Fortnite: A staple of the industry or just another trend?

Dylan Benjamin O’Keeffe investigates whether the overnight success of Fortnite is merely a fad or a soon-to-be permanent fixture of online gaming.

Fortnite. The global phenomenon that has taken the world by storm. Chances are, everyone you know has at least heard of it. The free-to-play game has shot onto the radar in the last year and a half or so. In this article we will investigate whether this juggernaut has set the bar for what other games should strive to in order to be successful, or if it is just another trend that is currently riding on the crest of its wave?

To begin to answer this, it is pertinent to examine where Fortnite came from. Developed by Epic Games, the company behind the acclaimed Gears of War trilogy and Bulletstorm, the game originally began life as a survival game. The game pits four players against zombie-like creatures with the objective of building fortifications to defend various objects. A good game in and of itself, it didn’t shake the earth enough for it to garner a reputation as something different. What it did introduce however, was the building mechanic.

The building mechanic in Fortnite is arguably the reason why it has wrapped the world around its finger. To put it simply; compared to other battle royale games like Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUGB for short) and The Culling, it was something fresh and added a whole new dynamic to the gameplay. The ability to rapidly throw up a defensive wall when engaged from a distance allowed even the most casual players a fighting chance, which lead to it being an extremely accessible game that was easy to pick up and play and even win. The subsequent introduction of the playground mode then gave players the opportunity to show off their creativity to their friends. Overall, it was a solid and polished experience.

Fortnite is known for its seamless gameplay. The game, unlike its main competitor PUBG, runs perfectly and is nowhere near as buggy as PUBG. Whereas PUBG began life as an early access title which pit 100 players against each other with realistic weapon damage and attracted a more hardcore audience, Fortnite was backed by the production values of a company which has been around for a long time and had the money to iron out any problems the game encountered. This, along with its cartoonish art style set it apart from PUBG and made it more appealing to the masses.

Although the building mechanic is what set it apart from its competitors, perhaps the main reason for Fortnite’s success is the fact that it is absolutely no-strings-attached free! There is no cost barrier with this game, and this coupled with how easy it is to pick up and become skilled at is probably why it has grown to the proportions it has. Of course, there is micro-transactions and different passes that do cost money, but these are completely optional. This, and the fact that it is rivaling Skyrim in terms of its multi-platform availability has contributed massively to its success.

Two huge games are coming out towards the end of this year; Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 and Battlefield V. You’d be correct in guessing that they will both be coming with battle royale modes. It is a testament to how popular Fortnite is that these two massive franchises have added in a game mode proliferated by it. It is not wild to assume that if Fortnite wasn’t around and PUBG was the only battle royale game that had gained popularity, Call of Duty and Battlefield would not be coming with the game mode. A lot will be told when these games come out and the data starts rolling in regarding player counts for their battle royale modes; will they be Fortnite killers or will they fade into obscurity and be forgotten about once the next iteration rolls around? It is impossible to tell right now as we know next to nothing about these game modes at the time of writing, but I imagine the hefty price tag of Call of Duty and Battlefield will be a defining factor in whether or not these games will challenge Fortnite. Right now, it seems that Fortnite is here to stay. It has set a bar that its competitors can only dream to reach in terms of accessibility and fun factor. Its millions upon millions of worldwide players is evidence of this and a quick YouTube search will reveal that it is watched almost as much as it is played.

The fact that AAA game franchises like Call of Duty and Battlefield are cashing in on the battle royale mode also show that Fortnite has cemented itself firmly in the gaming industry’s (and the world’s) spotlight. It is safe to say that Fortnite is most certainly a staple of the current industry and any thoughts that it might be just a trend should be shaken from our heads.