NEW YORK — Embroiled in antitrust fights with both tech giants Apple and Google, Epic Games’ Fortnite connects with millions despite being banned from both app stores of the companies they are fighting.

In its biggest weekend ever, video game maker Epic Games launched Fortnite OG, bringing players back to some of the game’s original settings and breaking its all-time one-day player record in the process.

“Really fun games never go out of style and never go out of date,” said Victor Lucas, a gaming expert behind television series Electric Playground.

Over 44.7 million players joined on Saturday, logging a total of 102 million hours of play to make it the biggest day in Fortnite’s history, the game’s official account posted on X, the social platform formerly known as Twitter, Sunday.

An all-time high of more than 6.1 million players were enjoying the game at once on Sunday, according to live stats tracker

Epic Games alleges ‘bribe and block’ strategy in antitrust suit against Google

Nostalgia fire power

“Nostalgia is a massive thing in the video game industry,” Lucas told CNN, pointing toward major franchises like World of Warcraft and Resident Evil Four that have also relaunched old favorites to capture old audiences. “If you play and you love this stuff, you really attach emotional threads to it all and it really registers – and nostalgia is a big part of that.”

After launching in 2017, the battle royale-style game Fortnite launched more than 25 seasons that typically last around three months, taking the storyline to new heights with constant changes. Each season brings all new features to the popular game, offering unique characters, maps, weapons, accessories and events – such as the then-record breaking “Astronomical” live-streamed Travis Scott concert in April 2020 attended by more than 12 million people – while often taking away beloved (and not so beloved) existing elements.

But this time is different. Scheduled to last only one month, “Chapter 4 Season OG,” doesn’t feature a full line-up of new environment goodies. Instead, players of the smash hit are revisiting the maps, weapons and vehicles of Chapter 1 Season 5, getting the chance to go back to old surroundings and reuse long-gone items.

“POV: It’s 2018. Welcome to Fortnite OG,” the Friday press release announcing the new season reads.

Each update during the OG season will re-introduce a part of the game’s past. ”Go back in time Season by Season,” the company wrote, re-launching old favorites like All Terrain Karts, the Boogie Bomb and the Pump Shotgun. The Item Shop is also selling throwback outfits and accessories that change daily for users to browse and purchase.

Players are already begging Epic Games to keep the current version as is, dreading the planned end of OG in less than a month.

“I speak for the entire community when I say that Fortnite og should stay as a mode that we can always play,” wrote one player on X.

“[O]ne of the best fortnite updates ever,” wrote another.

“Fortnite has exceeded all expectations. It has become this enormous juggernaut,” Lucas said. “[Fortnite OG] will fuel a lot of business plans and a lot of game designers and game directors at studios coming back and saying with this anecdotal evidence ‘look, we need to go back and revisit this era in our IPs existence, and we think players would love to jump back in there.’”

An Epic battle of its own

The smash success of Fortnite OG comes as Epic Games heads to federal court in an antitrust lawsuit against Google that could reshape how smartphone users get Android apps and pay for in-app content.

Epic’s lawsuit in the US District Court in California’s Northern District targets the Google Play Store, focusing on Google’s fees for in-app subscriptions and one-off transactions, along with other terms that app developers such as Epic say helped Google maintain an illegal monopoly in app distribution.

The jury may hear high-profile witnesses testify from both sides, including Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Epic CEO Tim Sweeney.

The court fight traces back to 2020, when Epic launched Project Liberty, a plan to circumvent Apple and Google’s app store terms. That move by Epic forced a confrontation with the tech giants.

Epic updated the Fortnite app to encourage players to pay for in-app content directly through Epic’s own website — rather than through Apple and Google’s in-app payment systems. That gambit triggered a violation of the app stores’ developer terms.

The move also prompted both app stores to remove the Fortnite app from their platforms. It meant Apple users could no longer play Fortnite on iOS devices. Epic’s case involving Apple may soon be reviewed by the US Supreme Court. Fortnite is still available on Android devices through a variety of non-Google channels, as well as on multiple gaming devices like the Xbox and PlayStation.

Epic Games also faced legal issues last year before settling with the Federal Trade Commission in December for $245 million over allegations that it used deceptive tactics that drove Fortnite users to make unwanted purchases in the multiplayer shooter game. The FTC opened the claims process in September for the more than 37 million potentially affected users who could qualify for compensation.

– CNN’s Clare Duffy and Brian Fung contributed to this report.

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