Pretty much everyone in the gaming community would agree that Fortnite: Battle Royale is the biggest game right now. But what can happen to the massively-popular game from here?
But until only recently, people haven’t been sure just how big the game was. But then, Fortnite’s publisher Epic Games said in a blog post announcing the $100 million Fortnite World Cup that the game now has a whopping 125 million players.
125. Million. Players. That’s huge. To put that into perspective, according to Epic’s last count in January, the game only had 40 million players after implementing its eponymous battle royale mode. The game’s player base grew by 3,025% in the span of six months.
While the developers have not yet made clear everything clear about the figures, like the number of monthly concurrent players, it’s clear that Fortnite is indeed the biggest game today, outside of some select mobile titles. This fact is more jarring when you consider how Fortnite stacks up against its competition. When Fortnite was still in its infancy, it was widely thought of as a copycat of the Battle Royale genre’s first major title, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). In the span of a few months, the tables have turned as Fortnite has risen as much as PUBG has fallen. And while we’re not saying that PUBG’s publishers were bitter their game was one-upped, they did just sue Epic for copyright infringement.
While the argument of which is the better game between Fortnite and PUBG can go on forever, it’s clear which one most people fancy more. Aside from the clear(ly huge) advantage Fortnite has in terms of player base, it also has transcendent star power with Fortnite streamers gaining massive followings.
Tyler Blevin, more commonly known as “Ninja,” is the biggest streamer on Twitch with over 8 million followers and an average of 90,000 views per stream. Ninja started off as a Halo 3 player in 2009, bounced between streaming and playing professionally in other shooters, most notably PUBG, until his regular Fortnite streams blasted him to the stratosphere of Twitch popularity. In March, he set the Twitch record for a single individual stream in a Fortnite game with Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, and rappers Travis Scott and Drake.
Fortnite fully flexed its transcendent influence when it recently hosted a Celebrity Pro-Am tournament in E3. The tournament featured pairings between some of the game’s most popular streamers and celebrities like NBA All-Star Paul George and UFC fighter Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse” Johnson, among others. In the end, Ninja and EDM DJ Marshmello won the tourney along with a $1 million prize to be given to a charity of their choice.
(But the real highlight for me was when I realized Kenneth Faried of the Denver Nuggets came in 2nd place because that was the first time I saw him doing something in like two years.)
For now, it seems, Fortnite’s final frontier would be in the esports industry. Mainstream popularity is not always a guarantee of success in esports, but Epic has resolved to face that problem with the time-tested solution of throwing a lot of money at it.
While it’s still far too early to call on anything when it comes to Fortnite’s future in esports, the game’s exponential growth in the span of only a few months might present some complications in the future. Fortnite is not the first game to have become a worldwide phenomenon, and it would do well to learn from the mistakes of its predecessor.
It might seem like forever ago that some of us have almost fully forgotten about it, but the mobile game Pokemon Go used to be the biggest thing. Launching in the summer of 2016, it became a cultural phenomenon almost overnight as droves of players were seen mobbing whichever place happens to have a Shiny Geodude or something mucking about.
While the game was surely lacking, with it not even close to having anything that resembles the Pokemon Battle mechanics of the beloved Nintendo Gameboy and DS titles, the hype surrounding it ensured its success, however short-lived it was (hopefully, it stays that way).
Fortnite and Pokemon Go arguably went on similar roads to success. While Pokemon Go is far from being like any of the true Pokemon games, its popularity was purely because it carried the Pokemon brand. Nostalgia sells, according to the mobile research firm App Annie, the game generated $950 million in the summer of 2016. On the other hand, Fortnite became sucessful because PUBG was successful. After PUBG proved that the Battle Royale genre was a hit, Fortnite took it, smacked its own brand on it, then rode off into the sunset with dollar bills streaking behind it. According to research firm SuperData, Fortnite raked in almost $300 million in the month of April alone.
But what does that tell us? Frankly speaking; easy come, easy go. Pokemon Go was a buggy mess from the start, but its players didn’t notice it behind their nostalgia/cultural bandwagon-tinted glasses. After the hype died down, an inept developer and boredom within its playerbase doomed the game, now people would rather not remember it even became a thing.
Epic needs to keep a steady hand on its game if it wants to have long-term success, but simply maintaining their game won’t be enough. Fortnite was success, due in part to its own novelty, innovative ideas, and some strokes of fortune, but keeping that ball rolling for as long as possible will be its biggest challenge. After all, Fortnite is already big, and will no doubt get even bigger. But perhaps the question it should be facing now is whether it can stay big or go the way of, well, Pokemon Go.