Fortnite has become a global phenomenon and is growing quickly within the realm of esports. Its revenue stream for 2019 is expected to reach $3.5 billion, and it shows no signs of losing its grip over the Battle Royale genre.
However, few fans know how Fortnite became the phenomenon it is today. The history of Fortnite begins with Epic Games, but it was originally far from the game we know and love today. Instead, Fortnite began as an entirely different game about surviving a zombie apocalypse... sort of.
Fortnite: Save The World
The game was first revealed at the 2011 Spike Video Game Awards, where Epic’s former design director Cliff Bleszinski presented a rough trailer for the game. Fortnite: Save The World was initially conceived as a co-op third-person shooter survival game. It did not pit players against one another, but instead made them work together in an effort to save the remnants of humanity after 98% of the population vanishes from the world.
Battle Royale Wasn't The Plan
By 2012, the developers understood that to maintain long-term interest in the game, players needed a system that included progression and itemization, similar to other RPG games. However, issues with funding and Epic's change of direction brought delays. By November of 2013, Fortnite had been pushed back and did not launch in early access until July of 2017 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
The game failed to impress many critics, which was to be expected given its long development and hype for the game. Its unimpressive, cartoonish graphics and incomplete storyline - which remains unfinished even today - did not impress. However, players enjoyed the loot systems, progression, and building mechanics.
The Battle Royale beta then launched a mere six weeks after Save The World's paid early access. Within two weeks of the Battle Royale version being made public, over 10 million players were registered, and the numbers continued to climb.
One reason for the success of the Battle Royale mode in Fortnite can be attributed towards PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which was extremely popular and had a big player base. However, its price made it less accessible to some players and, even today, it still suffers from optimization issues that were presented in 2017.
It seems obvious now that a multi-platform free-to-play game would attract attention, and yet Epic is one of the first to have such a runaway success.
Introducing The Battle Pass
Acting quickly, Epic released its first Battle Pass for a second season of the game. This has become a vital part of the game’s success, as it offers players a rich assortment of in-game cosmetics and emotes that have become integral. Also, they're available for a reasonable price.
Even better, players who purchased a Battle Pass earn V-Bucks, the in-game currency that funds the purchase of the next Battle Pass at the conclusion of the season, often three months in duration.
Other games have tried to replicate Fortnite’s success, but with mixed results. Apex Legends is perhaps most infamous for its strong start. However, it offered a Battle Pass with items that were bland and uninspired, driving many players back to Fortnite.
Evolution Of The Island
Fortnite has changed a lot since its release. This has been true of its weapons, vehicles, and even the island itself, where players can visit via the Party Bus. Some locations have received minor tweaks, while others have been destroyed and rebuilt.
At first, this was a way to balance the game and change up where players would land. Far too often, a few places were singled out as the best places to go first, leaving much of the rest of the map empty.
As time has gone on, though, changes to the map have tied into the mysterious narrative surrounding the island. Tilted Towers, one of the island's most popular spots, was eventually destroyed by meteors, only to be rebuilt later as Neo Tilted.
Overall, these changes have helped to keep the game fresh and interesting. Players who have taken short breaks from Fortnite usually come back to new parts of the map that are unfamiliar to them, encouraging them to explore the game all over again.
Here's a visual progression of how the map changed has changed over the seasons:
What About Save The World?
Since the Battle Royale version of the game was released, Save The World has been largely forgotten. It has received updates and changes over the past two years, but far fewer than the Battle Royale version. There are seasonal events, but most of them are recycled from previous ones.
This should come as no surprise, though; although Fortnite was initially planned as a PvE game, its popularity and most of its revenue are derived from the Battle Royale mode. There are no big Save The World streamers on Twitch, but everyone knows of Ninja and Tfue due to their skill in Battle Royale.
On the other hand, playing Save The World, which is a game that must be purchased, does provide a constant stream of V-bucks, which can then be spent in Battle Royale.
Save The World was the first iteration of the Fortnite we know and love today, and it is fascinating to take a look back at a game that was largely mediocre and see it transform into one of the most popular games in the world. While the Battle Royale genre may become less popular in the future due to oversaturation in the market, there is little doubt that Fortnite will remain the most popular among them.
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