Fortnite has become in record time one of the great phenomena in the history of video games. What are the ingredients that made this game from Epic Games appeal to so many players around the world? Throwback to a fantastic saga…
In 1991, student Tim Sweeney ventured out to make an adventure game, ZZT. To his great surprise, he is overwhelmed with requests for floppy disks that he has to send by post – the Internet has not yet entered homes. After packaging five thousand floppy disks, the decision is made: Tim Sweeney will make a career in video games.
Epic Games was established in 1992 – at that time the publishing was called Epic Mega Games. It publishes various games, without making a splash, until the idea of creating a “3D engine” emerges, ie software facilitating the creation of animated graphics in three dimensions. Entitled UnrealEngine, this 3D engine aims to surpass that of the stars of the time, Doom and Quake from id Software.
A prototype of the Unreal game that exploits this UnrealEngine was presented at various trade fairs in 1996 and the buzz had its effect. Even Bill Gates reportedly asked to meet Sweeney.
Unreal was released in the spring of 1998 to rave reviews. He goes so far as to climb to the top of sales. From there, many publishers contact Epic Games so they can use the UnrealEngine for their own games. This will be particularly the case of Gears of War which was released in 2006 on Xbox 360. Epic Games now has a significant source of revenue due to such licensing.
The mode of “Battle Royale”
The idea of Fortnite emerges quite early, from the year 2011. It is a cooperative game that is somewhat inspired by Gears of War but with an aspect cartoon which promises a fun-filled experience. However, the game will remain in the cards for seven years.
And then, in March 2017, a game, PUBG, widely popularizes the concept of “Battle Royale” in which dozens of players compete until only one survivor remains.
After observing this phenomenon, Sweeney decides to transform Fortnite in Battle Royale and the in-house developers dedicate their summer to this task. The new version is ready in September 2017 and Epic Games decides to offer it for free, with purchase options in-game.
A vertiginous rise in power
Fortnite Battle Royale enjoyed a success that surprised even its creators. The ability to fly in the air, the sheaves of light that are triggered during certain shots, the luxuriance of the scenery, the richness of the scenarios hit the mark. First of all, Fortnite offers everyone the opportunity to indulge in a game full of frenzy while you wait for ten minutes in a waiting room.
Beyond the Battle Royale mode, missions are offered to those who land on this sun-drenched island and everyone can try, somehow, to fit into the thread of a vast saga.
Fortnite attracts 10 million players during its first two weeks of operation and then the numbers soar: 40, 50, 100, 150 million players… For its part, Epic Games is bent on offering new “seasons” with new cards, new characters and challenges to take up, constantly renewing the panorama of thrills.
The game generated $9 billion in revenue in its first two years of operation. A player named Ninja stands out as the stream star of Fortnite with over 23 million subscribers on YouTube.
The hearing of Fortnite becomes such that Epic can offer large-scale events on its platform such as dance competitions. On April 23, 2020, a concert by rapper Travis Scott in an amusement park setting attracted 12.3 million spectators (and even 27.7 including the four reruns). On May 22 of the same year, the trailer for the film tenet by Christopher Nolan premieres on Fortnite. To better exploit the vein, Epic Games organizes world tournaments. And the declination Fortnite Creative allows everyone to create their own levels.
Trouble with Apple
The strength of Epic Games has become such that this publisher has been able to impose on the major console manufacturers to authorize cross-platform games: on PS5, on Switch, on PC, on iPad…
However, on August 13, 2020, Fortnite disappeared from the Apple Store. It turns out that the creator of the iPhone did not appreciate that Epic Games could sell its goodies in game bypassing its payment system. A lawsuit ensued between these two behemoths, each claiming the right to operate as they see fit. Epic Games also sued Google for the same reasons. Fortnite still made a comeback in May 2022 on iPhones and iPads, provided you run it from a web browser.
In 2022, according to Fiction Horizon, Fortnite boasts 350 million registered users and reportedly had as many as 3 million concurrent players at one point.