“Fortnite,” the free to play video game that took the industry by storm, was released in 2017 and quickly saw its popularity rise in the battle royale genre. The game has given fame to people like Richard Tyler Blevins, more commonly referred to by his online alias Ninja. Even celebrities and professional athletes, such as the rapper Drake and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, have jumped on the “Fortnite” bandwagon. One might think that a game as popular as “Fortnite” would never cease to be popular, but I would beg to differ. I believe that “Fortnite” is going to see its success plummet as its novelty wears off for gamers.
As of Feb. 16, the success of “Fortnite” is still trending upwards, recently hitting a new record with 7.6 million concurrent players. This means that 7.6 million people played “Fortnite” at the exact same time across consoles, phones and computers. However, the game is only a year and a half old, making it relatively young. While “Fortnite” has become more popular to play, watching it has not. On sites such as Youtube and Twitch, the video sharing site and live stream site, respectively, “Fortnite’s” viewership has dropped starkly due to new competition.
“Apex Legends,” released on Feb. 4 by Respawn Entertainment, is a new battle royale game with an emphasis on classes and teamwork. The game was not previously announced and had virtually no advertising prior to its release, only announcing the game’s existence the day of its release. Within one week, it had 25 million downloads and 2 million concurrent players, more than “Fortnite” had in the same time span, according to gamesradar.com.
It also dethroned “Fortnite” as the most watched video game on Twitch since “Fortnite’s” original release. “Fortnite” had more than 600,000 hours of total stream time in the six days following “Apex’s” release, meaning there was more total footage overall, but “Apex” had almost 11 million more total hours watched by people, according to Dexerto.com and Twitch. This suggests that despite there being a wealth of “Fortnite” available, the people who watch Twitch chose its young competitor overall by a large number. “Apex” also had an average of 183,089 viewers, which is nearly 70,000 more “Fortnite,” according to Twitch.
Not only that, but in the professional gaming industry, some “Fortnite” players have become critical of the game, comparing it to “Apex.” Team Liquid, a professional esports organization, had one of its own professional “Fortnite” players go to Twitter to talk about the game.
“You know it’s a problem when ‘Apex’ feels more competitively balanced than ‘Fortnite’ on release,” Jake “Poach” Brumleve, a professional “Fortnite” player, said on Twitter.
This criticism by Poach is significant because a video game professional can make huge amounts of money, and increase its popularity as Ninja has done for “Fortnite,” or any of the other esport athletes who compete. The esport athletes also become popular and almost representatives of the games. It seems that their names become almost synonymous with those video games. You cannot mention Ninja without thinking about “Fortnite,” just as you cannot mention the streamer Mike “shroud” Grzesiek without thinking of his success and gameplay in “Counter Strike: Global Offensive” or “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.”
Not only this, but the individuals playing the game live and streaming it are just as important. The likes of Ninja, who is one of the most popular video game streamers, has primarily played “Fortnite” as his fame increased. He even had his own Red Bull sponsored “Fortnite” event in Chicago that sold out in minutes. Since the release of “Apex” and the following week, however, he did not stream “Fortnite” once. That is almost as if a professional baseball player were to stop playing for the Chicago Cubs for one week, play for the Pittsburgh Pirates and beat the Cubs, and then return to the Cubs later. While video game streamers often play more than one game, it is significant that Ninja did not play “Fortnite” even once, the game that led to him making more than $500,000 a month in 2018. “Fortnite” seems to be coming to an end, and it’s evident because its audience is being drawn away from its novelty.