The Fortnite Phenomenon


Walt Mudie, Writer

It’s no secret that Fortnite has taken over millions of teen lives in the last 6 months. @Flexingfortnite, Instagram page with over 18,000 followers, titles it as “The globally dominant game of our generation”. So, the question must be asked: why?

Viral is an understatement for Fortnite’s popularity. 3.4 million users played at the same time in February of 2018. It is assumed there is over 45 million Fortnite players, although Epic Games has never confirmed this. In February, Fortnite contained 16.3% of all PC gamers on average, and its only grown since then.

Another one of Fortnite’s strangleholds is on Twitch, a live streaming website. Of all games streamed on Twitch, it has the most average viewers at any given time with over 200,000. That’s nearly twice as many as the second place game (League of Legends). There are over 12,000 channels that stream Fortnite. Second place on that list is also League of Legends, and it boasts around one fourth of that figure.

A lot of Fortnite’s success on Twitch comes straight from Fortnite streamer Ninja. Ninja is a the most viewed Twitch streamer by a landslide. His 7.5 million follower count blows out every other streamer. The closest another streamer comes to that is 3.2 million (shroud). During March, gigantically platinum rappers Drake and Travis Scott hopped on Ninja’s live stream and played a couple games of Fortnite, swiftly destroying Twitchs viewer count record with 600,000 people tuning in.

Epic Games has evidently done many things differently than every other game maker to generate this prominence. Josh Bermel, grade 10 student and avid Fortnite gamer, says, “If Fortnite didn’t exist, I would only game around one fifth of the amount I game now”. So just how did it become so essential?

I took a survey asking for the top 2 reasons Fortnite is so popular, and here were some of the top responses.

Fortnite being a free game has inevitably skyrocketed its popularity. In my survey, only 18 of 33 responders claimed they would continue playing Fortnite if it was $35. Also, when asked to name 2 of Fortnite’s most vital selling points, 90% mentioned its nonexistent price.

Celebrities have endorsed the Fortnite brand since its release. Other than Drake and Travis Scott, big names search for Victory Royales regularly. Chance the Rapper tweeted in February, requesting Fortnite to be released for the Nintendo Switch. Juju Smith-Schuster joined in on Ninja and Drake’s live stream and brought some of his fans. David Price’s team mates claim his carpal tunnel syndrome originates from the hours he puts into the game. Social media is home to multiple Finn Wolfhard posts regarding his experience with Fortnite. In my survey, 21% of voters claimed celebrities talking about it is one of the main 2 reasons Fortnite is so popular.

Aspects of many chart-topping games shine through in Fortnite’s gameplay. PUBG (PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds) is the most common comparison drawn. PUBG is home to Battle Royale, the game mode Fortnite blew up off of. The influence is prominent to the point that gamers call Fortnite “The free PUGB”.

Fortnite also draws inspiration from Grand Theft Auto. The idea of a sandbox style game giving players tons of freedom has blown up from the GTA series. Fortnite also offers the same island layout with users free to roam where they choose. 30% of survey takers chose its combination of popular games as one of its 2 selling points.

Another reason for its popularity is its availability. Users have a choice of Xbox One, Playstation 4, or PC. The vast majority of gamers in 2018 own at least one of those consoles, if not multiple. That gives almost all gamers the possibility to play Fortnite, with its free price. Naturally, when hearing about other people playing it, gamers would try Fortnite at least once. This creates a never ending cycle of Fortnite’s user count growing from itself. James Shaw, creative director from Kelowna marketing agency Twin Creek Media, describes this cycle as “Having a sales team out there of 10,000s promoting your product for free”. 27% of survey takers decided on its availability as on of the 2 main reasons for its popularity.

On the surface Fortnite offers a nice combination of popular games for no price. Available on all 3 flagship gaming consoles, seeing how it earned its fame is simple. Epic Games knew they had hit the jackpot with the game by itself. Their last step was to spread the game like cream cheese on a bagel. This is where Epic Games truly steps above and beyond.

Josh Bermel says the main way Epic Games differs from other companies, excluding Fortnite’s price, is they “Listen to the community more”.

Their listening skills are obvious. There have been multiple instances of a Reddit suggestion for improvement being implemented into the game soon after the post. iFlak, Reddit user, works at Epic Games and replies to many comments about issues in the game, assuring the user that the issue is noticed. Epic Games’ website has a forum section where users are able to post about various issues, knowing employees browse the forums constantly.

Josh Bermel also says that every update introduced significantly improves his experience. Thanks to the countless hours reading fan responses, Epic Games has developed a phenomenal understanding of how the Fortnite player brain works. An example of this was capitalizing on Avengers: Infinity Wars success. Within 2 weeks of its release Fortnite had announced that Thanos, popular Infinity War character, would become a usable skin in a new game mode. This brought together the fanbase of Avengers with Fortnite’s players. Predictably, this game mode was a gigantic success.

Also, indubitably, Epic Games had Twitch on their mind when building Fortnite. The game is perfect for endless hours of streaming. David Mcconnell, KSS psychology teacher, claims one groundbreaking Fortnite feature is the fact that “Your experience is quite different each time”. That trait turns Fortnite into the ultimate Twitch game. Viewers can spend hours watching Ninja, for instance, and remain engaged. Each match, Ninja may use any tactic to earn a Battle Royale, and as a viewer it keeps you guessing.

64% of my survey takers follow Fortnite-related accounts on social media. Fortnite’s official Twitter account has just over 4 million followers, while their Instagram page has well over 6 million. Because of that, players following Fortnite accounts are in turn always connected and thinking about Fortnite during their days, and that’s no fluke.

Epic Games has a nearly unflawed comprehension of the teen gamer. They are well aware of social media’s influence on teens’ actions and what the average teen subconsciously wants in a video game. A company grasping their targeted demographic’s mind is critical for a mainstream video game. Of this, every popular game maker is aware, but Fortnite steps above in that regard.

The sole reason Epic Games has created a game that outshines every other video game in 2018 is their observation and listening skills. Every aspect of the game fell perfectly into place with the trends that were rising at the time of its release, and they have catered the game since to fit fresher movements. Users finally have a game they can impact with Internet suggestions. From Reddit to Epic Games’ forums, almost every fan opinion is taken into account. The gaming community has never seen this before.

The final question to be asked is whether or not another game similar to Fortnite will universalize. Naturally, other game makers are taking notes from the methods Epic Games utilized to provoke their fame. Games will likely surface that appear as Walmart-brand Fortnite, but will one rise to the same extent?

Chances are that gamers will have overplayed Fortnite at the point of its decrowning. If another Fortnite-esque game shines, these gamers will be sick of it before it even arrives. Therefore, another game similar to Fortnite’s rise is not probable.

However, it is totally feasible for another game unlike Fortnite to reach its level of fame. Our society is becoming more heavily influenced by marketing due to new technological developments.  As Mr. Mcconnell puts it, “We have people that are famous just for being famous”. If another game making company can crack the code as well as Epic Games has, we will see their game at the top in no time.