In Depth

What is Fortnite and why is it so popular?

The free-for-all online fighting game has attracted millions of players - but some parents are worried about its effects

Computer game Fortnite Battle Royale has become a worldwide hit since launching less than a year ago. 

The massive multiplayer online (MMO) game, released by Epic Games last September, has hooked millions of players and is free for users on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Apple portable devices. There is also a popular paid-for version, called Fortnite: Save the World, for a number of platforms.

So why has Fortnite become the must-play computer game?

What is Fortnite Battle Royale?

Fortnite Battle Royale is a massively online multiplayer computer game that pits 100 players against each other in a virtual world. 

The game is inspired by a concept popularised by the Japanese novel Battle Royale, The Daily Telegraph says, where the last person standing is deemed to be the winner. 

Players are dropped into random areas of the virtual world where they’re free to scavenge for weapons to defend themselves, the newspaper says. 

Players must keep moving to stay in the game. Much like in the novel, danger zones crop up across the virtual world as the battle progresses. Players in a danger zone must run to a safe area as quickly as possible, otherwise they risk being eliminated from the game. 

How much does it cost?

Unlike most video games on consoles and PCs, Fortnite Battle Royale is free to download and play. This means players can access all the title’s multiplayer modes and weapons without having to spend any money.

However, players can buy the game’s Premium Battle Pass using real money, The Guardian says, and this unlocks “exclusive clothing and items”. To buy a pack, players need to purchase V-Bucks, the game’s virtual currency, with their own money. It costs £7.99 to download 1,000 V-Bucks. Battle packs are priced at 950 V-Bucks. 

These battle packs only last a “season” (roughly three months), the newspaper says. After a season has passed, players must purchase another battle pass in order to access more exclusive content. 

Players who spend money on battle packs don’t have an advantage in online fire fights. Battle packs only include cosmetic items, such as new outfits and weapon designs, none of which give players the upper hand on the battlefield.

Is there a mobile version?

There certainly is. As the game’s free-to-play economy is similar to a host of mobile titles, such as Clash of Clans, it’s no surprise that Epic Games has developed a version of Fortnite for smartphone users. 

According to Eurogamer, the portable release of the free-for-all game has been designed to be as similar to the Xbox, PlayStation and PC versions as possible. Players can fight on the same map and take part in the same events as the standard version. 

What’s more, mobile phone users can compete against friends playing the game on their consoles or PCs. 

The mobile release of Fortnite Battle Royale is only available on Apple’s iOS systems, but the Daily Express says that an Android version is expected to launch over the next few months. 

Why are some parents worried about the game?

Some parents have complained that “their children were addicted to [Fortnite] and depressed when they were not allowed on it”, reports the Manchester Evening News.

In June, primary schools across Australia sent letters about Fortnite to parents, warning of its “negative effects” on students, The Guardian reports.

Sydney’s Bondi Beach Public School told parents there had been “a noticeable change in some behaviours in the classroom and in the playground, that are directly linked to Fortnite”.

“We are noticing the negative effects of this game, particularly on boys,” the school said.

However, some experts say the warnings are “excessive”.

“Parents can quite rightly not want their kids playing with adult strangers online [but] digital gaming on its own, is not bad,” said Dr Marcus Carter, a lecturer in digital culture and gaming at the University of Sydney. “It’s no different to any other form of media.”

“I say the best thing to do if you are concerned about your children playing Fortnite is to play Fortnite with them. To turn it into something that you share with your child,”  Carter added

Why is it so popular?

One of the major factors that has made Fortnite Battle Royale so successful is that it’s free to play, says Polygon. Players don’t need to splash any cash to battle against their friends. This makes the game significantly more accessible than other multiplayer titles such as Call of Duty or Star Wars: Battlefront II

Another attraction is that the game is cross platform, meaning that Xbox and PlayStation players can compete against one another. 

Equally appealing is that one of the game’s 45 million players is the rapper Drake, who livestreams some of his online matches, The Sun says.

Drake shares footage from his matches using the broadcasting service Twitch, the newspaper says, which is particularly popular with younger gamers. 

Famous YouTubers, such as Jacksepticeye and PewDiePie, also upload video footage from their matches. One of PewDiePie’s videos, for instance, has amassed nearly nine million views in just over two weeks. 

Finally, Fortnite Battle Royale’s visual style is far less violent than other multiplayer fighting titles, The Guardian says. This makes it appealing to both casual and professional video gamers.

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