Epic Games’ Debut of ‘Fortnite’ Free Mode Results in a Big Hit

When Epic Games debuted “Fortnite” in July for $40, it wasn’t a big hit, so the company debuted a free version to create buzz. Since then, Epic Games’ servers have been nearly overwhelmed by an estimated 40 million gamers playing the free and paid versions of the game, putting it in the same category as Activision Blizzard’s big hit “Overwatch.” Epic Games, which would not disclose sales numbers, plans to make the main version free later this year. “Fortnite” is available on PCs and consoles such as PlayStation 4.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, according to SuperData Research, Epic Games has “made at least $157 million off the free version since late September by selling virtual goods such as character costumes.” The game “mixes two popular genres: It is a building game like ‘Minecraft’ and a traditional shoot-’em-up.” As a multiplayer game, “Fortnite” also allows friends to play and talk together online, and because there’s a free version, more friends can join in.

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The gameplay of the free version mimics that of the 2017 hit “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” (PUBG) that features a world akin to “The Hunger Games.” Gameplay lasts 20 minutes or less, which parents like because “players can pop out to do chores or homework and quickly join another match.”

Not everyone embraces the idea of a free game. Take-Two Interactive Software chief executive Strauss Zelnick “dismissed the idea of giving away a console game,” adding that “only a fraction of players spend on in-game purchases.” “That’s not going to support the very significant investment that a triple A title requires here and in our competitors’ shops,” he said.

Express reports that, “Fortnite and PUBG have so far ruled the Battle Royale genre, but these heavyweight games are set to get a brand new ‘Call of Duty’ rival.” “Call of Duty’s Battle Royale” is an 18-player “fight for survival” rather than the 100-player version of its rivals. The goal is also different. Rather than being the last player standing, as in “Fortnite” and “PUBG,” “Call of Duty” is about getting the highest kill count and also “lets players choose their starting point.”

For now, “the Battle Royale mode is being tested in ‘Call of Duty: Online,’ a free-to-play version of COD specifically designed for the Chinese markets.” Treyarch is said to be developing the “next entry in the ‘Call of Duty’ series,” “Black Ops 4,” for PS4, Xbox One, PCs and Nintendo Switch.