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Why is Fortnite so damn popular?

Fortnite
Fortnite

I won't tell you how much money I've spent in Fortnite, buying skins and pickaxes and stupid little dances for my character to perform. I'm not even very good at it, but I've lost track of the hours I've spent jumping out of that bus and getting shotgunned in the face.

Fortnite was not a battle royale to begin with, and it had a fairly slow start, perhaps due to being behind the paywall of owning the main game to get access.

But that was then. Now we're at a point where Epic Games has pledged $100 million in prize money to competitive Fortnite tournaments, an unprecedented figure in the world of esports. And there's not even a proper Fortnite competitive mode yet!

It's impossible not to have heard of this game. Mainstream media is picking up, sensationalist headlines are appearing about parents "losing their children" to Fortnite, it's causing issues within professional sports teams (opens in new tab), and it's one of the hottest things on the planet right now.

But why? I have a few ideas.

1. It's free. Very, very free.

Fortnite

I've previously written about how Fortnite is free-to-play done right, and that's absolutely the case. Normally you'd expect a free game to have some kind of paywall, somewhere you'll eventually feel the need to empty your pockets to get a better experience.

Not in Fortnite. Nothing in the core gameplay is hidden behind a paywall. The paid stuff is all cosmetics. If you want to look like John Wick or the Raven, or an Easter Bunny or a leprechaun, there's going to be money involved. But you can be as good as Ninja without paying a dime.

Epic is still making an obscene amount of money from Fortnite, though, because for whatever reason everyone wants those skins. Whether it's buying the Battle Pass for the season or V Bucks (opens in new tab) to buy individual items, Epic is printing money. But, you can play for free and still have a great time. Your character just won't look as cool.

Being free also has other advantages. PUBG costs $30 (opens in new tab), and especially on Xbox it's still in pre-release in the Game Preview program. If you don't have $30 to spend, or you just don't think it's worth it, Fortnite offers an alternative 100-player battle royale experience for zero money.

That's also a reason why it's so popular with the younger crowd.

2. It offers something different in a busy space

Fortnite

The battle royale formula is pretty consistent across the different titles, but Fortnite has an instant twist on it thanks to the building mechanics. Simply put, if you can't build, you're not going to be very good. (That's why I'm not very good.)

Watching the best players build a ridiculous structure in seconds, then still circle behind an enemy and deliver a well-timed blue pump to the head is a thing of beauty.

It's also bringing a very unique style to things. PUBG has quite realistic-looking surroundings and weaponry; Fortnite looks like a cartoon and has a disco bomb that makes your opponents dance.

3. It offers effective cross-platform gameplay

Fortnite

Fortnite is one of the best examples of cross-platform play. You can't play Xbox versus PlayStation 4, and that's because of (most likely) Sony. But folks on an iPhone can play with folks on a console and a PC, and vice-versa.

It's opt-in, and you cannot choose to play with phone players from your PC, but you can conceivably play a match with a buddy on an iPhone and another on Xbox while you play on your PC.

You might well get utterly demolished playing on a phone coming up against PC players, but the idea is sound. No-one is left out. If Sony decides to play ball, you'll get one giant, all-inclusive battle-royale family.

4. It's fun and frustrating ... in a good way

Fortnite

When you first start playing, or if you're struggling to get your building skills nailed, Fortnite is frustrating as hell. You'll see an opponent throw up a bunch of ramps, get above you, and obliterate you in seconds.

But you'll go back to the lobby and you'll try again. And again. And again. That's because it's a lot of fun, and it's very entertaining.

Hit YouTube and check out the highlight reels from some of the big streamers. Yes, you can ride a rocket across the map and hit someone with an epic no-scope snipe. It's not easy, but it's possible, and the entertainment value is unlimited.

And it's only just begun ...

Thanks to the variety of weapons, skins, locations, the building mechanics, and the way the map in Fortnite evolves, it all combines to make a game that's never the same on different days. Season four started by dropping a meteor into the middle of the map, subsequent updates are seeing parts rebuilt.

Fortnite's battle royale mode is a living entity, evolving with every update, and Epic Games is doing an incredible job at keeping the community engaged with fresh content. And that always provides a reason to come back. Now the company is providing huge cash prizes, so no doubt everyone wants to become a Fortnite pro player.

These are some of the main reasons why people keep coming back to Fortnite. Epic Games is onto a winner here, and it's not going to slow down any time soon.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

41 Comments
  • Kids love it. But those costs, and the hideous v bucks! How anyone charges more than £1.50 for a skin, I shall never know. I'm rubbish at Fortnite, by the way.
  • And yet they're making close to $300 million a month in revenue. If people are paying, then they'll have zero reason to make anything cheaper.
  • Yeah, Sad times. £300m per month! Wow, crazy numbers.
  • Easy question, Fortnite runs 4k 60fps and looks so damn good on my xbox one X. I was heavy into pubg at the start and it got to a point that i would only fire it up after an update. Its been over a month since ive played pubg. I may give it a go with the new map..if they ever get pubg at 60fps at 1080p or 4k/60fps ill get back on board, but for now 4k/60fps and smooth aiming cant be beat. Ive even purchased save the world to get more out of it.
  • No that is a lie it run 4k 30 fps maybe but it cant run 4k 60 fps
  • My 12 year old son and I disagree on it. He likes it but I don't. I told him that PUBG is a better game. Nothing like creeping for 20 minutes and then getting sniped on the back...
  • PUBG is far better. Fortnite is like playing Super Mario version of The Division....ugh.
  • I don't get the comparison. They have the same game mode but that's all. They have very different gameplay. Fortnite is way faster and the building part is essential while PUBG is more slowly paste with bigger maps but vehicles.
  • It's the new COD vs Battlefield.
  • I was in the pubg is better than fortnite camp day 1 but that changed the day fornite announed 4k/60fps...a lot of the young kids imitate the fornite emotes and think it its cool... Hilarious to watch them...
  • Fornite is waaay more polished... They should consider making the map a little smaller if it will help achieve 1080p/60 or 4k/60...
  • Well when you have source code access to the game that was really popular, it's not hard to add a new mode to an existing game. And when your epic games it's not hard to make that mode free.
  • I can't get into it. It looks and feels clunky to me. I liked Team Fortress 2, so it's not the cartoon feel, but maybe rather the style and mechanics. I agree with 'sniperboywc' waiting around for 20 minutes to get shot in the back is not my idea of fun. It has to be that lottery syndrome they talk about people get stuck in, 1 out of 1000 you win and think you accomplished something. To each his own.
  • Fortnite Ruined BattleField V
  • I absolutely HATE Fortnite. Nothing else needs to be said.
  • So don't play it and don't read articles about it.
  • OK, thanks very much. I guess that means nobody else in the world should play it because Ray_Mikey doesn't like it. Sorry folks, gonna have to find something else to play.
  • I agree to that :D
  • Why
  • I have never seen it, so I can not say if I hate it or not, but I do get fed up of people going on about it at work for ages, mainly because i have no idea what they are on about :)
  • Maybe a free Halo multilayer with cosmetics would be a way to bring back Halo to a bigger audience on PC, Xbox and maybe even mobile. Like Halo Online but not just for Russia.
    Btw I still don't get why Halo Wars 2 Blitz wasn't free to play. I mean it's basically a ftp game inside a regular game.
  • Way I look at it, when something is free and the paid stuff doesn't actually affect gameplay at all, folks are more likely to put their hand in their pocket and buy a few things. Overwatch has done it from day one, and Blizzard, too, is printing money.
  • kids of 15 years and younger did it :P I prefer the chicken dinner wins over the lame Fortnite wins any day. Fortnite doesn't give as much excitement that makes me want to win. when players develop the ''Bunny hop'' into a game and make it a standard way of attacking. then the game failed for me. now I only play it occasionally with my friends. the rest is all on PUBG.
  • Because its free
  • My daughter is finally getting into this game. She says it reminds her of ARK Survival of the Fittest. Finally a game we can actually play together. I told her to take advantage of the KB/Mouse combo on PC for building since I would be on XBOX trying to master using BuilderPro controls over CombatPro.
  • Beats me.
  • It's free PUBG. /article
  • If you want to get the stuff in Fortnite (or any Xbox game) for free, sign up for Microsoft/Bing Rewards. My son has been telling everyone about it on Mixer. Earn Bing points, exchange Bing points for Xbox gift cards, spend gift cards on in-game V-bux. He's gotten Battle Passes and skins without spending a cent of his own (or, more importantly, his parents'!) money.
  • I've been doing this for years as well. However, I did it with Rocket League crates. Just recently did this to buy Darwin Project because MS hasn't made it free on Xbox yet.
  • Not available outside US.
  • It's starting to become available elsewhere it's in the UK now...
  • "Epic Games' battle royale hit has literally taken the world by storm" You keep using that word (literally).
    I do not think it means what you think it means.
  • I think it's proper usage actually. There's a digital storm in Fortnite that gradually consumes the map, forcing players into a smaller area.
  • Fortnite is popular because although it is violent, it's not violent (if that makes sense). It looks like a cartoon, the locations are very well rendered in the 'Zelda Windwaker' style and parents, who see their kids playing it, don't mind - it's like playing cops and robbers outside, but inside with toy guns. As such, the parents may disapprove the shooting but as there is no blood or maiming in general, they accept it. It's also an extension from Minecraft so kids playing that are familiar with the mechanics and can move over into something new. Nice formula if you ask me.
  • Fortnite and Battlegrounds have this "bro" stigma to it and it is so...cringy
  • It is a fad and give it a few months and something new will be on the block. So money have to be made quickly before the next new thing.
  • It's a free game and a phenomenon for young kids. I'm 47 managed to get 2nd place a few times but for me I find it simplistic apart from the building which basically I'm crap at.
  • i remember playing fortnight when it first came out. it was rather forgettable aside from the fact that I didn't forget playing it. it was like a cheap borderlands rip off. I also don't understand the popularity
  • "Mainstream media is picking up, sensationalist headlines..." "Seriously, why the @#$* is Fortnite so @#&%^*$ popular?!?" headline gets people fired up to click in to a lovey dovey article about why Fortnite is so great. smh
  • 5. Tilted Towers 😆
  • "Fortnite was not a battle royale to begin with"
    And that's when they had my attention. Now all I see is Battle Royale updates and nothing about the "main game mode". Kinda sad :/ but in the end the developer goes where the money is, and the *Save the world* mode was (in a way) like Fable legends, people rather kill themselves than try to work as a team.
    Damn, I had really high hopes for Fable Legends... I hope Save the World mode doesn't suffer the same destiny.