04 Apr Will Fortnite become another disposable gaming trend like Pokemon Go?
For anyone that doesn’t know what Fortnite is, it’s basically the thing that has sent the gaming world into a frenzy.
From the alliterative area titles, to the character dances to the shrinking storm which prevents camping, i.e. hiding for the most of the battle only to emerge at the end to make a few kills and win, this game is very easy to get into. Its huge appeal comes from the fact that you get one life, so you can invest a lot of time into one game, but if you’re one of the 99 people who don’t win each time, because you put so much into last turn, you’re eagerly waiting to rejoin the next lobby and go again.
The aim of the game is to be the last man standing, and to stay alive, you must kill your opponents but also be good at building structures. In most shooting games, when you get shot, you try to kill your opponent by shooting back. If you get shot in Fortnite, the aim to build as far into the sky or as far wide as is possible, and then kill your opponents.
Its second main appeal is that anyone can play. You could call it the game your little brother plays all day and the one your dad plays when he goes to sleep. You don’t need to be good at shooting games or games which require a lot of structural problem solving, because after a few turns, you’ll get to grips with its randomness. You use different guns and add-ons each time, meaning that in theory, no two turns will be the same, especially when you play online with friends.
But we’ve seen this before, a viral game temporarily sending people nuts before dying out. Anyone remember that game where grown men (myself included for a short time), were structuring their day around visiting random areas in hope of coming across a virtual image of a fictional animal? Okay, I didn’t go as far as actually visiting an area just because a certain a Pokemon was there, but many did, and the Pokemon Go craze was huge.
The game had more first week downloads from the Apple App Store than any other app in history, with 752 million downloads in total, grossing over $1.2 billion in revenue. At first, this smartphone game was a fun pass-time while from my house to the train station, but what makes Pokemon, Pokemon, is its endless nature, and Pokemon Go failed to provide that, so it got boring.
You can’t really complete Pokemon, that is to say, you decide when you’ve mastered things, there’s no set finishing point. Some stop at acquiring all gym badges and beating the Elite 4, others try to fill out the entirety of their Pokedex by catching every single Pokemon, or you might go down to CEX to buy one of those cables that linked Gameboys and allowed you to trade for rare Pokemon.
With Pokemon Go, the game fell off because developers Niantic didn’t keep apace with the necessary development, so the product didn’t live up to its hype. The battle-function was simplistic, which for a franchise which has built its brand on the back of the strength of make-belief battles, is too big of an area to under-develop.
There was no campaign mode, like in prior versions, and after a while, people got fed up with having to travel half way across their city to get to the next point in the game. Literally, people really were tired of travelling around for this game. Niantic held a gaming event recently in Chicago for 20,000 in people but had to issue $1.6 million worth of refunds none of the attendees had access to game they’d come to play.
Pokemon Go neglected the core offering of what makes that kind of game fun, and Fortnite is at risk of falling into a similar trap by neglecting fundamental features. There is only one map on Fortnite so far, with the developers opting to offer improvements to this setting instead of offering a range of different battlefields. That’s risky. If you ask a lot of fans of Call of Duty fans what their favourite edition is, many will say Modern Warfare 2, because of the quality of the maps. Rust, Skidrow, Terminal, you name it, Modern Warfare 2’s maps were among the best of any shooting game.
By sticking to one map only, things become boring too quickly. Yes, you could say the entire map isn’t used in each game so technically, it’s not one big map, but many smaller ones on rotation, but there’s often an overlap, which means you could find yourself running through the exact same points each time.
Fortnite needs to provide users with some variety here by create maps that serve different functions. For example, introducing a map that puts the onus on building and collecting wood, bricks and metal, allowing for battles with many enormous building structures. Another idea might be to offer a small map to allow for quick, thrilling action. It could be as simple as changing the weather conditions more by introducing a map in the snow, desert, urban city setting or other.
The current map, to its credit, is intricate and well-designed, with seemingly few bits of wasted space, despite its size. But the reality is, one map can only go so far, and if the current map doesn’t offer more variety or if more maps aren’t introduced soon, Fortnite is at risk of becoming boring and repetitive, while the lack of competitiveness also leaves much to be desired too.
It’s not that Fortnite isn’t competitive, because it is, it’s just not competitive enough in its current form to offer longevity. If you finish third out of 100 people, there is often an urge to play again to try and finish first. But after you finish first a few times, then what? That’s where the competitive side of gaming comes in. Put simply, people want better stats than their peers. In shooting games, you want more kills than deaths, you want to be ranked at the highest level so you can unlock the best guns and add-ons, but in Fortnite, there isn’t much of that.
It’s possible to level up in Fortnite and unlock certain perks as you progress, but again, it’s limited, it’s something, but not quite enough. Online gaming is built on its competitive streak. From FIFA to Grand Theft Auto to Call of Duty, games are most fun when we’re trying to be better than someone else at them.
So to that end, Fortnite could benefit from introducing some form of a leaderboard, because when you level up, or pay for something, you can only really buy new costumes. Being a high level doesn’t holds no reward. Because you begin every single game with no weapons or perks, unlike most other games, which provide some kind of virtual tangible asset, like a trophy or spot atop of a leaderboard, there’s no incentive for aspiring to finish first other than personal satisfaction.
Epic Games have been reactive in growing this game. As users boomed in March, they quickly rectified server issues to allow for smooth running, while Fortnite also overtook PUBG, a rival title, to set the record for the highest number of concurrent players with 3.4 million. Newzoo reports that 30.1% of all PC gamers played Fortnite in February, so this game is a pretty big deal and still quite early on in its journey.
It’s very possible Fortnite take the steps necessary to maintain and grow its high user base from this point onwards, but in order to truly become a household gaming title, and not just a short-term fad, it needs to embrace the core elements of what makes like-minded games so fun, or could risk just becoming another Pokemon Go.