Then there were the special “rift zones.” At one point in the season
October 20, 2019
Then there were the special “rift zones.” At one point in the season, there was a Batman-themed zone, a Borderlands 3 promotional zone, and numerous other rule-bending arenas on the map with their own distinct traits to account for. The result was that Fortnite felt like an overstuffed and overwhelming ad. By the end of the season, the game had fallen from its typical top spot on Twitch to the back half of the top 10, where it was regularly surpassed in viewership by years-old titles like Minecraft, Grand Theft Auto V, and the rerelease of World of Warcraft.
Part of that Twitch decline was due to two key events. Popular streamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins abandoned Twitch in early August for a new home on Microsoft-owned Mixer. The following month, the game’s biggest personality, Turner “Tfue” Tenney, took an extended streaming break due to a self-described depressive spell and his general unhappiness with streaming Fortnite. (Tfue’s break also came shortly after he used a racial slur on stream; not coincidentally, he was playing Minecraft at the time, not Fortnite.)
Yet without those two personalities backing it on Twitch, Fortnite’s ability to capture the attention of the streaming community looked like it had endured a near-fatal blow from which it might not recover. Of course, the game was still likely making plenty of money and enjoying millions of players logging in every day. But part of Fortnite’s continued success has involved its incredible momentum and Epic’s ability to constantly stay at the forefront of the gaming zeitgeist, be it through e-sports, live events, or limited time game modes and crossovers. For the first time, it seemed like that magic touch was fading.
All of that looks like it’s starting to turn around following last weekend’s black hole event and yesterday’s launch of Fortnite’s next chapter. The destruction of the island, followed by a two-day blackout during which Epic presumably did some technical maintenance and enjoyed the internet losing its mind, was nothing short of genius.
It played on months upon months of criticism that Epic needed an overhaul to its map and a big, splashy turnaround that would grab everyone’s attention and bring back lapsed fans. And the developer did just that. Millions of people tuned into the black hole event, and millions stuck around for hours after, waiting to see when the intended result might materialize. Nothing would happen for roughly 40 hours.
But when it did, and the new map and season launched, it was evident Epic had planned something special. The opening few minutes after you boot up the updated version of the game feature a standard cinematic shot we’ve come to expect, but then Fortnite v buck generator threw you directly into a match in a seamless transition from its CGI cutscene. It was a staggeringly effective moment that ranks up there with some of the most memorable the game has ever created.