The war is over: but what’s next for Fortnite?
For a game that was released less than one year ago it is hard to argue against Fortnite being an overnight frenzy. Epic Games has revolutionised a whole new genre which entertains everyone from young children to hardened FPS enthusiasts. It has taken the world by storm. Fortnite has been downloaded 125 million times. That’s an 85 million increase since January 2018, taking the total downloads to almost twice the population of Britain. And while comparisons are hard to make due to various factors such as target audience, platform and genre, PUBG its fiercest competitor has 38 million downloads according to SteamSpy and Microsoft.
Bluehole pioneered the whole battle royale scene. It didn’t create it. But it brought it worldwide attention. By using Epic’s engine — a very important plot point in the whole Fortnite v PUBG saga — they created what was at the time one of the most popular PC games full stop. It didn’t stop there. Fans were also itching to play the game on console, with pre-orders going through the roof. Bluehole must have felt unstoppable.
But of course, success brings competition and it was only inevitable that a larger, more talented and cash-heavy game developer would barge into the market with their own product. As we all know, this was Epic Games. For Bluehole this was a disaster. The very company that provided the necessary tools, namely the UE4 engine to run PUBG, were closing in on their empire.
And so, after almost a year of fierce competition, Fortnite won the war. While Epic’s title evolved with new weekly game modes and constant merch updates, PUBG stagnated. Sure, it fluttered around by recycling a standard list of four events, but it couldn’t really compete with Fortnite’s all-but-revolutionary building system and freemium model. After all, which sounds better? Building your way to glory while dressed as a bush and flying around on a jetpack on Fortnite, or playing in a flare gun event on PUBG?
But while gameplay was the main driving force behind Fortnite’s success, it’s not the only thing the elevated it to the number one spot. Twitch has been the platform that has allowed Fornite to develop an almost religious following. Just look at the celebrities which have formed overnight. Ninja in particular feels like the blue haired messiah brought down from gaming heaven to champion the sandbox survival genre.
He was the main focus of the Fortnite Pro-Am. He had arguably one of the biggest celebrity partner. He was front and centre on stage. He took up most of the filler time in-between games. And he won. PUBG might have DrDisRespect, the former Twitch stream record holder, but he has less than a third of the followers Ninja does. And Ninja still uses a Yahoo email address. If you’re beaten by a man who uses Yahoo as his business email then you know things aren’t going well.
What sealed the deal and placed Fortnite front of the pack once and for all though was the roaring success of the Fortnite Pro Am. Sure, it was more Backpack Kid flossing than Linkin Park rocking at Blizzcon back in 2015, but for its debut into the world of esports, a two-mile queue of fans in eager anticipation is pretty good going. Sadly, and what might stifle its growth, is that Fortnite doesn’t really lend itself to the esports format. There’s just too much going on.
Popular titles such as Dota 2, League of Legends and CS:GO have a steady arc of excitement, with plenty of mid-game twists to keep us entertained and all contained in pretty small maps. Only the opposite can be said for the battle royale genre. The only relatively interesting part of the Fortnite Pro Am gameplay was the endgame. Of course, there were other exciting elements, such as Ninja being killed off early in the first game, but otherwise, it all came down to the last five minutes.
Whether this is all enough to keep fans entertained is still pretty unclear. The only thing that’s obvious is that there will be a lot more to come from Fornite. More streamers. More players. More tournaments. More game modes. But for PUBG? Obscurity is a much likliker outcome. Sorry Bluehole, you were beaten at your own game, and you held all the cards.