Fortnite is winning the entertainment battle

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Every tech-enabled marketplace celebrates a new, industry-darling each year. Whether it’s movies, social media, podcasting, transportation, applications, music, or any other silo of technologically enhanced goods creation, some unforeseen innovation captures all the industry eyes. But every once in a while, something rises above their intended producer/consumer ecosystem to grab headlines across society as a whole. These red-hot crossovers inspire superlatives such as “gamechanger” or “revolutionary.” Well just starting to boil over is a cartoonishly violent, freemium videogame ‘Fortnite.’

Videogame megahits are not new. There are decades of examples to site where men, women, and children were all captivated by pixelized, remote-controlled entertainment. Fortnite is the semi-annual superhit that is inching its way into zeitgeist-wide. As is generally the case with super power videogames, Fortnite is a massive multiplayer game that allows users to play against each other online, either in solo, duo, or 4-player “squad” modes. Fortnite popularity springs from it’s battle royale play wherein the game map shrinks as time runs down in a skirmish until the final player or team is left standing. Basically hunger games without the gore or teen angst, instead replace with hypercolor cartoonish characters with absurd weapons and firearms.

Of course multiplayer shoot outs is nothing new, the game also offers a Save the World style of play where players must make tactial decisions to defend a fortified position that houses civilians from the undead. The bloodless fighting mixed less-than-realistic characters and situations makes the more fun than intense, riding the line between Nintendo childishness and Playstation-XBox ultra-real war depictions. Meaning gameplay is suitable for a younger audience (as long as you don’t mind setting aside the fact you’re battling to the death…).

Of course a major driver of the boundary pushing success of the game is the reduced version of the game ‘Fortnite: Battle Royale’ is available across platforms and is a freemium product. While the full console (Xbox one, Playstation 4, Mac, PC) Fortnite costs $60 and includes the various versions of gameplay. Battle Royale is only multiplayer gaming, each melee round is only 20 minutes long, and the skirmishes can include up to 100 people. So even without a narrative or greater options of the purchased Fortnite, the lesser Battle Royale still provides a fast-paced experience with easy replay opportunities at no charge.

The freemium aspect of the game is imperitive to Battle Royale and Fortnite’s success. Whether we’re talking Angry Birds, Candy Crush, Flappy Bird, Pokemon Go, or Fortnite: Battle Royale, every gaming superhit of the last ten years came from a mobile gameplay environment and allowed users the option to play for free or spend a few dollars here and there to get a leg up on the field of players. The overwhelming majority of Battle Royale’s 4-million plus players never spend a cent, but those that couldn’t resist the urge to spend some cash and take short-cuts to enhanced avatar weapons and skillsets have set Fortnite’s developer’s, Epic Games, to end up make $3.5 billion in 2018 alone.

Again, the overwhelming majority of Fortnite’s design and gameplay is retreads of previous gaming tropes. Fortnite and Battle Royale just hit the sweetspot of freemium play, bloodless fun, and timed experiences to keep players coming back for more. The danger for the industry comes in learning the wrong lesson. Is Fortnite the new Warcraft, a gaming ecosystem that has thrived for nearly 20 years, or is it Pokemon Go that hit the market like an atomic bomb but quickly dissipated. Thankfully players don’t need to worry about this looming question. For us, Fortnite is simply a good time that if you aren’t careful can eat up an entire saturday button mashing and screen tapping.

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb


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