When will Fortnite end?
It’s a question I ask myself as I leap from a Battle Bus 2,500 feet high in the air; a feat I’ve performed countless times now to begin the Battle Royale which pits me against ninety-nine opponents all looking to be the last man, woman or thing alive on an ever-diminishing island, but one which somehow remains no less exhilarating because every match is slightly different from the last.
The answer to my question will have to wait as I drop from the Bus, this time as a six-foot anthropomorphic banana wearing a James Bond suit. First, I have to decide on a proper landing spot. Do I land somewhere crowded, get into the action early, and potentially eliminate as many enemies as I can from the get-go? I skydive stem-first towards the towering skyscrapers of Tilted Towers but change my mind at the last moment when I spy too many other Loopers floating their Gliders to the exact same spot.
I’m looking for someplace a little quieter; I change directions, pull my parachute and steer my glider to the roof of a gas station northwest of the Shimmering Shrine. Now it’s time to loot. I take the semi-automatic pistol waiting for me there, jump down from the roof, mantle over a chain link fence and then use my Peely Pick harvesting tool – what else, but an enormous, half-peeled banana attached to a banana tree stick – to bust down some Slurp Barrels leaning against the side of the gas station for a quick spate of shield.
I hear footsteps. Someone’s rummaging around inside the gas station and the only thing separating us is a wall of brick and the crashbar door to my right. Should I sneak inside, get the jump on them and rightfully claim their building materials, ammo and weapons? Or should I run, accumulate some more mats and weapons and fight when I’m better situated? The strategy I use in every encounter with my enemies will determine my fate.
I burst through the door. Lara Croft from Tomb Raider is stooped over a Loot Chest stacked against some steel shelving in the corner, her eyes wide and her face gleaming in the golden glow as she opens it. I almost feel regret as I take aim with the pistol and put her to rest before she even has time to enjoy her prize.
I bust out the “Pop, Lock & Drop It” emote to celebrate. I’m a giant banana man in a three-piece-suit dancing over the dead body of Lara Croft that suddenly bursts into polygons as she’s teleported away. What a time to be alive.
Unfortunately, all the derisive celebration made me oblivious to Rick Sanchez from Rick and Morty, who snuck behind me and shotgun blasted me in the back of the head before I could even finish the “drop it” portion of Huey’s dance. The last thing I see before I’m eliminated is a glimpse of the mad scientist’s white lab coat and his crazed, small-toothed grin. I’m teleported away as I dissipate into polygons.
Thirty seconds later I’m riding the Battle Bus into a new Fortnite match. This time I’m a leather-clad cowgirl with pink hair. Maybe I’ll land in Tilted Towers this time after all. One more match, I tell myself unconvincingly.
… Two hours later I’m ready to quit playing after an Aura skin wielding a Star Wand was able to ramp up 0.4 seconds faster than me, edit the wall behind me and SMG spray me into oblivion.
When will Fortnite end? Right now, I tell myself.
A few minutes later my friend Tom calls me on the phone and asks me if I want to run some Duos. I mutter one last frustrated expletive in remembrance of the previous match and tell him, “Yeah, let’s go.”
My agitation from earlier quickly melts away when we both decide to pick matching skins: a woman wearing a pink bear costume with insanely amiable eyes called Cuddle Team Leader. The notion is made even more ludicrous when we drop off the Battle Bus at Logjam Lumberyard and pickaxe Kratos from God of War and Superman to death on top of a stack of timber in the scramble for the match’s first weapons. We laugh. We do the “Jiggle Jiggle” emote and recite the lyrics over our headsets.
When will Fortnite end? Not yet, anyway.
“Not yet, anyway” is an answer that can be applied to the question of the game’s longevity in general. Fortnite furor shows no signs of slowing, even in the wake of the its fifth anniversary (an event that was celebrated with in-game quests and rewards on September 23rd, 2022); the game still boasts nearly 400 million registered users and regularly reaches 25 million peak players in a day. Monetarily speaking, the game broke its previous annual revenue of $5.4 billion in 2019 with $5.8 billion in 2021. Not bad numbers for a game that was released primarily as a side-diversion to Fortnite: Save the World in 2017.
And 5 years from now? Fortnite will still be firmly entrenched as one of the most popular games in the world.
Because Fortnite is fun. It’s free-to-play, meaning there’s not much to lose (except hours of your precious free time) from giving it a try. It’s easily accessible and cross platform, so you can play with your friends even if you have an Xbox and they have a Playstation or PC or a Switch or a mobile device. And its core gameplay loop, while difficult to master (especially when it comes to becoming adept at building) is fast-paced and for lack of a better term, addictive. As I said earlier, no two matches are ever the same – from the location on which I choose to land to the weapons I scramble to find (or don’t find) when I touch the ground to the skill level and playstyle of the other players I encounter and fight (and build against) to the character skin that I select.
And there are plenty of skins from which to choose. As cliche as it sounds, there’s a skin for everyone, whether that’s a secret agent banana man; Lara Croft; Rick Sanchez; a pink-haired cowgirl wearing black leather; Master Chief from Halo; Snake-Eyes from GI Joe; a character that looks exactly like Snake-Eyes’ arch-nemesis from GI Joe, Firefly (named Havoc in Fortnite); Spider-Man (and various other Marvel characters), Batman (and various other DC characters); a bipedal unicorn with flowing, rainbow-colored hair named Fabio Sparklemane; Ariana Grande; Goku from Dragon Ball.
Such a disparate mix of characters crammed together on a colorful, cartoony island shouldn’t work; the mere notion of Goku, Batman, John Cena and Indiana Jones brandishing submachine guns and shooting each other in the face is farcical, incongruous even. But that’s the point. It’s this brazen nonsensicality and outrageousness which sets Fortnite apart from the rest of the pack; while Apex Legends, PUBG and Call of Duty: Warzone are all entertaining battle royales, they lack the vibrancy and playfulness of Fortnite. The game, despite centering around intense competition, doesn’t take itself too seriously – and it works. Break into a “Hootenanny” dance as Darth Vader the next time you knock an opponent and you’ll see what I mean.
Oh, the “Hootenanny” dance – you know where that emote comes from, right? If you said Dumb and Dumber, you’re partially right. Because yes, Jim Carrey performs the exact same dance in that 1994 comedy classic and that’s the inspiration for the “Hootenanny” emote – but the “Hootenanny” isn’t just from Dumb and Dumber anymore. It’s a Fortnite dance now. The same can be said of the “Floss Dance,” which became a worldwide phenomenon thanks to the game. Or the “Dab.” Or the “Get Griddy.” Or “Iko Iko” (the “My bestie and your bestie” song). Or some other popular song/dance you saw on TikTok last week. Everyone from pro sports players to celebrities have dropped Fortnite dances in celebratory fashion. The dances became so popular during Fortnite’s inception that Epic began incorporating dances and sound clips through official licensing means (like Bruno Mars himself actually choreographing and providing the singing for his emote) to avoid any potential legal repercussions.
While old school Fortnite fans might lament the fact that the game’s “original” emotes/dances have been supplanted by actual licensed music, the decision to do so was not only a prudent move business-wise but also one of the biggest keys to its overall longevity – staying relevant.
Not only does Fortnite have the myriad aforementioned character skins and dances from which to make money off the user base – it also has the capability to keep people buying them. As long as popular music, movies, television continue to be made (and streamers continue to generate content), so too does the chance that they might crossover with Fortnite.
It happened with Netflix phenomena like Stranger Things. Box office juggernauts like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the DC Extended Universe and John Wick. Animated series like Dragon Ball Z, Naruto and Rick and Morty. Musical artists like Bruno Mars, Ariana Grande, Travis Scott, Major Lazer, Marshmello and Cardi B.
Saying that Fortnite has stayed culturally relevant is honestly an understatement. Fortnite isn’t just a clever business that stays au courant (while making fort-loads of money) more than any other game because technically it isn’t a part of the zeitgeist – it is the zeitgeist, and each new skin and emote and licensed musical sample added will only continue to reinforce that notion.
Case in point: as of this writing, Black Adam was recently released in theaters and already has had the best opening box office numbers for Dwayne Johnson in a leading role ever. Naturally, on the very same day Black Adam hit theaters, the Black Adam Bundle hit Fortnite with the Black Adam skin (bearing a striking likeness to The Rock, his second skin in the game alongside The Foundation), Symbol of Shiruta back bling, Hawkman’s Mace harvesting tool, Teth Ascended loading screen and a bad-ass emote called Teth’s Throne. The Black Adam Bundle is just one of many movie tie-in Fortnite bundles; it wasn’t the first and it certainly won’t be the last.
Notwithstanding, let’s say you don’t keep up with popular culture; you’re married with children or reclusive or older than Fortnite’s targeted age group or just simply aren’t au courant. That’s okay: Fortnite also has plenty of nostalgic skins and emotes from the ‘80s, ‘90s and early ‘00s, like the Predator, Alien, the Terminator, Robocop, Ash from Evil Dead and Master Chief from Halo.
You can drop emotes that feature songs from yesteryear too. Like “I Like to Move It” by Reel 2 Real. “C.R.E.A.M.” by the Wu–Tang Clan. You can even Rick Roll your enemies.
Of course, all this money Fortnite rakes in benefits players as well as the developers are generous with updates; they serve up one of the most established (and still perhaps the most successful) battle passes in video games, with new cosmetic items, emotes and V-Bucks, the in-game currency made available from it every season.
They also regularly rotate weapons – introducing new ones or unvaulting old favorites from the past. Some weapons, like the Primal Flame Bow or the Explosive Goo Gun, which are advantageous for busting down builds will last for a week or two before being swapped out for something else like the Fireworks Flare Gun or the Rocket Launcher. While some weapons that the community decries as imbalanced, such as the Combat SMG from Chapter 2, Season 8 or the Drum Shotgun from Chapter 3, Season 2 can overstay their welcome, the rotations are usually timely enough that the meta isn’t stale for an excessive amount of time before the formula gets switched up again.
Weapons aren’t the only items which revolve through a player’s loadout; accessories such as Jetpacks, Grappling Gloves, Crash Pads, Balloons and the Rift-To-Go can help players traverse the map or make well-timed getaways if they’re overwhelmed in combat.
Traversing the map is also made easier by all the abandoned vehicles laying around like taxi cabs, 4-door sedans and Lamborghini expies (called Whiplashes in-game) but these methods of transportation are switched up too from time to time as helicopters, airplanes, wind tunnels, mechs and even pilotable IO Tanks are added to a season.
Even the map itself isn’t safe from change. While the overall dimensions and demarcations of the map have remained pretty much the same, the topography itself changes from season to season; for example, points of interest like a massive Atlantean castle might be replaced by a lumber mill surrounded by trees on snow-covered hills; an old-western themed, two-story, wooden pancake diner dubbed the Butter Barn might upgrade into a set of highrises with digital billboards and megascreens. Or maybe where there once stood a series of warehouses now sits a smoldering crater. Much like the game itself stays up-to-date through its characters and dances, so too does the island on which the game takes place seem alive, constantly metamorphosing and changing as the overarching narrative unfolds.
That’s right, the overarching narrative; Fortnite isn’t just a jumble of random characters thrown onto an island battle royale just to see who emerges victorious for s— and giggles. Well, yeah it is – but there’s also a story behind it. There’s an evil organization and a resistance and alternate dimensions and sentient cubes and Ice Kings and tie-ins from all sorts of Marvel characters, including cosmic warlords like Thanos and planet-devourers like Galactus; if that sounds like a hodgepodge of storylines thrown together in much the same way all the different character skins that’s because it is. But the narrative, although not the most focused or innovative serves its purpose well – such as adding flavor to the new additions to the map every season, providing the opportunity for boss fights and giving background to the Battle Pass skins.
Of course, there’s still one more enormous ace up Fortnite’s sleeve and if a player chooses, it doesn’t have to be affiliated with the Battle Royale at all: Creative mode.
As it stands now, Fortnite Creative mode allows a plethora of alternative ways to play the game outside of Battle Royale. Fortnite Creative is essentially a sandbox subgame wherein players can create content and experiences which can then be shared with the rest of the Fortnite community. There are player-created maps where you can practice your aim, building and editing in various training scenarios; test your problem-solving skills in an escape room; fight back hordes of the slavering undead in a Zombie survival map; drag race and hit jumps in sports cars; open world variations of the battle royale mode in an open jungle terrain with acid rain weather effects. Or even modes where teams of 50 can square off against another team of 50. The possibilities are pretty much limited to one’s imagination (as long as they’re within Epic’s legal rules and guidelines).
And even though Fortnite Creative has made leaps and bounds within the past few years, Fortnite Creative 2.0 is already on its way, which will give content creators even more power and potential with the addition of Unreal engine tools; unique coding capabilities; terrain tools; the ability to import custom models; devices and weapons; downloading other people’s creations and plenty of other features to expand creators’ toolsets.
So when will Fortnite end? Five years into its duration it’s pretty much a certainty we’ll get at least five more. After all, Everquest lasted for ten years. Runescape lasted for seventeen. World of Warcraft, which was first released in 2004, will likely top twenty years when all is said and done. Who’s to say Fortnite won’t be added to that Mount Rushmore of long-running live-service video games?
And even though as of this writing I’ve taken a week off from the game, it’s only a matter of time before I log back in. Maybe the allure of new skins which rekindle my childhood obsession like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Transformers will be my undoing. Or maybe I hear my friend Tom calling me; he wants to run Duos and with the holiday season fast approaching the stipulation is we both have to flex Christmas-themed skins.
When will Fortnite end? Not yet anyways.