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Fortnite’s Tilted Towers didn’t stay dead for long. In the new season that starts today, developer Epic Games revealed that the beloved loot-filled location is back as Neo Tilted, bringing the rest of the game into a future featuring shiny new buildings and mechanized pets.

Fortnite is the biggest game in the world. The free-to-play multiplayer shooter has earned more than $1 billion, leading to huge investments in Epic and allowing the company to put that extra money into other efforts — such as the Epic Games Store (and its 88/12 revenue split with developers) and the recent acquisition of Rocket League studio Psyonix.

In addtion to having a host of new emotes, weapon and character skins, and other cosmetic items (unlockable via the game’s Battle Pass progression system), Season 9 also introduces a collectible called Fortbytes. Players must decipher cryptic clues to find these microchip-like items scattered throughout the island. Gathering Fortbytes will unlock even more rewards and secrets.

Seasonal content updates in Fortnite is Epic’s way of making the game feel fresh and interesting for its console, PC, and mobile players. Fans also look forward to a new season (which lasts for around two months) because the updates usually change the map in some way. Season 8 introduced an active volcano, and the eruption of that volcano caused the futuristic world players now see in Season 9.

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These world-changing events create a loose but ongoing narrative that fans (and the streamers and video creators that cover the game) love to obsess over. However, creating these frequent updates have come at a personal cost for some members of the dev team. According to a lengthy report from Polygon, Fortnite’s success led to a “toxic, stressful environment” at Epic.

You can read the full patch notes for Season 9 here.

The state of battle royale

According to two different case studies, Fortnite is still the most-viewed game online, even with the explosive rise of battle royale competitors Apex Legends and Call of Duty Blackout. It’s the kind of resiliency made possible by a player base that is 250 million strong. And Epic always tries to make sure that Fortnite stays in the popular consciousness, whether it’s through esports competitions, movie tie-ins, or seasonal updates.

Coincidentally, Season 9’s sci-fi theme brings Fortnite a little closer to its two closest rivals: both Apex Legends and Call of Duty Blackout are sci-fi shooters. But it’s not a huge overlap, as the new update still retains Fortnite’s playful cartoon-like aesthetic.

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