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In a world where the battle royale formula has been overdone time and time again, what did Fortnite do to compete and rise to the very top?
The figures are hard to pinpoint exactly as the Epic Games launcher doesn’t quite have access to the same stats as Steam. However, according to the numbers reported by Epic Games as of February 2018, there were about 3.4 million concurrent players. This translated to about 223 million USD in revenue as of March 2018 and almost an additional 300 million USD by the end of April. There is no secret that battle royale-based games are extremely popular. But the question is how did Fortnite, an early access title, become the powerhouse it is currently?
#5 Low Barrier to Entry
If you read my Fortnite review you’ll understand what I mean here. Fortnite is a free-to-play early access game developed by People Can Fly and Epic Games. Its main game mode “Save the World” was the main attraction and available for purchase for about $40. The Free-to-play mode “Battle Royale” is what catapulted it into mainstream success.
It is available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and mobile. (It has been rumored to be coming to the Switch.) It is the low barrier to entry that makes the game so approachable. The graphics are simple and the over-the-shoulder approach makes it less intimidating to those who are new to the shooting genre. When played on mobile or PC the game runs quite easily on older hardware making it irresistible for those looking for a fun experience on a budget. Note: Fortnite - Battle Royale is not free-to-play on iOS or Android
#4 Gameplay is actually Fun
Outside of PUBG (Player Unknown's Battlegrounds), Fortnite was one of the first games to enter the “battle royale” space. Despite its similarities, Fortnite stood out because of its unique graphics style and building mechanics. Not to mention, it didn't take long for the gameplay bugs to be tightened up by Epic Games. Fortnite features several game modes including; solo, duos, squads, and 50v50. It is this unique combination of gameplay with game modes that provide hours of fun, for FREE! ... or very cheap..
Map locations, weapons, and skins make the game feel diverse. Leveling up grants incentives that make gameplay rewarding. Which gives a sort of progression that is actually interesting. Sure, the Battle Royale mode may not include a story but it doesn’t need one. Currently, the game design is quick and fast-paced allowing casual players to easily jump in and out of matches and still find them enjoyable.
#3 Consistent Updates
Epic Games really understands the position it's in here. They realize that they have a formula for success and they’re really doing their part to make a great gaming experience. This is done by releasing numerous updates in the form of patches and content upgrades to the base game. As many gamers already know, a free-to-play revenue model doesn’t always mean quality or consistency. In the case of Fortnite, Epic Games has really raised the bar.
In addition to this, Epic Games has gained strategic partnerships with other companies such as Marvel Studios to have a little fun with the franchise. As of Infinity War’s release, Fortnite allows the Infinity Gauntlet to be found on the map. This transforms the player into Thanos! Adding in easter egg type updates like this keep the game feeling fresh and helps Fortnite maintain the momentum that it has gained over the last 6 months.
#2 Memes, Notoriety, and Internet Culture
The internet sure loves the weirdest of things. When it came time to market the game, People Can Fly and Epic Games embraced Twitch.tv and meme culture. A primary example of this can be seen in the #boogiedownchallenge. This was a challenge where fans of the game could win a emote modeled after a signature dance move of their design. What was really great about this was the #orangeshirtkid who managed to get his dance featured in game despite not winning the #boogiedown challenge. This is because Cooley McCombre managed to become a fan favorite gaining the attention of Pewdiepie and over 18k retweets on Twitter. When the news was announced that McCombre didn't win, the internet sought justice... #OrangeJustice.
The #orangejustice trend spawned countless memes and videos to be created in McCombre's honor. This free publicity caused a massive influx of players to focus on Fortnite. Becuase Epic Games overturned their decision and put the #orangeshirtkid in the game, many people felt as if Epic Games really heard the voice of its player base. This move painted Fortnite in a positive light and the player base is larger than ever before. Now that Epic Games has our attention, they can continue to give us hours of enjoyable content and make gaming history.
#1 Free-to-Play, but not Pay-to-Win
Obviously, there is a fine line between game balance and pay-to-win tactics. Typically, when a game is free-to-play the revenue model includes granting an in-game advantage to players with a larger wallet. People Can Fly doesn't do that. Rather, Fortnite makes a quality gaming experience that entices you to spend money on cosmetic items available as microtransactions. These additional purchases do not intrude on the overall gameplay experience, because the items are cosmetic in nature. Sure they may be cool-looking but offer no advantage over the base items in the game. While I am not one to encourage spending money on microtransactions, I can't be mad if you want to buy a new glider, costume, or weapon skin just for the fun of it.
The game feels quite balanced. There aren’t any cheap kills that are earned by paying for additional perks, items, etc. The game mechanics are so solid, that Epic Games feels comfortable enough to design a game that is fun and competitive. Its revenue model is based on its own merit. It may be a fad for the time being but it doesn't feel like a gimmick or a mindless cash grab.
Fortnite feels comfortable in its own identity. It stands alone among a sea of battle royale games. It could be this secret combination of quality, mechanics, fun, and quirk that has made it so successful.