The goal? Be the last one standing.
The game was launched in September 2017, and recorded 3.7 million daily active users in October. By December, those numbers had reached 30 million players. Now, the game sees over 45 million players daily and has added over 15 million players in the last month alone.
But why has Fortnite’s popularity boomed so quickly, and what is it that makes this game so addicting?
William Partin, a Ph.D. candidate in communication studying video games and labor, said one of the main appeals of the game is its social element.
“It’s very easy and fun to play with friends,” Partin said. “I think it’s important to push back against the narrative that games are a solitary, lonesome thing to do, when in fact they tend to be very social.”
On top of its social appeal, Partin said another draw to the game is its entertaining ability to escalate in a matter of seconds.
“It’s an incredibly exciting game to watch, because at any moment some sort of action could break out,” Partin said.
Videos of people celebrating an ever-so-coveted victory have quickly spread across social media. Entire fraternities have been recorded surrounding the TV as a single player attempts to etch his name into Fortnite history.
Senior economics major Troy Schmidt and his three housemates have witnessed that appeal firsthand.
What started as the guys watching a friend try out a new game, quickly turned into a full-on addiction.
“None of us had heard of it, but we played it and it was kind of fun,” Schmidt said. “Next thing you know, it was on all of those Old Row, Total Frat Move, and 5th Year Instagram accounts of these sick victories.”
For Schmidt, the fuel for his addiction comes from the competition between his housemates – only one of them, junior Jack Mountain, has ever emerged from a match victorious.
“We’ll play and neither of us will win a game all night, but we both know he still has a win, and it’s just like looming,” Schmidt said. “I think there’s that thrill of victory for a lot of guys, and then it gets competitive.”
Schmidt said he recently made it to the top five in a round, and that everyone in his house crowded around the TV to watch his attempt.
“When I died, it was like the most depressing thing,” Schmidt said. “No one said anything for a couple seconds.”
But according to Partin, one of the most appealing things about Fortnite is the ability to quickly play again with a fresh start.
“I think it always gives you the chance to feel like you can fail better,” Partin said. “You see your mistakes and you say, ‘If I do this differently next time, I’ll be fine.’ Every game begins the same and it gives you this nice clean slate to correct your mistakes.”
Junior psychology major Lily James agrees.
“I think what makes it so addicting is the fast pace of the game, especially toward the end,” James said. “It’s really intense, so whether you win or lose, you’re kind of like, ‘I’m ready to go again.’”
James thinks that another reason the game is so popular with college students is its affordable price – it’s free. Unlike other games, which can cost as much as $60, Fortnite can be downloaded without breaking the bank.
James also said the game has caught on because it’s unlike any other. Instead of simply adding another game to the battle royale genre, Fortnite combines elements from a variety of games to create a unique experience.
“There are multiple ways to play the game, and I think that’s why it draws such a wide crowd, because you can really play it however you want,” James said. “Not only is it a battle royale game where it’s 100 people trying to kill each other, but it’s also cool how you can loot and build.”
Whatever it is that makes the game so popular, one thing is for sure: the players keep coming back for more. Until he finally gets that elusive victory, Schmidt said he doesn’t see himself putting down the controller.
“I need a win,” Schmidt said. “And I feel like that’s how it’s been for a lot of guys.”