Fortnite is one of those games that forces someone like me — someone who is supposed to see trends coming — to recalibrate. All through 2017, I was playing and enjoying PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), and I also loved writing about it because I understood it. It’s a lot easier to write about something that you get.
With Fortnite? Well, I’ve struggled.
Fortnite is fine. I’ve spent 10 hours in its take on the battle royale genre, and the worst thing I can say is that I don’t feel anything when I play it. If I interrogate my reaction to Fortnite, I think that 500-plus hours of PUBG has made me numb. Epic’s remix on the last-player-standing shooter is fast, arcadey, and silly, and I can appreciate those things, but they are not why I show up for the battle royale. I’m here for the tension.
But I am in the minority. Other players and people who do not traditionally play games as often all seem to prefer Fortnite, and I think this is for a couple of reasons. Yes, the arcade-style action on a smaller map is appealing, but that is overthinking what is happening here. The real reason that Fortnite is the game of the people is because it runs excellently on consoles and now mobile. As much as I’ve turned into a snooty PC elitist over the last five years (I’m playing a review game on console right now because the PC code isn’t ready, and I can’t shake the feeling that I’m not playing the “real” game, which is stupid), let’s keep from pretending that consoles don’t have a much larger and broader audience in markets like the United States and Western Europe.
So, is it a bad sign for the PC that the console-optimized game Fortnite has dominated its PC-first counterpart PUBG? I don’t think so. Let’s ignore that we have room for all of these options. I would argue that the PC is the trendsetter. It’s the platform where content creators on Twitch and YouTube set the tone.
Fortnite superstar Ninja can livestream to more than 100,000 people on his PC, and then, the majority of those people will pick up the game on their PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. This goes beyond influencers, though.
It’s important that the last two tectonic shifts in the conversation around gaming both started on PC. We have battle royale happening right now, and that follows the meteoric rise of Minecraft. Fortnite may have launched on everything at the same time, but it was aping a game mode that PUBG made popular on Steam. And that was the first standalone game from a mod maker who added battle royale into PC survival games H1Z1 and DayZ. So, these phenomena consistently start on PC before expanding out to every other platform imaginable since. Could battle royale or Minecraft have started on other platforms? Maybe, but they didn’t. When it comes to experimentation and innovation, the PC is still the leader. As an aside, this is why I prefer Vive and Oculus Rift to the PlayStation VR. Experimental VR is so cool, and PC is where that is happening.
And sure, the smartphone has disrupted gaming, but Candy Crush Saga is still the top-grossing iOS game. That came out in 2012. So, until the mobile market shakes that stagnation, it’s going to have to continue jumping on the bandwagons that the PC is pulling.