Will Fortnite Become More Than A Game?

Recently Tim Sweeney, President and CEO of Epic games, made an interesting comment on Twitter regarding the future of the still massively-popular Fortnite. In response to one Will Hershey, who asked Sweeney if he views Fortnite more as a game or a platform, Sweeney said “Fortnite is a game. But please ask that question again in 12 months.” It’s an interesting idea to be sure and there’s already some merit to it. Users are already using it in a way that goes beyond its purpose as a game, so whether or not it truly becomes something more depends on how Epic decides to support the game moving forward.

The case for Fortnite as a platform is already strong. The game was already showing signs of transformation in late 2018 according to news website Axios. They published a story describing some incredible figures, with many players treating it as an “open phone line” of sorts in addition to the usual online game phenomena like making online friends or even bonding with real-life friends and family through the game. Of course, this was over a year ago now, and Fortnite has continued to advance since then.

There were at least two major events held within Fortnite that were outside the game’s normal scope this year. The first was a live concert held by Marshmellow in February. It was only about ten minutes long, but was reportedly watched by around 10 million users. There was also the big Star Wars event held earlier this month, wherein fans were treated to both a live talk show and an exclusive clip from Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker. Both of these events are the sort of content one would normally expect to see on a traditional media platform, but here they were in Fortnite nonetheless.

Returning to Sweeney’s comments on Twitter, when he was prompted for further explanation, Sweeney elaborated by saying “I’ll adhere to the 1990’s definition that something is a platform when the majority of content people spend time with is created by others.” This is probably in reference to Fornite’s Creative Mode, which allows players to come up with their own creations and game modes in a manner similar to Halo’s Forge mode or even Minecraft mods. If most of what players are spending their time with is indeed user-generated content, then Fortnite could indeed already be considered a platform of a sort.

PlayStation Home Map
While considering this, one cannot help but be reminded of Sony’s ill-fated “Home” platform from the PlayStation 3 days. It was meant to be a virtual space where players could hang out with each other and enjoy things like virtual bowling, music, movies and even demos of games available on the PlayStation Store. Users even had customizable avatars and virtual private apartments they could decorate up with whatever they wished (for a price of course).

The problem with Home was that it had no draw of its own; it was a platform first with only a minuscule gaming element. Fortnite doesn’t have this problem of course. It drew millions of players in with an admittedly brilliant game design and now all those extra little things Sony wanted players to use Home for have emerged as natural extensions of the game. If Epic wants to, and it sounds like they do, they can lean into this and build even more features into Fortnite to further support players’ tendency to use it as a social platform. So it sounds like Mr. Sweeney was right on the money when he said that Fortnite is still a game now, but that might not be so true by this time next year.