New Yorker: The greatest fad
In terms of fervor, compulsive behavior, and parental noncomprehension, the Fortnite craze has elements of Beatlemania, the opioid crisis, and the ingestion of Tide Pods. Parents speak of it as an addiction and swap tales of plunging grades and brazen screen-time abuse: under the desk at school, at a memorial service, in the bathroom at 4 a.m. They beg one another for solutions.
Thus begins Nick Paumgarten’s excellent New Yorker rundown of the gaming sensation Fortnite, one of the best descriptions of the breakaway gaming success that is keeping millions out of the sun this summer, shrieks rising from across the globe.
Fortnite, in which “a hundred players are dropped onto an island—from a flying school bus—and fight one another to the death”, has become a billion dollar trove for its developer, Epic, and their Unreal gaming engine. The article also profiles some its biggest players, such as Ninja, who claims to make half a million dollars every month streaming gaming sessions. There have been big fads in gaming before, but
What people seem to agree on, whether they’re seasoned gamers or dorky dads, is that there’s something new emerging around Fortnite, a kind of mass social gathering, open to a much wider array of people than the games that came before. Its relative lack of wickedness—it seems to be mostly free of the misogyny and racism that afflict many other games and gaming communities—makes it more palatable to a broader audience, and this appeal both ameliorates and augments its addictive power.
The Conversation: Not Addiction. Motivation.
Addictive power? Not so much addiction as motivation, argues Andrew James Reid of Agerton University in an article on The Conversation, addressing fears that video games is finally corrupting our youth and social skills. He argues that games like Fortnite “beneath the eye-popping colours, fantastical obstacles and over-the-top scenarios – and the unsubstantiated claims that games are “addictive” – lies a well-designed blueprint for motivation that encourages players to pick up, play, and play some more.” Saying that evidence to support the idea that players are addicted to video games is lacking, he quotes game designer Jane McGonigal in her book Reality is Broken:
The fact that so many people of all ages, all over the world, are choosing to spend so much time in game worlds is a sign of something important, a truth that we urgently need to recognise. The truth is this: in today’s society, computer and video games are fulfilling genuine human needs that the real world is currently unable to satisfy … And unless something dramatic happens to reverse the resulting exodus, we’re fast on our way to becoming a society in which a substantial portion of our population devotes its greatest efforts to playing games, creates its best memories in game environments, and experiences its biggest successes in game worlds.
BTIG: Takeaways from Fortnite’s success
Meanwhile, investors, publishers, and even other industries are wondering what to make of Fortnite as a game disrupting the industry. “Investors are clearly nervous about the impact of the game – not just because Fortnite’s popularity is likely cannibalizing time spent in other games, but also as the “sudden” emergence and success of a free-to-play game throws into question the barriers to entry for AAA publishers and the sustainability of their existing business models”, writes BTIG. The BTIG analysts list eight takeaways from Fortnite’s massive success, concluding:
Video game publishers are certainly facing near-term competition from Fortnite. However, Fortnite’s success reminds us of, and even epitomizes the enormous opportunities for publishers brought by connectivity, especially as they continue to transition to the games as a service (GaaS) model. And, the learnings from Fortnite’s success may actually help the major publishers in the GaaS transition and to unlock new growth opportunities.