How did Fortnite become a global phenomenon? Today on a very special Kotaku Splitscreen crossover episode, we try to figure that out.
First Kirk and I talk about Paris, Valve buying Campo Santo, Quantic Dream suing journalists, and Destiny 2 before we’re joined by Kotaku’s Gita Jackson and Patricia Hernandez of Fave This (43:57) to talk about how Fortnite got so popular and whether Nintendo Labo is as fun as playing with cardboard boxes.
Get the MP3 here, or read an excerpt:
Jason: Fortnite is the hottest game right now. Battle Royale, specifically. Patricia, you’ve played a lot of Fortnite. Why is it so popular? How did it become this cultural phenomenon, where Drake is streaming it on Twitch and breaking records and every single high school in America is playing?
Patricia: I think the first thing anyone would tell you is that it’s free, but... That was obviously a big part of it getting started, but if you look at it right now that’s definitely not what’s made it a phenomenon. Like, you think Drake gives a fuck if this game is $60 or free? No, he’s playing it because—
Jason: Hey man, he’s trying to save for a new console
Patricia: What it does better than the competition is, you look at something like PUBG and it’s all grit, all survival, it’s all about who’s playing the best, whereas in Fortnite, they just added this weapon that’s called a Clinger that’s pretty much a sticky grenade, and it’s a plunger. You can stick your friend and use them to become suicide bombers, and people are riding around in rockets. I think it’s just a more fundamentally joyful game, in that you’re probably going to lose, but you’re also going to see something ridiculous, and I think people respond to that. It’s just an innately cheerful game.
I think the way they’ve been doing updates is really interesting. Obviously every game is a service now, and every game has things happening once a week, twice a week, or whatever. But in this game I think there’s a sense that you don’t know what’s going to go on when you log in. Today I logged in and there’s aliens, spaceships in the sky, and all the TVs are given this emergency broadcast signal and I don’t know why.
Kirk: That ongoing narrative, the fact that there’s a comet and all this stuff going on, and people aren’t sure what, and the state of the world is changing—is really cool. Can you describe that narrative a bit?
Patricia: For the last two weeks, there’s been this thing that Epic, the developer of the game, hasn’t explained, it’s just, you logged in and all of a sudden there’s this weird thing in the sky. You’re not sure if it’s a glitch or something. The game has this thing called the Storm and that creates things in the sky that’s an anomaly, so you’re not sure if that’s a thing. Then two days later it gets slightly bigger, and two days later it gets bigger, and all of a sudden you’re like, ‘OK, I guess this is a comet that’s coming closer to the island?’
And then two days later it starts making this buzzing sound, and then all of a sudden a week later there are a bunch of smaller comets coming down. They haven’t impacted anything, but everyone’s obviously talking about this, because no matter where you look, it looks like there’s going to be some sort of event going on. They haven’t told anyone what it is, but everyone’s thinking it’s going to end on April 30 with the current season...
Jason: It’s like season two of Game of Thrones.
Kirk: It does strike me as, the differences you’re pointing out between PUBG and Fortnite, it strikes me that Fortnite is just branded so much better. It’s so much more distinct looking. There are all these little silly things, the bus, and the fact that the weapons have these funny names. The characters have this look, and it’s all very stylized and branded. And then they’re also doing the smart stuff with the community—it seems like the sky is the limit for this kind of thing in this kind of game. And PUBG is very just, OK you’re a guy or a lady with a backpack and a gun... Fortnite just seems like it’s totally running away with all that.
For much more, listen to the full podcast. As always, you can find Splitscreen on Apple Podcasts and Google Play. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.