With the next generation of consoles soon to be released I got to thinking back on the current generation, and how it will influence the next generation. There are so many standout games from this generation; some good and some bad. Yet, the one I kept coming back to was Fortnite. Specifically the Battle Royale mode. Now for full disclosure, I did play Fortnite when it released and I did enjoy it. But it’s surge in popularity lead to a very steep learning curve.
With streamers and gamers putting in countless hours on the game, simply building a wall soon wasn’t enough. Unless you could assemble a fully detached three-story house in under 5 seconds there really wasn’t much chance of you winning. Truth be told I didn’t have the time to put into learning how to do that, so I stopped playing. Yet, others didn’t. Many were willing to put the hours in, and Fortnite Battle Royale became a pop culture phenomenon. It’s impossible to walk through a store without seeing some form of Fortnite merchandise. Even non-gamers know what Fortnite is.
Fortnite is everywhere, even NFL players are doing Fortnite dances as touchdown celebrations. It’s hard to ignore the fact that the game has embedded itself in, not just gaming culture, but culture as a whole. However, this influence, while seemingly innocent, has some wider implications for gaming going forward. Epic Games have implemented some interesting tactics when it comes to monetising Fortnite and using its wide audience to promote others. And seeing their success, many have adopted these same tactics. To the point now that we gamers just expect, and even accept them.
The Rise Of The Battle Pass
It’s hard to discuss Fortnite without the battle pass system coming to mind. Now while Fortnite is not the first game to have used this system, I feel it’s fair to say that it is the game responsible for popularising it. If you are unfamiliar with a battle pass, it is essentially a system of limited-time skins/weapons/whatever is relevant to that game that players can access by playing the game. The more you play the more you unlock. Which would be fine if many of the items weren’t locked behind a paywall. A free version of the battle pass will only net you a few of these items, but if you decide to buy a battle pass, you can gain access to all of the items. Assuming that you play enough to unlock them all, and have enough of the in-game currency to buy it.
Battle passes are now a part of essentially every single free to play game. Fall Guys, Rocket League and Call of Duty: Warzone are just some of the games that spring to mind when I think of battle passes. Now I will give Fall Guys some credit here. They don’t operate a paid battle pass. Their battle pass consists of limited-time skins and colours that players can earn by playing the game and levelling up their account. Every player has access to the same items on the battle pass, without the need to pay. So Kudos to Mediatonic (I would say I’m sorry but I’m really not).
Am I saying that battle passes wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Fortnite? No, not at all. Yet, you can’t deny that Fortnite is the game responsible for battle passes being crammed into every single free-to-play experience. And I hear some of you saying, “Oh but you can buy a battle pass with the in-game currency you earn by playing!”. Which is true you can. However, you can also buy the in-game currency with your real-life currency, and therein lies the problem. In a world of convenience, why would people play a game for countless hours to earn V-Bucks to buy a battle pass when they can just pay for it? Paid battle passes are merely a way to push microtransactions. Like them are not, battle passes are here to stay and will more than likely see their way into the next generation. And, as harsh as it sounds to say, we can hold Fortnite responsible for that.
Corporate Crossovers In Fortnite
It’s also impossible to think of Fortnite without the magnitude of skins the game has to offer. Some of these are seasonal, which I have no objection to. It’s the countless corporate crossovers that I take issue with. Epic Games are no stranger to using the wide-reach of Fortnite to promote other franchises. There have been many crossover events in the game’s history, from DC to Marvel, many a franchise have received the crossover treatment. There have even been skins created to celebrate the release of things, such as the John Wick skin and the Borderlands 3 skin.
It’s easy to see why advertisers would flock to Epic Games, as we previously said their game is a cultural phenomenon. But it begs the question; just because you can put a skin in a game, does that mean you should put a skin in the game? There is an argument to be made that the John Wick skin had somewhat of a place in Fortnite, due to the skin that fans dubbed the John Wick skin. I am yet to see a solid reason for the other skins. Where do The Avengers fit into the Fortnite universe? Or Psycho from Borderlands?
It ultimately all comes down to corporate greed. Epic Games have a large audience, and people want to advertise to that audience. And Epic Games are all to happy to do so, regardless of how it ties into their game. Again I have to mention Fall Guys. I was worried that Fall Guys would go the same route, following rumours of a KFC skin of all things. Yet I was happy to see the team using their platform for good, and raising money for charity by having people bid donations to Special Effect for the chance to get an in-game skin. G2Esports, AimLab, Twitch streamer Ninja and Youtuber Mr Beast ending up winning with a joint donation of $1 million. While I do question how these people and organisations match the Fall Guys brand, it is nice to see that a platform can be used for good. However, I imagine that we will see many crossover events next-gen too, and not all of them will be for such a good cause.
The Silver Lining Of Fornite
Now throughout this piece, I have been bashing Fortnite. If it hasn’t become clear already, my opinion is that the game influenced the future of gaming in a mostly negative way. I say mostly because there is one thing that Epic Games have done with their platform that I do agree with.
Fortnite has been known to host live in-game events. There is the, now somewhat famous, black hole event at the end of Season 1. This was a live in-game event that saw the island of Fortnite sucked into a black hole, seemingly destroyed. The map was then rebooted for Season 2. Yet, that isn’t the most interesting event to have happened.
Epic Games were seemingly testing the water for what was to come. More in-game events followed, such as the destruction of a purple cube. Things really ramped up in February 2019 though. On February 2nd, Marshmello held an in-game concert. The in-game concert, which was the first of it’s kind, attracted 10.7 million players.
However, that number was soon to be smashed. April 23rd 2020 saw Travis Scott hold an event named Astronomical. The event was huge. It featured a giant Travis Scott, strutting around the Fortnite map. The event attracted over 12 million players, with unknown amounts watching live via streaming services.
Epic Games then took it in another direction. Fortnite was allowed to debut a trailer for the next Christopher Nolan movie Tenet, as well as hosting in-game movie screenings of Nolan movies. Players could attend a screening of one movie, with the movie in question varying based on location.
While this does again raise the question of just because you can does that mean you should, I have to admit it was interesting to see Epic Games using their platform in an inventive way. If it can be tied into the game or other games in the future, remains to be seen. But I have to give credit where credit is due. It’s been interesting to watch this phenomenon of in-game concerts and the like take off. Hopefully, it is something that can be built upon, in a positive way, in the next generation.
So it isn’t all doom and gloom. Fortnite has had some positive impact on the world of gaming. And it has introduced a new generation of gamers to the joys of gaming. But for the most part, Fortnite and Epic Games have instilled some rather shady tactics into the world of gaming. Ones that I fear are now permanent fixtures in the years to come.