These 5 brilliant little details help explain why 'Fortnite' is so insanely popular right now

Everyone, suddenly, is playing “Fortnite.”

Your friends, and your partner, and your coworkers, and your favourite musicians, and even the Houston Astros.

Sure!

It’s a real big deal, and there are plenty of broad reasons why that’s the case.

But some of the best things about “Fortnite” are the tiny details that you might not even realise – the Battle Pass challenges that keep you playing, or the intentionally cartoony art style that appeals to players of all ages.

Here are some of the smartest ways that “Fortnite” keeps tens of millions of people playing every day:


1. The Battle Pass!

Epic Games

In “Fortnite,” the goal is to be the last person alive out of 100 people. But it rarely goes as planned – you get shot, or accidentally fall from the top of a building, or whatever else.

Good news: Even if you lose in “Fortnite,” you still make progress towards unlocking stuff.

But the experience becomes far richer with the Battle Pass, a paid addition to the base game that adds a faster, far deeper progression system. For $US9.50, the Battle Pass offers weeks of challenges and corresponding item unlocks.

You can collect letters spread out all over the map that spell out “Fortnite,” as seen below, or land at several different regions on the main map.

Fortnite (letters)

Completing those objectives unlocks new outfits, or new dances, or a whole range of other loot. Some of these objectives are time-based, meaning you’ll have to complete them sooner than later if you want those sweet, sweet unlockable items. But what these objectives really do is encourage players to explore the map, do things they wouldn’t, use weapons they wouldn’t, and much more. It’s a smart way to encourage players to do more.

There’s a progression system in “Fortnite” even without the Battle Pass, but paying for the pass is well worth the price. You get more stuff much faster, and a surprisingly deep set of additional challenges on top of that. The Battle Pass makes the entire “Fortnite” experience better.


2. Seasons.

Epic GamesWe’re currently about one week in to the fourth season of ‘Fortnite.’

Like professional sports, a handful of competitive online games now operate on “seasons.” Don’t think of these as corresponding to natural seasons – the fourth “season” of “Fortnite” just began, for instance, and runs through July 9.

With these seasons come new Battle Passes, which are their own delight. But also, with the latest season came a massive change to the game’s map after being struck by meteors. There are entirely new parts of the map, new items spawned from the impact of the meteor, and, of course, a massive crater smack in the middle.

It was the culmination of an ongoing meteor-based storyline that played out entirely through players studiously detailing what they saw while playing.

Allow me to be entirely clear here: Players saw what looked like a comet appearing in the sky over the game’s main map. Then, player reports of meteors hitting the ground at random began popping up. Then, suddenly, the game’s creators at Epic Games released a trailer that showed a meteor hitting the game’s map.

And now, the one map in the game is fundamentally, permanently changed. It’s community-driven stuff like this that makes “Fortnite” feel alive, and it’s directly tied to the “seasons” that Epic has adopted.


3. Learn how to play better by spectating the player who killed you.

Epic Games

Dying in “Fortnite” is no fun, just like it’s no fun in any other game, but at least in “Fortnite” you can quickly learn from your mistakes.

That’s because, after death, your camera automatically leaps to the perspective of the person who took you out.

Instead of simply dropping players back into the main menu, “Fortnite” instead automatically turns on a spectator mode. And when the person who killed you inevitably bites the bullet themselves, spectator mode continues on to the next person down the line until you’re watching either the person who will win or the person who will come in second place.

Of course, you can return to the main menu at any time, but choosing to watch the rest of the match, and how it evolves over time, is fascinating. By the end of a given round, players are rapidly building towers, carefully sniping each other or raining down missiles (or any other number of things). It’s quite a sight to see, especially if you’ve never won a round.


4. It’s full of goofy, memorable stuff — like this llama piñata.

Epic Games

Part of what makes “Fortnite” feel special is its little creative touches.

Stuff like the llama piñata, seen above, is a great example: It stands in for a traditional loot box. Rather than a treasure chest, there’s a colourful, goofy piñata.

The same light-hearted approach is taken to the rest of “Fortnite,” from the Saturday-Morning-Cartoon-circa-1999 look of character costumes to the “Alligators All Around” naming convention for regions on the map.

Sometimes it’s charming, sometimes it makes me groan, but it’s always memorable.

More importantly, the colourful, cartoon theme means the game is approachable for players of all ages. Yes, it’s a game about killing people until you’re the only one left alive – but there’s no blood, and there are no corpses, and it’s all set in a fantastical world.


5. The map is blessedly small.

Epic Games

The game that “Fortnite” directly competes with, “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” (“PUBG”), is incredibly suspenseful. As players carefully creep across the map, avoiding sniper shots and rummaging for supplies, every instant is tense with the potential for imminent death.

Much of that tense silence takes place while moving across the massive, sprawling maps. At first, it adds to the intensity. Eventually, though, it becomes a massive hindrance to continued played. Another slog across that whole map, only to be killed in an instant by someone I didn’t see? No thanks.

In “Fortnite,” you trade intensity for expedience.

Much of that expedience comes in the form of the “Fortnite” map simply feeling smaller. Regions are close enough to each other that you can often see the next one from whichever you’re at. It also means that matches are shorter, and you’re likely to play several rounds of “Fortnite” in the time it would normally take for a single match of “PUBG.” On top of that, since it’s less of a punch in the gut when you’re killed, I find myself less likely to turn of “Fortnite” due to losing.

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