You might think it’s spelled ‘Fortnight’, or ‘Fourth Night’, or even ‘Fork knife’ – but it’s ‘Fortnite’.
First and foremost, ‘Fortnite’ is a videogame. First released in 2017 by Epic Games, it’s become something of a cultural phenomenon for its bright colours, its infectious dance emotes, and its use of in-game currency.
The videogame is split into three different modes – Save The World, Battle Royale and Creative.
We’ll start with the first one – Save The World. This is a game mode where players are working together to fight off zombies, gather up resources and defended houses or bases from attack. There’s no real story beyond that, and the game works more or less like a survival and construction game. Players fight enemies, pick up schematics or resources for their guns that can be upgraded, so on and so on.
Creative, meanwhile, gives players the opportunity to make their own private map with buildings, obstacles, whatever – and invite players to that island where they can have their own matches. There can be races, jumping courses, or just a plain-old shoot-out to see who survives. Creative is a recent addition, and has some similarities to ‘Minecraft’, which is a separate game altogether. We’ll cover that one another time.
The third mode, and the one that’s proven to be the most popular with players, is Battle Royale. Again, there’s no story here and players are simply deposited on an island in mid-air, with no weapons, and then have to search the island for supplies and weapons to survive. Typically, each match or round will have 100 players. They can team up together and form a squad of four, a duo of two, or simply play alone and try to be the last player standing.
The island map is the same throughout, however this game mode goes through seasons, which last usually 10 weeks. These changes can be drastic or minimal, but they affect how the players interact with the island map and act as a way of spicing the whole thing up and making it different. There’s also limited-time changes, where the game mode may pit 50 players versus 50 players in two teams and let them battle out to see who survives.
The game does have a cartoonish aesthetic, and there’s no blood or any kind of adult content. Each player is able to perform an ’emote’ – which is like a signal or a taunt to other players. There’s the Floss, the Dance Moves, The L, the Best Mates and the Llama Bell. Some are automatically given to the player, some can be bought in the game, and some can be earned.
Again, it’s all quite childish and not particularly scary or explicit. However, the game has proven controversial for a different reasons – micro-transactions.
Each player can pick a different skin or character that changes their look. Some of them might be tie-ins with movies like ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ or ‘John Wick’, whereas others can be completely random and have no reference to anything in particular. These skins can be purchased in the game using V-Bucks, or Vinderbucks. When a player completes one of the daily quests in Save The World mode, they’ll accrue V-Bucks that they can then spend on buying skins or upgrading their weapons for the next match.
Another way for players to gain V-Bucks is from the daily rewards, which are basically rewards you get for playing that day. Particularly on weekends, ‘Fortnite’ offers players free V-Bucks if you enter a game.
The other way to get V-Bucks is by actually buying them in the game’s store. The game offers 1,000 V-Bucks for €9.99 and go all the way up to €99.99 for 10,000 V-Bucks with an extra 3,500 V-Bucks thrown in on top of it. This is how Epic Games make their money – by players purchasing V-Bucks through the game’s store and using those V-Bucks to buy better guns, skins and upgrades. V-Bucks can also be used to buy Battle Passes, which are like bundles of skins, guns and maps that normally have some theme that correlates to the season they’re playing in.
Market research data estimates that ‘Fortnite’ has made Epic Games close to $1 billion in in-game purchases alone since it launched. The game offers special offers on V-Bucks regularly, and while the game is free-to-play, you’re more than likely to find that players will want better guns and skins than what comes with it initially.
Understanding how ‘Fortnite’ has become so popular, however, is a little bit more difficult. The game is very much geared towards younger people, as its age rating is 12 or older. On top of this, there’s branded merchandise, there’s YouTube streamers, there’s the dance moves which have now been incorporated by pop acts, and there’s licensing from consumer products – again, all aimed towards young people.