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Fortnite - two weeks will never be the same again

7 November 2018 7:15 PM
Digital technology

The deathmatch game that may be the last one standing.

There are two kinds of people in the world, those that have played Fortnite and those that can’t stand it.

The game is a little over a year old but has managed to irritate parents, partners and purists who either don’t play the game or regard the cartoon-like setting as not “real” enough for a serious gamer.

Despite that, in the time since it released in September 2017, over 120 million have been playing it. At times, over 3 million have been playing at the same time.

It has raked in over a $1 billion in revenues and appears to have set new records for revenues in a single month of over $300 million.

How did it do it?

By copying others most creatively.

A brief history

Epic Games has been around since the 90s. In 2010 it was working on a title to tap into the huge demand for Minecraft, the mining and crafting game, where you need to avoid the zombies come nightfall. Plan A was to build a game where you collect stuff during the day to build forts to battle the zombies that would attack at night.

Besides building the game, Epic was also working on the next generation game engine called Unreal Engine 4. Fortnite was being written while the game engine was being developed. The engine was released in 2012 and is what powers many games.

Inspired by the book and movie called Battle Royale in which the characters have to survive by killing the fellow competitors, gamer Brendan "PlayerUnknown" Greene had taken the idea and created a version using the game DayZ in 2013. He was then approached to build a new version by a Korean game creator. They used the Unreal Engine and released PlayerUnknown’s Battleground, usually abbreviated to PUBG in August 2017.

It was a hit. The Fortnite team noting the earlier success looked to create a version too, but with the crafting part from their game. It launched in September 2017.

The two games are very similar however some small but significant differences allowed Fortnite to pull ahead of the competition which not only makes it a better game, but a better business.

The more cartoon-like setting and absence of gore makes it less of a problem for younger players. The crafting element has a big strategic advantage while the decision to make the game free ensured a chance to compete with the others even though it was last to market.

The challenge was how to generate the revenue to not only offset the development but if successful cover the huge hosting costs of the game.

A popular option is to allow players to buy their way to higher levels and better weapons, but Fortnite begins each game with items that must be collected on the map. The things you get to keep are only cosmetic, but that has made all the difference.

The game is now in Season 6, and new versions of the essential items to glide, collect resources and the outfit you wear have changed with each season. Collecting the items requires you to advance sufficiently far in the game to earn or typically buy the items. It has proved to be very successful with some players creating accounts to build up their value and then sell the account details to players that missed the earlier season. Some accounts are up for sale for over R30 000. For a game that is free, I must remind you.

Each season has also advanced a storyline and added new kinds of gameplay. The most powerful advantage with the genre is that should you die, starting a new game is quick and easy. Should you be playing with friends, they can revive you. If you do die, you can continue watching from the point of view of the person that killed you until the match ends, typically not much more than 20 mins.

Besides the outfits, the game also has dances to use when you win (or whenever you like) that are based on popular culture.

It is not only the game that has cashed in, but there are also thousands of YouTube videos with some having over 70 million views, but that is nothing compared to the number of streams on Twitch. It has been the most popular game to watch for some time and has hundreds of thousands of live viewers. One account, in particular, gets most of the views - Tyler “Ninja” Blevins has over 300 million views of his games, one in particular in April saw Drake join him from a game which had over half a million watch online. As a result, the game has made him a millionaire thanks to the ads and the 12 million followers some of which subscribe earning him a reported $400 000 a month.

Watch Squads with Drake, Travis and JuJu you heard me. | @Ninja on Twitter and Instagram from Ninja on

He has been so successful he arranged a tournament which not only drew a considerable crowd to Las Vegas where it was held but set a new Twitch stream record with over 600 000 live viewers.

Epic announced their own tournament with a $100 million in prize money. The details are still due to be released, but it is likely to be a world cup type tournament or the ultimate battle royale.

It is hard to imagine the game sustaining the popularity it has at the moment, but it does suggest that the future of gaming is bright in that every few years a new game comes along and sets new records for players and revenue in ever shorter periods. If your parents ever told you not to waste your time playing games, mention some of the names above.

7 November 2018 7:15 PM
Digital technology

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