For those of you who (somehow) missed the memo, Fortnite is a game developed by North Carolina based developer Epic Games, creators of the hugely successful Unreal Engine, a video game engine that helped power heavyweight titles such as the aforementioned Fortnite, as well as games such as Unreal Tournament, Gears of War and the iOS record breaking Infinity Blade series.
Initially announced in 2011, Fortnite was released as an early access title for Microsoft Windows, macOS, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on July 25, 2017, making $1.5 million dollars within its first three days. Two months later, the spin-off that sent the franchise sky high, Fortnite Battle Royale was released, turning it into a global phenomenon. By the end of its release month of July 2017, Epic Games announced that they had sold over 500,000 digital copies of Fortnite, and by the next month, the game’s player count exceeded one million. As of July 2018, the game’s been played by over 125 million players, and is estimated to have earned more than $1 billion in micro transactions.
The big numbers might mean dramatic things for the developers, but they mean even more dramatic things for the rest of the world. Despite its huge success, Fortnite has been plagued with controversies since day one, including children with addiction problems alongside players legitimately taken to court and sued over cheating scandals. Despite its central theme being tailored around violence, Fortnite’s light hearted and brightly coloured aesthetics mean it’s catered for younger players, causing havoc for parents and teachers across the globe. Even high-brow publication The New Yorker said that “In terms of fervour, compulsive behaviour, and parental non-comprehension, the Fortnite craze has elements of Beatlemania, the opioid crisis, and the ingestion of Tide Pods.” A little extreme for a video game would you not say?
So why the reaction?
Celebrity fans, energy drink affiliations and a free-to-play model combined with cross platform playability across Xbox, PlayStation, iOS, Nintendo, Windows and Mac OS has meant that Fortnite’s accessibility is at a level no game franchise has ever seen. This has seen fanatical players turn from bedroom gamers to multi-millionaire professionals, such as internet stars like Richard Tyler Blevins, known by his alias “Ninja”. Blevins is a 27 year old streamer from the US who rose to stardom through the online steaming channel Twitch, where users can watch their favourite gamers compete. At the time of writing, his twitch followers have surpassed 4.5 million people (more than the population of LA), and his Youtube followers have passed the 15 million mark. In a recent interview with Forbes, he explained that his monthly income was $500,000, a combination of paid subscriptions, sponsorships, YouTube revenue and donations from fans.
Espys 2018 we are ready. pic.twitter.com/5xkEx6hf1O— Ninja (@Ninja) July 19, 2018