Fortnite: Battle Royale is no stranger to controversy.
That comes with arguably being the most popular game in the world and the addition of overpowered weapons, such as the Infinity Blade, or broken vehicles, such as the X-4 Stormwing and the Baller, which have often left a bad taste in players’ mouths. But even so, they continue to play Fortnite.
However, a controversial gameplay change that came with Fortnite’s recent v8.20 update has prompted cries of “Revert!” and boycotts from hardcore and professional players, and is threatening to undermine the game’s community like never before.
In all fairness to Fortnite developer Epic Games, their decision made sense for the game’s majority population of casual players. The previously-prevalent aggressive style of play put them at too much of a disadvantage against more skilled players, who they would often encounter due to Fortnite’s lack of a tiered matchmaking system. Twitch streamer Ninja said it best in a reaction video shortly after the v8.20 update, referring to Epic’s decision as a way to create a “place of safety” for new and casual players.
Safe doesn’t always mean fun for some people though, especially for Fortnite pros like Ali “Myth” Kabbani of Team SoloMid.
Fortnite’s “Revert!” movement started shortly after the game’s v8.20 update reverted the following changes to elimination rewards and building materials:
- 50 Health (or Shield) based on your health when the Elimination occurs.
- 50/50/50 materials dropped on Elimination.
- 500/500/500 Cap on materials.
- Harvest rate increased by 40%
The above mechanics were first added in the v7.40 update, which not only made it easier for players to bounce back from fights, but actually incentivized them to seek out and eliminate other players.
Such an aggressive playstyle became the norm for many of Fortnite’s top players and streamers, who saw it as a way to show just how good they are at both gunplay and building — two of the game’s core mechanics. It’s also one of the reasons why Fortnite has been the most popular battle royale title so far, as that run-and-gun-and-build, so to speak, gameplay was more entertaining than say, PUBG’s slower pace of play.
The changes that came with the v8.20 update made both building and fighting significantly more difficult, essentially killing what has been Fortnite’s trademark aggressive playstyle. While they have been reverted from Fortnite’s core game modes, they are still in play in the new ‘Arena’ mode — Fortnite’s attempt at ranked matchmaking.
But one of the problems was that no one really played the Arena mode, mostly because queue times for matches there were far too long. For most Fortnite streamers and content creators, that led to less time playing and fewer viewers. It’s understandable that they would want to remain playing in Fortnite’s normal matches — even if they would mostly end up matched with players that are significantly less-skilled than they are.
And from all that came the dismayed cries of “Revert!” from most of the Fortnite community. To get a sense of just how unpopular that change was, peep this poll by Fortnite top streamer and poster boy Tyler “Ninja” Blevins:
What’s even more damning was that Ninja and several other top Fortnite streamers ended up playing UNO on their streams instead. Yep, you read that right, UNO.
This isn’t new for many games, as they would often have to reconcile balancing gameplay with both casual and professional players in mind. However, Fortnite is in a unique and shaky position on this, mostly due to the things that have made it the most popular title in the already ascendant battle royale genre.
In games such as Overwatch or League of Legends, for example, players on all skill levels essential play the same game but differ in terms of reaction time or execution. But in Fortnite, players need to utilize both gunplay and building to survive against 99 other players in a map. New and casual players would often be lacking in either (if not both) of those departments, further amplifying their difference in skill compared to hardcore players. New and casual players just naturally lose to better players, a fact especially obvious in 100-man battle royales, just ask Daequan Loco of TSM:
But it must be said that Epic has already done a good job of allowing players to enjoy Fortnite in different ways, from non-combat challenges to the Creative and Playground Modes.
Still, the fact remains that Fortnite is a battle royale game: an uncompromising gameplay experience with a high skill cap where you can get eliminated mere minutes after a match begins. There is just no going around losing to players that are better than you most of the time. And while that is not exactly being a fun experience, getting lucky enough to eliminate those same players is still a rewarding for any casual player too.
With that said, Epic is still at a veritable crossroads on this. Should the developer cater more towards the casual majority, or adhere to the wishes of the vocal minority? It’s not as easy a choice as you would think.
Sure, you can say that from a developer standpoint, it’s a no-brainer to go with what’s better for the casual majority. But in Fortnite’s case, it’s hard to ignore pros and streamers like Ninja, especially if the game is serious with its esports aspirations in the Fortnite World Cup (it’s a bad look to alter your game’s competitive landscape before a major competition, obviously). After all, one can argue that Fortnite’s popularity rose hand-in-hand with that of streamers like Ninja — whose influence grew so much thanks to streaming Fortnite that he’s getting paid millions to play other games.
If Ninja is choosing to play UNO instead of Fortnite of his own volition after such a controversial change — on top of the whole “Revert!” movement going on — shouldn’t Epic be worried?
If you ask me, it’s better for Epic to listen to the pros on this one and just “Revert!” already. Fortnite is a battle royale after all, where you can expect pros and streamers (who are all pretty angry right now, by the way) to run circles around casuals. Survival of the fittest and all that, you know? But hey, that doesn’t mean a lucky shot from some noob won’t down someone like Ninja. That’s also part of the battle royale experience, better to keep things that way.