Fortnite is a game that you can't seem to escape. Whether you're into the popular online title or not is irrelevant, it's everywhere. The wild surge in popularity began when Epic Games made their free-to-play Battle Royale debut alongside their pre-existing Save the World mode in an era where PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds reigned supreme. Despite being called a "copycat" upon its revelation, it quickly skyrocketed towards popularity, even dethroning PUBG itself, during its rise to fame.
I'll admit, I dogged on this game hard when it was first announced and continued to do so after its release. I often joked that it was the "Casual's PUBG" ... that is, until I played it. Then I slowly became addicted and ... well, here we are.
But what makes this game so popular? Can any old battle royale title make this grand leap, or is there a specific magic that seems tied to Epic Games' addition to the recently revived genre? Let's discuss!
When Epic Games first announced their Battle Royale mode for Fortnite, instantly PUBG fans were pissed. It wasn't just the fans either, the PlayerUnknown's BattleGrounds creator himself even took a few potshots at the fellow dev stating a breach in intellectual trust and a poach into their market. Despite PUBG not being the first battle royale title in the genre, it was the one that made it a breakout niche. It smashed records left and right, so the protectiveness over the crown was a little understandable.
Despite the rough reception, the free-to-play game quickly proved to players that it could stand on its own. Where PUBG relied on realism, part of Fortnite's charm was that it really didn't take itself too seriously, while still maintaining a challenging gameplay experience. From its cartoonish charm to its unique building mechanics, it became quite clear that this wasn't a PUBG clone.
The obvious differences aside, such as the aforementioned building mechanics, a big reason why many are jumping ship to the Fortnite camp is its simplicity. It's a gameplay experience that easily encapsulates players of all ages, while still keeping to a challenging path. Our own Editor-in-Chief Dallas Jackson recently spoke about being able to play this with his 8 year old son, really showing testament to the versatility of this game.
Another huge check mark in Fortnite's corner is that not only is it free-to-play, but it's also cross platform. PC players can play with Xbox, Xbox can play with iOS - it's a melting pot of playability. Give a game accessibility and affordability, and then make the game itself good - that's a winning combination and what that Epic Games nailed.
The building mechanics also offer a lot of fun, though they aren't required. When I first dipped my toes into the proverbial waters, the building "crap" didn't really appeal to me. I wanted to get the good gear and I wanted my Victory Royale. That's all I cared about. But then I kept seeing some pretty impressive plays in-game and it got me curious. I dabbled here and there and though I still occasionally fall to my death over my own stupidity, I can now see the value of this mechanic. It's another level of experience, but one that's not forced. If it's not your thing, that's fine - you don't need to use it. If you feel like getting your inner Bob the Builder on however, get on with yo bad self.
It seems that a common attitude in gaming is if I like this thing, then I can't like that thing when in actuality, liking both can mean really good things. Though more and more developers are trying their own hand at battle royale, the fact remains that Fortnite and PUBG are the cream de la cream. But what does this mean, exactly?
When Fortnite does something incredibly epic with their game, like a new mode or map, and the overall playerbase reacts well to this change, that will motivate the team behind PUBG to be more innovative in their approach and push for more stability. Higher competition means higher stakes, which means more of an effort to get things right. PUBG has continued to be a rough experience for most, with glitches and bad framerates galore (I say fully enjoying that title as well), and Fortnite's continued success will only spur those devs to make their game more optimized so that they can add the new features, the new maps, the new everything that players are asking for.
Bottom line is that if you are a Fortnite fan, you should want PUBG to succeed and vice versa with PUBG. They are feeding each other right now, so let's make sure that diet is hearty so we can have a high quality gaming experience.
All things considered, there's much more that goes into this game's incredible boom in popularity than simply "see battle royale, add battle royale." There have been many attempts at breaking into this market with Lawbreaker's Cliffy B even adding his own game to the mix, but they just aren't seeing the same thrust into fandom that Epic Games had. Why?
Despite Fortnite's Battle Royale mode only taking 2 months to create, their product offers an incredibly immersive experience that's sole purpose is to have fun. With silly skins (come on, there was even a datamined skin of a giant tomato head) to even sillier game mechanics like the rideable rockets, the game overall is made up of tiny little pieces that make an enjoyable picture. Because of this, a simple clone won't climb the charts and make NewsWeekly and Forbes headlines.
There's a care, a constant attention to detail, that Epic Games exhibits that's evident in their social media interactions, their fan interactions on Reddit, and is reflected in every weekly update. A copycat won't cut it, and calling Fortnite a copycat won't cut it either. Fortnite has more than earned its stripes and for any developer looking to challenge that, prepare to do some hefty homework!