A few years ago, in an attempt to explain the unexplained world of Fortnite, Epic Games came up with the term “Snapshot” to describe, in-universe, why their Battle Royale matches can feature multiple people playing as the same character. of Fortnite, or why apparently The singular characters available in Fortnite, such as Peely the banana, The Rock or Wolverine, can reappear in different forms.
What is a snapshot? Why is it a snapshot? Dear reader, these are questions for another time. But the general term, at least, has stuck with me as I try to summarize what Fortnite was, is and will be. If you’d asked me five years ago today, I’d say it was a distinctly average PVE base-building shooter, and the first time Eurogamer really covered Fortnite in detail was a preview of this now-shelved mode.
If you had asked me four years ago, when Fortnite Battle Royale was exploding and footballers were dancing at World Cup matches, I’d say it was probably The Next Big Thing. Three years ago? Fortnite established itself as a phenomenon, an industry-leading showcase of engine mastery and the development of live services that could pull off in-game stunts like no other. Do you want to blow up pieces of the map in real time with a giant volcano? No problem. Organize a fight between a giant monster and a robot and invite everyone to watch it live? you got it.
Two years ago? I remember Epic Games’ Donald Mustard onstage at The Game Awards in December 2019, getting ahead of most of the industry by proclaiming Fortnite a metaverse. It would become a place where all sorts of IPs and experiences could interact, he said, ahead of a year in which Fortnite was filled with a flashy Travis Scott concert series and a season entirely dedicated to Marvel. And it’s from here, really, that I feel like the momentum of the game keeps rolling.
Now don’t get me wrong, Fortnite is still one of the biggest games in the world, and the last 12 months have shown exactly why. Compare where Fortnite is today to a year ago and I could name a dozen changes I can think of: a vastly improved movement system, a shiny new Chapter 3 map, countless additions to the game like mountable animals, weekly voice quests regulars with big names behind the microphone, and perhaps most surprising of all, the recently released Zero Build mode where Epic ditched one of Fortnite’s original core mechanics much to the delight of many.
We’re currently in the second half of a very cold summer season, clearly designed as some sort of break in narrative after this spring’s momentous in-game war that brought years of narrative to a head. Boogie Bombs are back, which is good. There are challenges to rebuilding Tilted Towers, joining the island’s summer festivities, and also investigating that massive reality-warping tree that’s spreading tendril-like roots all over the map and isn’t in the least bit sinister. Even in times of peace, the next drama on the island never seems too far away.
But I’m more excited for what Fortnite will be in the near future, as Epic continues to evolve this game, platform, or metaverse (sorry) that we currently know as Fortnite into something completely different. The next big step? It’s all about enhancing Fortnite’s user-created modes, which have been given increasing prominence over the last year or so. Epic boss Tim Sweeney recently revealed that user-created playtime now sits 50-50 with Fortnite’s own offerings, like its core Battle Royale playlists, with everyone now receiving equal billing on Fortnite. their menus. The long-awaited arrival of the Unreal Editor in Fortnite will give creators nearly equal development power to Epic’s, along with access to the game’s huge audience and market, and will likely outpace the current crop of game-created mini-games and modes. Fortnite users. It already seems possible that, in a few more years, the powerful Battle Royale mode of Fortnite will become another component.
So what is Fortnite today? I can really only give you a snapshot. On the surface, it’s a fun battle royale shooter, a user-created content platform, and a place where Peely the banana and Darth Vader and Batman can appear on screen at the same time. But more than anything, I think, it’s still a work in progress. As I look back on how Fortnite has evolved over the years, I’m reminded of just how much it has changed and how much Epic Games have been willing to change, indicative, I think, of a game that blithely kept its “beta” tag. for more than two years. It’s the virtual brainchild of thousands of Epic employees with decades of engine experience and years of experimentation. It’s the power of a long list of brand offerings in a pop culture-obsessed era where crossovers remain king. And it’s a game that still maintains an audience of millions, fueling it all with their funds and spare time. That’s Fortnite, for now anyway. Ask me again in six months.
This article is part of our State of the Game series, in which we review some of the biggest service games running to see how they’re faring. You can find many more pieces like this in our State of the Game hub.