Fortnite fever sweeps WHHS

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The online video game Fortnite was first released by Epic Games in July 2017. Since then, the game has made the news for its real life impact, from causing divorces to creating college scholorships.

Five Nights at Freddy’s. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Minecraft. Three multi-million dollar games, and Fortnite has surpassed or is on track to be worth more than each of them. Trailing Minecraft by 4 million copies, Fortnite has sold 140 million copies and is expected to make a collective $2 billion by the end of the year. To put that in perspective, Microsoft bought the entire company that made Minecraft, Mojang, for $2.5 billion. If Fortnite sales maintain their current pace, Fortnite will have made more money than that by summer 2019.

Created in July of 2017 by EpicGames, Fortnite started out as a Minecraft-esque zombie survival game with guns and slightly more realistic graphics. But the game started soaring in popularity after they added a second mode: Fortnite Battle Royale. Debuting Sept. 2017, this mode increased revenue so much that EpicGames released it as its own game on numerous platforms, including Xbox, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC and iOS devices, with an Android version released Sept 2. In a survey of WHHS students, 190 of 285 surveyed students play or have played Fortnite, and of those, 54 play or played for 5 hours a week or more.

With all of the publicity and money Fortnite Battle Royale is bringing to EpicGames, there was bound to be some retaliation from similar titles. It received just that when PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), Fortnite’s biggest rival, filed a lawsuit in January against EpicGames, claiming that Fortnite had stolen many ideas and premises from PUBG and marketed them as their own. This seemed like a valid argument, as PUBG, which was released first, involves 100 players skydiving into a shrinking arena in either a team or on their own to find weapons and defeat the other players to be last man standing. Fortnite involves all of these concepts, and it looked as if PUBG had a chance to win the suit, but they dropped charges in July without disclosing a reason. Maybe it was because no matter what they did, Fortnite was marketed to a much bigger audience, and they would receive severe backlash from the public.

The above survey results show that a combined 67.4 percent of participants either play Fortnite or have in the past.

What makes Fortnite more popular amongst the general population? It succeeds in including something for everyone. It involves shooting and strategy for professional gamers, a simple premise for newcomers, cartoonish graphics and bright colors to get a younger audience’s attention, and no gore that would upset parents. Many of the students surveyed said that the reason they think Fortnite is popular is because the game is free. Others cited the constant updates the game receives keep its players on their toes.

PUBG on the other hand, seems to be directed much more at teens and young adults, where the graphics are much more realistic, blood is shown, and instead of ‘eliminating’ a player, players are killed.

While these differences do separate the games, the fact that they are both shooting games in the first place have caused some parents and teachers to be opposed to the games. One school in Sydney, Australia actually banned Fortnite, saying that it allows communication with strangers and can cause someone to feel sad if a team doesn’t win.  “I just wanted to highlight a concern that we have with the boys playing a game called Fortnite,” said the principal of the school. “This game does not allow for messaging to be turned off so the boys are accessible to hundreds of online strangers. The game is played in teams of 4 so can be quite addictive as the boys feel they are letting their team down of they are not playing.”As of July, a petition on Change.org to ban Fortnite entirely has been signed by over 7,000 people, saying that it was just too popular, too violent and too much of a cash grab.

Certain colleges are awarding scholorships based on e-sports like Fortnite. The survey showed that 49.1 percent of participants agree with this practice.

Despite the attempted censoring of the game, Fortnite has continued to grow, up to a point where some parents are paying tutors around $20 an hour to try and make their kids better at Fortnite. Ally Hicks, a mom who bought her son 10 hours of tutoring told Variety Magazine, “There’s pressure not to just play it but to be really good at it. You can imagine what that was like for him at school.” Out of the 285 WHHS students surveyed, 53 are being given or know someone who is being given Fortnite lessons. Some colleges are now offering scholarships to students if they are good at Fortnite. Ohio’s Ashland University is offering up to $4,000 if students are good at (having a lot of recorded wins) Fortnite or other e-sport games.

Some schools are also forming their own e-sports leagues, and even the Disney Channel has its own e-sports competition show, not for Fortnite, but for another popular cartoonish shooting game, Overwatch. But as this show attracts viewers and with the growing population of Fortnite players, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Disney will make a Fortnite League show as well.

This seems like a good idea for students who might not warrant academic or athletic scholarships, but one has to wonder if Fortnite will still be popular by the time some of its players are ready to go to college. Brenden Pulte, ‘19, said that the reason he thinks Fortnite is popular is due to “Word of mouth and peer pressure.” If people stop talking about the game, or if another huge game comes out and starts to overshadow Fortnite, the games revenue would be hurt. A game like Marvel’s Spider-Man by Insomniac has by no means surpassed Fortnite in sales or current popularity, but the amount of hype surrounding the game up to its release is kind of staggering (37 million views on YouTube for its E3 trailer compared to Fortnite’s Season 5 announcement at 46 million). There is a 9 million view difference, but when a game that hasn’t come out yet nears the same popularity as the biggest game in the world right now, maybe it’s time for Fortnite to take a backseat to other games. In fact, many of the students surveyed agreed that it was too overhyped and just popular due to a growing bandwagon. Will Albright, ‘23, said, “It’s only popular because the community and the ‘Battle Royale’ feature makes the game seem as if it’s highly competitive and takes a tremendous amount of skill to play.”

“It’s only popular because theacommunity and the ‘Battle Royale’ feature makes the game seem as if it’s highly competitive””

— Will Albright, ‘23

But as a consensus seems to be forming that Fortnite is slowly dying, many big game companies are noticing all the attention the game has gotten, and are trying to piggyback off of its success. One of the most successful shooting series of all time, Call of Duty, has just released a Battle Royale type mode in its game Black Ops 4. Nintendo is also taking a shot at it, as they recently revealed that they are coming out with an Battle Royale add-on to Splatoon 2. And if Fortnite is really dying, EpicGames certainly won’t be acknowledging it anytime soon, as they announced that they will be offering a total of $100 million in online tournaments this fall. Looks like the game still has energy, and this giveaway will no doubt draw in more crowd who want their shot at millions of dollars.

Fortnite has without a doubt become an icon in modern pop culture, and it doesn’t look they will be giving up that status anytime soon. Despite its opponents saying that it is too violent, and those opposed to the idea that people are getting tutored for a video game, no one can deny that Fortnite has a place in a gaming hall of fame just like Minecraft as an experience that brought millions of people together in just a few months. It may be overhyped, it may be just an easy way for EpicGames to get money, but it’s something that people can understand and talk about, and for that, it deserves a #1 Victory Royale.