Life is not a game or is it? The rise of Fortnite and it’s real life battles
Fortnite is a cooperative, battle royale style, online video game, released in 2017. The game has gained huge popularity and has made Epic Games, its developer, billions of dollars. It has also brought about a new way for people to network, collaborate and express themselves.
Fortnite is comprised of three versions: Fortnite Save the World, Fortnite Creative and the most popular and free-to-play Fortnite Battle Royale. The story line begins when a player is dropped from the air into a post-apocalyptic world where up to a hundred players battle each other and zombie-like creatures and where the last individual or team standing is the winner. It is played from a third person point of view, meaning the player sees everything from the his/her character’s viewpoint as well as seeing his/her own avatar. The game can be played on several platforms such as PC/Mac, Xbox, PlayStation, iOS, Android and Nintendo Switch. (Anderson) Since its release Fortnite Battle Royale has reached huge popularity, in May of 2020, Epic Games announced that it had reached over 350 million registered accounts.
The future of the social network?
Although many elements have contributed to Fortnite’s success, one of the most important characteristics of the game is how communities have developed around it. More than just a place to play it has “rewritten the idea of what hanging out online can be”. (Stephen)
Marlatt refers to the types of relationships the players form as communities of practice. He quotes Wenger and defines these communities as “groups of people working in pursuit of a common passion who are committed to regular interaction”. (Marlatt)
Fortnite allows players to collect materials and built structures; more inexperience participants can watch skilled players, interact and learn from them. Through playing the game participants end up developing a common language which strengthens their sense of community and belonging. (Marlatt)
In 2018 almost two thirds of Fortnite’s players were between the ages of 18 to 24. (Statista) In this age group, people have been found to have feelings of social isolation and loneliness when their use of social media, such as Instagram and Facebook, was high and the opposite when the usage is low. (Primack et al.) In Fortnite, the opposite effect seems to take place; according to an NRG study Fortnite delivers on three pillars “it connects me, is a worthwhile experience and is fun to use. Surprisingly, Fortnite is the strongest performer on satisfying audiences across all three pillars, as the platform that makes people feel good, while also providing a worthwhile experience and social connection.” It can be a place to escape everyday life pressures and join a creative, inclusive environment. (Bloom)
In April of 2020 Epic Games presented a performance by rapper Travis Davis, breaking a record for the most attended online concert ever, according to Epic. (Niesen). A performance in Fortnite is unlike streaming in any other platforms, here the player has the chance to experience the performance from different points on view, making it an immersive experience. This was the second large performance presented by Fortnite and that is not something that happened casually, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney told The Washington Post that he wants to turn Fortnite into a “virtual living space” (Park) where artist will eventually be able to perform independently of Epic. (Park)
That is another example of how Fortnite creates a singular experience for its players, one that combines gaming, social media and streaming. (NRG)
Although Fortnite Battle Royale its free, Epic games is estimated to have made over $1.8 billion dollars in the last year, making it the “highest-earning free-to-play game of 2019”. (Gilbert) Fortnite earned this revenue by selling V-Bucks, which are the game’s currency and can be used to buy customization items, but not to advance in the game. (Gilbert)
In mid-August of 2020 Epic Games sued Apple stating that the App Store violates the Sherman Antitrust Act, “a federal statute which prohibits activities that restrict interstate commerce and competition in the marketplace”. (15 U.S.C. §§ 1-38.) Epic believes that the thirty percent Apple charges on every transaction is excessive and that Apple has created a monopoly. On September 8, Apple responded by asking for damages to be awarded by a federal judge. (Morrison)
All this comes as an aftermath of Epic Games bypassing the App Store conditions and allowing players to pay Epic directly at a discounted price. Apple responded by removing Fortnite from the App Store and leaving players who had already downloaded the game unable to update, to the just release Season 4, and unable to continue to play with players from different devices. (Sherwood) Epic responded by releasing a video “portraying Apple as the Big Brother levying monopolistic control over a brainwashed populace, rather than the insurgent who smashes barriers. It’s a positioning meant to tap into the public’s suspicion of Big Tech, which has been implicated in issues ranging from data privacy to election interference.” (Sherwood) The video is a parody of a 1984 Apple’s commercial and call for player to use the hashtag #freefortnite. (Peters)
Epic is not alone, developers have been complaining about Apple’s absolute control of the App store and the absence of an alternative for years, in 2019 Spotify file an anti-trust complained with the European commission regarding Apple’s fees, the complaint is yet to be decided on. (Morrison)
A New World for all of Us
Fortnite players have experienced an online community in a very different way than the rest of us have. In contrast with other social media platforms today, the Fortnite community has a shared experience and a common language; it is more welcoming, equal and less divisive. Common goals bring people together even if those goals are just to win a game and have cool dance moves. Although, what is to come for Fortnite is unknown, it’s easy to imagine a future in which most of us will belong to a virtual universe, one that we can help built, where we’ll attend events, learning centers, have friendships and even public debate. What’s certain in my view is that legislation needs to back developers against monopolies in order to encourage further innovation.
Anderson, K.E. “Getting acquainted with social networks and apps: figuring out Fortnite in (hopefully) less than a fortnight”, Library Hi Tech News, Vol. 36 No. 9, pp. 11-16. (2019) https://doi-org.proxy.uba.uva.nl:2443/10.1108/LHTN-09-2019-0064
Marlatt, Rick “Capitalizing on the Craze of Fortnite: Toward a Conceptual Framework for Understanding How Gamers Construct Communities of Practice”, Sage Journals (2019) https://doi-org.proxy.uba.uva.nl:2443/10.1177/0022057419864531
Wenger, E. “Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity”. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. (1998) https://rdcu.be/b7LAk
Primack, Brian A et al. “Social Media Use and Perceived Social Isolation Among Young Adults in the U.S.” American journal of preventive medicine 53.1 (2017) https://lib.uva.nl/permalink/31UKB_UAM1_INST/1hfh82p/cdi_pubmedcentral_primary_oai_pubmedcentral_nih_gov_5722463
Sherwood, I-Hsien. “BEHIND THE FORTNITE ‘1984’ APPLE PARODY; ‘Feisty’ Spot That Got Adland Buzzing May Be Just the First Salvo in the War of Tech Giants Epic and Apple.” Advertising age 91.17 (2020): 1–. Print. https://lib.uva.nl/permalink/31UKB_UAM1_INST/1hfh82p/cdi_proquest_reports_2435566610
Niesen, MARTIJN “More than 12 million visitors to Travis Scott’s Fortnite concert” Mashable (2020) https://nl.mashable.com/fortnite/1150/meer-dan-12-miljoen-bezoekers-voor-travis-scotts-fortnite-concert
Stephen, Bijan “Fortnite was 2018’s most important social network”. The Verge. 2018 https://www.theverge.com/2018/12/21/18152012/fortnite-was-2018s-most-important-social-network
Bloom, David. “Is Fortnite The New Social-Media Home For Teens? Fobers.com (2019) https://www.forbes.com/sites/dbloom/2019/06/04/is-fortnite-the-new-social-media-home-for-teens/#7100e71c59f9
Iqbal, Mansoor. “Fortnite Usage and Revenue Statistics” Business of Apps. (2020) https://www.businessofapps.com/data/fortnite-statistics/
“FORTNITE AND TRAVIS SCOTT PRESENT: ASTRONOMICAL” (2020) https://www.epicgames.com/fortnite/en-US/news/astronomical
Fortnite the New Social Media? National Research Group (NRG) (2019) https://assets.ctfassets.net/0o6s67aqvwnu/5z4ja8fNx2NputEG49AVWs/ff1f591ad988f9a30856bab68e3908bb/NRG_Fortnite_White_Paper.pdf
Gough, Christina. “Number of registered users of Fortnite worldwide from August 2017 to May 2020”. Statista (2020) https://www.statista.com/statistics/746230/fortnite-players/
Park, Gene. “The future of events is uncertain. ‘Fortnite’ is forging ahead anyway.” The Washington Post (2020) https://www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/2020/09/11/fortnite-live-events-planning/
Gilbert, Ben. “‘Fortnite’ made $1.8 billion in 2019, analysts say — that’s down 28% from 2018, but it’s still the biggest game in the world”. Business Insider (2020) https://www.businessinsider.nl/how-much-did-fortnite-make-in-2019-2020-1?international=true&r=US#:~:text=More%20specifically%3A%20%22Fortnite%22%20made,in%202018%2C%20according%20to%20SuperData.
Morrison, Sara “Apple’s Fortnite ban, explained” Vox (2020) https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/8/20/21373780/fortnite-epic-apple-lawsuit-app-store-antitrust
Peters, Jay. “Fortnite is splitting into two different games because of Epic and Apple’s fight” The Verge (2020) https://www.theverge.com/2020/8/26/21402547/fortnite-epic-games-apple-ios-macos-two-different-games