From the video game's appeal to its controversial features, PEOPLE explains it all

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From obsessed teens to adult gamers, the game Fortnite is captivating players of all ages.

Since its release date on July 25, the free-to-play “Battle Royale” survival game has spread like wildfire across the eGaming industry.

The game’s online player count has reached over 125 million in under one year alone, Epic Games — Fortnite‘s parent company — said in a June release. Originally intended for computers and gaming consoles like the Xbox or PlayStation, the gaming giant made an iPhone version available for download on April 1 of this year, raking in over $25 million in its first month, according to Apple Insider.

Less than two months after the iPhone version came out, it became the top-selling app in the United States, the United Kingdom, and 11 other countries, according to PC Games News, outpacing even Netflix, Tinder, and YouTube.

The game has demolished several records, most notably for the amount of simultaneous online plays, with Rolling Stone reporting that over 3.4 million concurrents have logged on at the same time.

So what’s the deal with this viral action game? PEOPLE explains.

What’s the game all about?

Fortnite is essentially a survivalist game. The premise? Zombies have eviscerated 98 percent of the world population, and the player’s job is to roam around the natural grounds, build a shelter (hence the “fort” in Fortnite), gather supplies, and devise strategies to fend off the apocalypse. The platform allows users to get as creative as possible, from building a simple log cabin to a gargantuan, flame-throwing castle, and collecting other outfitted weapons. And — the best part for many — the game is designed to be played with friends.

Tyler "Ninja" Blevins Takes On Challengers At Ninja Vegas '18 At Esports Arena Las Vegas
Fortnite
| Credit: Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Fortnite came out with its second, free version — the famous “Battle Royale” — in September 2017. In this popular version, the game’s goal changed from outlasting the zombies to outlasting the other players.

There are so many apocalyptic games. Why is this one so appealing?

The social answer: Users can play with up to 100 people, and it’s free (though players have the option to buy perks throughout the game). Despite its relatively simple premise compared to its post-apocalyptic or zombie-universe counterparts, Fortnite is one of the few games that has made group-player mode accessible on multiple platforms, reported Vox. That means a group of friends can still play with or against each other regardless of device — be it iPhone, laptop, or Xbox.

It’s also all at once a shooting game, an adventure game, and a world that can be built from scratch. Fortnite even allows the player to set the game mode.

Additionally, once a player “dies,” they can continue watching the game through the eyes of the person who killed them.

The game was built to incorporate highly addictive qualities similar to gambling experiences, the New York Times reported. Aside from the graphics, plot line, and group-bonding experience, the game features an element of “luck” as the player advances in the game, making them feel like they were closer and closer to winning each time, lessening the likelihood of taking a break from the game.

Why is it controversial?

Those addictive qualities work.

After multiple complaints by parents and teachers alike, USA Today reported that Epic Games was forced to include a warning on the game’s loading screen urging teenagers not to play during class.

In the U.K., reports not independently confirmed by PEOPLE said one family was forced to send their 9-year-old daughter to rehab because she became so addicted to the game she wet herself rather than stop playing to use the bathroom.

There are also other aspects of the online game causing concern. In April, the National Crime Agency in the U.K. warned that Fortnite was potentially exposing children to child sex offenders through the game’s chat feature, according to The Telegraph, which connects strangers who are playing at the same time to one another, and can’t be turned off.

Epic Games Hosts Fortnite Tournament At E3
Joel McHale plays during a Fortnite tournament
| Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Who is playing the game?

There are no current surveys detailing the exact demographics of the game, but Reddit threads reveal users as young as 11 years old up to 40 years old playing the same game, with many celebrities in the mix, like Joe Jonas and Joel McHale.

It’s not just about playing it — it’s about watching it.

Fornite has not only become one of those games people can’t stop playing — it’s also become about viewing it as a performance. One self-proclaimed Fortnite voyeur is rapper Drake, who took to Twitch — a live-streaming video platform — to play against Tyler “Ninja” Blevis, 26, an eGaming star who has received hundreds of thousands of profile views since starting to game for an audience. In March of 2018, Drake and Blevis broke the record for most recorded live-stream views during their Fortnite match at over 600,000, according to The Verge.

There’s a new “Playground” feature coming out on June 27.

The newest version of the game, the long-anticipated “Playground” mode, will allow players to hang out on an island with their friends and build whatever they want, as the name entails, without the grim potential of death on the horizon.

This new development will let players to fiddle with customization settings, open friendly fire, or even stage duels between two players that can then be live-streamed, a feature not yet available on the game, reported Forbes.