It’s easy to forget that Fortnite really wasn’t that big a deal in the months following its release. What catapulted it to the phenomenon it is now was the addition of a Battle Royale mode after launch, a move that showed both how bold Epic was ready to be and how ambitious the developer was in updating the Game was. With its subsequent success, Fortnite is now one of the largest entertainment companies in the world, and Epic has shown itself to be able to embark on it in almost unprecedented ways.
I say “almost” because individual games had updates that made big changes over time: Final Fantasy XIV destroyed its own world to reset it all. But Fortnite’s massive size and the resource Epic can put behind its development have made this game one that is constantly being added and updated and then flipping the table once a year.
Some developers and publishers with a hit of this size in hand tend to use the “if it doesn’t break” support model. But when Epic started with the “Chapter” model, it built on the island’s destruction and had the guts to add entirely new mechanics along with a new environment. Obviously, Epic has the designers and the money to do it, but still, changing or expanding the basics of something so widespread is bold, and whatever you think of Fortnite, arguably the defining trait of its post-development.
It would be negligent not to mention that there is another cost factor besides money: crunch. In Fortnite’s earlier years of success, Epic has reportedly been bad at managing its developers’ workload and overreacting to complaints. “If a build went into the wild and there was a negative reaction, someone at the top would say, ‘We have to change that.'” a staff member said Polygon in 2019. “And everyone got carried away with what they were doing, and people were told to abandon their plans because by then they would be crunching. It never ended. It’s great for supporting the community and the public. But that has its price. “
Epic may have completely changed its processes and so on since then: but it was clearly a problem.
The full title for this year’s changeover is Chapter 3, Season 1: Flipped! Fans got a bit of a service with the confirmation of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson as the ‘Foundation’ character, though the headline character is Spider-Man – and while Fortnite is certainly guilty of absorbing anything and everything, Spidey comes alongside a groundbreaking oscillating mechanics.
In essence, Chapter 3 is doing what Chapter 2 did all over again. The map has been redesigned, new mechanics like sliding and swinging have been added along with a number of new weapons, and there are tons of new lore in the game’s ongoing storyline. Here is the new card.
The Daily Bugle is now on the map and Spider-Man is in it (if you buy the Battle Pass, of course), although strangely enough, his web shooter won’t be overwhelming until the 11th.
Finally, it’s worth noting how Epic did it: a disastrous event called The End, which was quite astonishing to be honest. I don’t play Fortnite regularly, but I like to sign up for the big events every now and then and this was one of the best yet, a bespoke set piece that got bigger and more exploding until (spoiler alert) the island of Chapter 2 basically . .. turned around?!?
Purely as a visual spectacle, that’s really something. No other live service game is being developed at this pace and ready to make these massive changes that, let’s face it, could go wrong. Spider-Man’s web shooters could arrive on December 11th and screw up the balance and spark controversy, gamers could hate the new map or reclaim certain things: all of this is possible.
Epic knows this, of course, and the fact that it’s still ready to play and play big is certainly one of the main factors behind Fortnite’s continued popularity. When Epic’s CEO Tim Sweeney is chatting about the metaverse or the latest somber-looking character addition comes out, it’s easy to roll your eyes at Fortnite. But the way this game is developed gives it a chance to be the center of attention for many years to come.