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By Andrew Walter
Fortnite, a free-to-play online shooter game, has kept kids, teenagers, broke college students, hardcore gamers and filthy casuals boarding the battle bus for a year with more than 125 million players. Its success in spite of not charging anyone to play has rocked the gaming world.
Epic Games first announced Fortnite back in the dinosaur age of 2011. Originally conceptualized as a tower defense game like “Bloons Tower Defense” or “Plants vs. Zombies,” Epic Games drew inspiration from Pixar, Tim Burton and Looney Tunes for Fortnite’s cartoony aesthetic, as they wanted to avoid the darker tone most modern shooter games have.
The battle royale mode is the most popular way to play Fortnite, with the basic premise being a last-man-standing survival fight between 100 players. Players begin the game by skydiving over a huge map with varied locations to collect loot, weapons and building materials to defeat and outlive opponents.
If a player is eliminated, they can continue to watch the opponent who defeated them.
The game’s success has experts and onlookers alike questioning the business model and format of traditional video games.
Why those kids keep talking about “Tilted Towers”
In a survey of 1,000 Fortnite players made by lendEDU, 35 percent of participants admitted they have skipped class to play Fortnite, and 20.5 percent admitted to missing work to play the game.
The average participant spent between six to 10 hours per week playing Fortnite, with the average play session lasting 21.6 minutes. In May and June alone, players spent 2.7 billion hours playing the game, according to Apptopia.
Oslynn Williams, a digital media professor who plays Fortnite, said the game’s simplistic nature allows it to appeal to a wide audience.
He said the game is different than other first-person shooter games, like Call of Duty, where a character can die and come back to life.
“With Fortnite, you die,” said Williams. “That’s it. You’re out.”
The adrenaline of knowing that you only have one life in Fortnite is what he said makes the game more interesting.
Fortnite Battle Royale does not sell anything that gives an advantage in gameplay to its players, so for anyone looking for pay-to-win games, go back to Candy Crush Saga.
The game receives widespread attention on websites like YouTube and Twitch. Many people who don’t play the game still enjoy watching others play as a form of entertainment.
Warner Bell, an employee who works in the Information Technology department, said that while he is an avid PC gamer, he hasn’t had time to try playing Fortnite.
“I do a lot of YouTube watching, so there’s all kinds of guys on YouTube watching it, throwing Fortnite parties, and so I’ve just been watching videos when I have time,” he said. “But I haven’t actually got around to playing the game itself.”
The game’s exposure has been boosted by the support of celebrities. On March 14, popular Twitch streamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins held a Fortnite stream with Canadian rapper Drake, American rapper Travis Scott and wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers Juju Smith-Schuster.
More than 628,000 people watched live as the squad played, setting an all-time, non-tournament Twitch viewership record.
Who plays Fortnite
According to PC Games Network, Fortnite’s record active monthly player count has reached 40 million. At one point, 3.4 million players were playing the game at the same time.
David Chien, adviser to video game club, said the spectator aspect of Fortnite makes the game fun even if you lose.
“The video game, for the longest time, has always been played by a group of people, to personally enjoy within your own teammates,” he said. “Fortnite changes the game. When you lose, you’re still entertained. You’re not waiting like ‘Oh my gosh. Okay, I have to wait [for] two people trying to fight it out and it’s kinda boring.’ In Fortnite, you never know what’s going to happen next.”
For anyone, who doubts they’d play the game because they think they would be bad at it, know that user “Elemental_Ray” set the single-game kills record when he destroyed a platform that caused 48 players to be eliminated by fall damage. “Elemental_Ray” had an abysmal 0.47 kill-to-death ratio and 0.6 percent win rate at the time.
Fortnite entices players by offering weekly challenges. Completing these challenges allows players to unlock free rewards. If they purchase the season’s battle pass, they automatically receive some exclusive rewards and are given bonus challenges to unlock even more rewards.
Veteran players will purchase skins, emotes and dances to flaunt their skills. Buying the paid content is a common way that players try to gain status within the community.
They don’t want to be associated with any no-skins, or players who don’t spend any money.
Chien hinted at the possibility of hosting Fortnite tournaments with other community colleges.
“I’ve been trying to get into contact with other gaming clubs within the DCCCD,” he said. “They’re in contact with our president, Diego Seguinot, to possibly [hold] an inter-college friendly match of different types of games. We do have the equipment, we do have the bandwidth, so all I’d just have to do is set up a time to [have] these schools play together. I think it would be a lot of fun.”
Fortnite reached its peak monthly revenue in May with $318 million made from in-game purchases.
This made it the biggest free-to-play game by monthly active users and revenue.
The game’s business model of micro-transactions has helped video game developer Epic Games earn more than $1 billion from in-game purchases from October 2017 to May 2018, according to a report from market research firm Superdata. This means that every dollar Epic Games rakes in isn’t because somebody downloaded the game, it’s because they played the game and decided to spend money on add-ons.
Fortnite features two game modes: “Fortnite Battle Royale” and “Fortnite: Save the World.”
Save the World costs $20. Battle Royale is free, but offers in-game purchases for battle passes, unique skins, emotes and dances.
Kevin Quintana, a nursing major, has spent about $10 on in-game purchases.
“I learned [about Fortnite] from high school,” he said. “Some kids were talking about it in my class and I got into it because supposedly it was free. That was like the main hook of it.”
Leslie Velasco, an electrical engineering major, said that her 7-year-old brother begs their mom for her credit card to buy Fortnite skins.
Velasco said her boyfriend has spent more than $700 on the game.
“My boyfriend, when he didn’t have a job, he was a full-time Fortnite player,” she said. “I would always get mad at him because he would play Fortnite and not text me. Am I more boring than the game? What I did to ignore that was I started playing Fortnite. I’m like, ‘you know what? I’m gonna play video games too. I’m gonna ignore you and play video games.’ ”
You’re probably wondering why someone would spend anywhere from $10 to $700 for a funny dance that references pop culture. Why wouldn’t someone drop some dough for the ability to perform the “Ride The Pony,” “Groove Jam” or “Fresh” in game?
Each dance is a reference to South Korean music artist Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” the iconic dance from “Napoleon Dynamite” and Carlton’s signature dance from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” respectively.
Oslynn Williams said that while he hasn’t bought anything for the game, his son will usually spend his allowance money on new character skins.
“That’s one thing my son and I talk about, because he’s bought $20 skins and stuff ,” he said. “I tell him all the time ‘you get a skin, but two or three weeks later, it’s like old news.’ ”