Why has Fortnite become so popular?

It’s unlikely you haven’t heard the name Fortnite at least once in recent months even if you don’t play video games, such has been the rise of the multiplayer battle royale game.

Free to play and available across a range of devices including consoles, PCs, mobile phones and tablets, it has become not just the must-play video game but a cultural phenomenon.

Drake has posted videos of himself playing and sporting stars including England footballers have been incorporating in-game dance moves to their celebrations.

Now social media is alight with excitement as the game counts down to its next update – with elements of the Fortnite universe appearing in the real world, much to the delight and confusion of those who have encountered them.

“Fortnite has been a massive success because it has captured the attention of not just dedicated gamers, but kids,” said video games expert and Pocket-lint senior editor Rik Henderson.

“Like Pokemon Go, it has transcended the confines of video gaming and become a social phenomenon, being mentioned by the England team as helping in their relaxation between World Cup matches, for example.”

According to the veteran games journalist, this is because the game has been designed with rapid expansion in mind to meet demand and increase opportunities for people to encounter it.

“One clever move by (developer) Epic Games was to ensure it rapidly expanded to mobile platforms as well as more traditional gaming devices. This opened up the user base greatly,” he said.

“Plus, making the battle royale mode free to play and cross play with all bar PlayStation 4 ensured that just about all kids in the playground could play against or with each other regardless of platform ownership. It’s a similar story to the expansion of Minecraft, originally.”

(Epic Games)

Fellow gaming expert Thomas Tamblyn, technology editor for HuffPost UK, said the rapid rise in popularity was not a fluke.

“While it’s easy to dismiss Fortnite as just another lucky fad, that’s actually doing its developers Epic Games a grave injustice,” he said.

“When battle royale started to explode in popularity it meant they could react incredibly quickly, bringing it to new devices such as the iPhone, Nintendo Switch and soon to be Android phones. I’m actually struggling to think of another game where game developers have been able to react in this way, and this quickly.

“Secondly, they created a hugely addictive story based on ‘seasons’ that made the players feel like they were all on the same journey together.

“Just like a TV show, Fortnite’s island teased you with secrets that all hinted towards some grand finale that would take place at the end of each season.

“Thirdly, they brought that narrative into the real world. Seeing that giant burger sign appearing in the middle of a real desert isn’t just an extremely clever marketing ploy, it’s a powerful social adhesive that brings the entire Fortnite community together in their shared experience of the game.”

A recent in-game rocket launch was the latest example of the game’s entire community being brought together around a single moment, with the after-effects setting off a chain of events designed to mark the end of the current season and the beginning of season five.

An apparent rift in the universe has seen popular Fortnite island landmarks disappearing from the game – with some being dropped into the real world as part of the marketing strategy.

This steady stream of excitement has meant that not just veteran PC and console gamers are spending vast amounts of time playing Fortnite, but also younger players on their mobile phones.

The experts agreed that parents shouldn’t fear their children playing the game.

(Epic Games)

“At its heart, it is a simple and fun shooter with kid-friendly graphics that, in comparison to many other games of its ilk, more often than not get parental approval. In that it can be seen as a positive role model for gaming generally,” Mr Henderson said.

“Perhaps this was always the most important point, they just made a really fun game,” Tamblyn added.

“Fortnite Battle Royale is easy to play, hard to master and thanks to its non-aggressive in-game transactions policy, players never feel like their talents are being punished if they don’t spend any money. Instead, the economy is based solely on how you look to other players.”

The next season of Fortnite is expected to begin later this week – with social media already full of theories about what the theme will be.

Once it goes live, players will again flock to the game to see what’s changed. One thing that is unlikely to change any time soon is how popular it has become among players around the world.

- Press Association

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