CARY – Are the best days over for Epic Games’ mega hit Fortnite?

Rick Smith, WRAL TechWire’s editor and a cofounder and author of The Skinny blog.

There are questions being raised in the media as criticism of the game from players increases and revenue drops even after the big-hit World Cup tournament Epic hosted before thousands of fans and streamed to millions more from Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City with $3 million going to the winner. And the rise of esports certainly could further bolster the game.

However, a new “season” of Fortnite is creating a lot of angst from some players thanks to the “mechs.”

“[M]echs have been divisive at best,” says game news site Polygon, weighing in on the addition of “mechs” – big robots – that have rubbed some players’ emotions raw.

“Epic says that mechs are critical additions that help make the game more fun for players who don’t often win. Hardcore fans, especially pro players, believe that mechs ruin competitive play. Last weekend’s Trios tournament, where mechs [known as B.R.U.T.E.] made their competitive debut, raised more questions about the mechanic’s existence and contribution to the game.”

Enthusiasm abounds in the video trailer kicking off the season:

When launching the new season on Aug. 1, Epic declared:

“Time is twisted and the Zero Point has become volatile in Season X. Whether you’re nostalgic for the past or excited for the future, there will be plenty for you to discover all Season long. Locations once thought to be lost have begun to appear on the island, but they aren’t the same as they once were… ”

After the mech push-back began, Epic went as far to post a blog defending them.

“We’ve heard the frequent discussions (#RemoveTheMech) about the B.R.U.T.E., and decided this would be a good opportunity to explain the Fortnite philosophy. The mission of Fortnite is to bring players of all skill levels together to have a fun experience where anyone can win. For example – everyone having a shot at that first elimination or Victory Royale moment and the satisfying feeling that comes with it. Right now, we know there are players out there who have never had that opportunity,” the Fortnite team wrote.

“Another part of the mission is to provide spectacle and entertainment when playing Fortnite. Bringing these moments to the game every week means there is always a new way to enjoy and experience the game.

“The B.R.U.T.E. was added at the start of Season X with this mission in mind. Since then, we have seen players who had previously struggled with getting eliminations acquiring more, while the number of eliminations earned by more experienced players remained steady.”

Then there are lawsuits over cheating and data disclosures. And reports about a toxic workplace. And fatigue. Epic recently gave its team a two-week vacation, shortly after which the new Fortnite season launched in the glow of the mega New York tournament.

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Pocketbook issues

Perhaps most disconcerting of all for privately held Epic is a big drop of revenue for the two-year old title. Competitors are catching on for the battle royale, mass shoot ’em ups matching players online.

These should be heady times for Fortnite, the battle-royale shooting game that’s set the video-game industry reeling since its release two years ago.

But after earning Epic an estimated $2.4 billion in revenue across 2018, revenue is falling this year amidst a number of issues.

“Revenue and viewer numbers have been sliding for much of this year,” Bloomberg News says, noting a recent report from researcher SuperData of a 38 percent revenue drop in May to $203 million,

“Its best-known player, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, just left Inc.’s Twitch streaming platform, where he made his name, for an exclusive deal to play the game on Microsoft Corp.’s less-watched Mixer site. And hardcore Fortnite fans are in a tizzy about a new character, a heavy-handed robot named B.R.U.T.E. that some claim is taking all of the fun out of the title.”

Bloomberg also cites other signs of trouble such as a drop in viewering across streaming platform Twitch.

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“When the game first came out, it was the biggest and newest thing that everyone wanted to see, but all games get stale and lose their steam,” said Nate Hill, a professional Fortnite player on FaZe Clan’s roster. “Any new tournament will drive numbers up, but I don’t think there will ever be a large spike again.”

No surrender

Epic has, however, dropped hints that it’s not about to surrender to competition, making moves that could bolster Fortnite in the future:

  • Moving into esports
  • Beefing up management
  • Opening a new studio in Europe
  • Embracing tech upgrades such as improved streaming

Worth billions after the Fortnite sensation rolled around the world and bolstered by a huge billion-dollar round of new capital last year, Epic remains a brute in the world of gaming even if Fortnite is losing some of its shine.

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