone, Fortnite earned $318 million. When Fortnite launched on the app store for iOS devices, Epic Games made $2 million a day from players. From a free game.
The catch is, according to businessofapps.com, 70% of Fortnite players (information was last updated March 2019) have spent money on Fortnite, averaging $85 a person. The items that are available for purchase do not change the game or make Fortnite any easier to win. Those that play without spending any money vs. those that spend hundreds of dollars on the game still enjoy a uniform experience.
In January 2019, it was announced by Super Data that Fortnite (a free game) had the most annual revenue of any game in history.
Change 2: Making Cross-Platform Play the New Standard
While Fortnite includes a few different modes to play, the most popular gaming mode is Fortnite: Battle Royale. Battle Royale allows the gamer to play with up to four friends, as a duo with one other friend, or you can go at it alone in solo mode. If you’re playing with friends, or by yourself, the goal of the game remains the same: be the last standing survivor on an island amongst 100 other players (the island also continuously shrinks due to a “storm” causing players to slowly play and fight in closer proximity to each other.)
Fortnite was initially created and intended to be a shared experience with all types of gamers and on all platforms. This idea, however, was still quite new and not completely common in a gaming industry that built games around the perspective that gamers were divided up into groups.
Before Fortnite and its 250 million registered players made their cross-platforming demands, the video game world was divided up by the console unit that the gamer chose to interact with. PlayStation (Sony) gamers only played with other PlayStation owners, Nintendo gamers played with other Nintendo gamers (in the rare occurrence that Nintendo released a game with online gaming capabilities such as Splatoon), Xbox and PC (Microsoft) gamers played with each other in their gaming worlds, and finally, mobile gamers played together in their mobile gaming world. Each console and those players were advertised to directly, rarely ever being shown just a “game,” but the next gaming experience they could look forward to on their respective console.
“Fortnite’s paved the path for a lot of things. I think the cross-platform experience … companies throughout the industry are not taking advantage of that yet. And I think that’s a huge opportunity for further work. The genre thing is overrated, and the platform decisions are overrated.” — Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, in an interview with Business Insider
Epic’s Fortnite brought its game to every platform, with the original intent that no matter which console or gaming unit you played on, you could play with anybody else on any other type of gaming unit. Except when Sony initially refused to allow PS4 (PlayStation 4) players to interact with Fortnite gamers outside of the PlayStation world. This was true of other games with online capabilities as well, such as Rocket League.
The gaming systems that a gamer could choose to play Fortnite on after its July 2017 release began to stack up quickly. First, players could find it on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC. Then on iOS in April 2018. And, in June 2018, after rumors had been circulating, Fortnite came to the Nintendo Switch in a refreshing summer surprise for all Fortnite fans. (Fortnite would later come to Android, but had its bumps and challenges on the way, including Epic Games trying to circumvent Google’s 30% fee that it charges on the Google Play Store. This story will not be mentioned here. Full Android access to Fortnite became available in October 2018.)
Once Fortnite was available on almost any playable gaming platform, allowing those players to play with anyone on any system, Sony began to accidentally show the world that it was effortless and possible for gamers from all corners of the world to play together, regardless of which gaming platform they chose, or whichever was their preferred method of play.
Once Microsoft and Nintendo teamed up to show the world last summer that their respective gamers could play the same games together on their systems, Sony began to embarrass itself.
Aside from a desire to play with someone that was on a different platform, the sting was felt by PlayStation owners that had created an Epic Games account on their PlayStation to save all Fortnite progress (including paid-for content) and finding that the account they created was locked when attempting to log into it via any other platform. The progress, settings and anything that had been bought or won in-game was inaccessible and could only be accessed on a PlayStation, a fact that Epic stated was solely the decision of Sony.
At 2018’s E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) and through the summer into July, Sony’s reluctance to allow cross-platform play, coupled with the player’s inability to use their Epic Game accounts outside of the PlayStation world spilled frustration and drama across the gaming industry and throughout the internet. In the height of the heat of the summer, Sony remained silent while gamers from around the gaming world asked Sony “why?” Fortnite forced the gaming world to understand that the future of games would be a co-operative, one that didn’t divide, but would bring gamers together. Sony stubbornly stood up to this new reality until it finally gave up.
On September 26, 2018, Sony gave in and allowed cross-platform play, showing up late to a party that had been happening for a while.
“[Sony’s] hand was forced by the unusual success of Fortnite, and it still seems to be fairly unhappy with the whole affair.” — Rob Fahey, gamesindustry.biz
Only because of Fortnite’s success and popularity was Sony able to be heckled, its armed twisted around and around until Fortnite players got what they had been asking for. The ability to play together and joining every other gaming company that understood the needs and wants of their consumers.
Fortnite then set a precedent going forward. It’s no longer the lack of technology that keeps gamers from playing together online, and it isn’t necessary to separate them into their chosen platforms and view each of them separately, and now, it is quite silly to do so. Of course, there will be titles that will only be found on their home platforms, such as Zelda and Mario on Nintendo, Halo on Xbox, God of War on PlayStation, and PC titles that were created for a PC experience. If game developers create a game with the internal hardware in mind, for instance making a game that requires the strength of a PC, there is nothing wrong this and is, respectfully, the decision of the developers. But in the case of a gaming developer creating a game with a unified experience in mind, they should be allowed to do so. Thanks to Fortnite paving the way, hopefully, this will be easier to do so in the future.