The status of “Fornite” as the world’s most popular game wasn’t thought to be in doubt as recently as six months ago. “Fortnite” is a behemoth of a game when it comes to popularity. Every teenager in the world seems to play it, plenty of adults play it as well, and for some people, it’s become a whole career. There are gamers on platforms like Twitch who do nothing but stream themselves playing “Fornite,” and they earn a good living out of doing so. “Fortnite” is more than a game – it’s an industry. It might now be about to become an industry under threat.
Before “Fortnite” came along, “Call of Duty” was the most popular first-person-shooter in the world. The warfare series has sold hundreds of millions of copies of its various incarnations, and Activision enjoyed that fact. When “Fortnite” came along and stole its crown, we can imagine that the company wasn’t best pleased about it. They’re probably quite pleased today, though, because we’ve been told that “Call of Duty: Warzone” is now more popular with gamers – and especially young people – than “Fortnite” is.
The fact that “Call of Duty: Warzone” has become so popular with the younger end of the market is probably a shock both to Activision and to Epic Games, who make and maintain “Fortnite.” The latter game, with its cartoonish style, is clearly aimed at a younger audience. “Call of Duty” is played by teenagers, but it’s aimed more squarely at adults. Most of the “Call of Duty” games come with an R rating. There’s even an UK slots based on “Call of Duty,” and online slots are adults-only products. The company that made that game for online slots audiences did so in the full knowledge that they’d attract an adult audience by doing so. It would be unthinkable – and probably even irresponsible – for someone to make an online slots game based on “Fortnite.” Kids are supposed to love “Fortnite,” yet the data suggests that they’re switching their allegiance.
To put the data into context, it comes from a survey performed by Piper Sandle called “Taking Stock With Teens.” Just under ten thousand US-based teenagers were invented to answer questions on a variety of topics, and gaming was among them. The difference in attitudes towards the games from the respondents is staggering. A massive 62% of the teenagers polled confirmed that they regularly played “Call of Duty,” whereas only 37% said the same about “Fornite.” In spring 2019, eighteen months ago, that number was 53%. That suggests a sharp decline in the fortunes of “Fortnite,” and also suggests that many of the people who’ve stopped playing the game have started playing “Call of Duty: Warzone” instead.
We shouldn’t forget that taking on “Fortnite” was the whole point of the “Warzone” edition of “Call of Duty.” Part of the appeal of “Fortnite,” and also its popularity, is that it’s free to play. There are certain things within the game that you could pay for if you wanted to, but there’s no requirement placed on players to do so. “Call of Duty” has always been a game you have to pay money for, and a premium-priced one at that. “Warzone” was a change in strategy for Activision. It almost copies the format of “Fortnite.” The game is free to play and can be played by anyone who has a current-gen video games console or a PC, but there are things within it that can be paid for if a player so desires. It differs from other “Call of Duty” games in that there isn’t a single-player mode, but that’s not the point of it. Activision wanted to capture a share of the “Fortnite” market. It appears that they’ve done a lot better than that – they’ve enormously outperformed it.
There are various things that Epic Games can point at to explain their game’s apparent sudden drop in popularity. One of them is that anyone who used to play the game on their iPhone, iPad, or other Apple product probably isn’t doing so at the moment. The company is involved in an ugly dispute with Apple about the terms and conditions of Apple’s App Store, and the dispute has led to legal action being taken by both sides of the argument. Until that situation is resolved – which could take months because of the arduous nature of the American legal system – players on Apple devices are unable to download any new content from the game. That means they’re currently an in-game season behind and can only play against each other as opposed to enjoying the cross-platform access they had in the past.
While it might be tempting for Epic to blame Apple for this situation, they must also face up to the fact that nothing (well, nothing except “Minecraft”) lasts forever in the world of video gaming. “Fortnite” has been around for a long time now, and it’s arguably maintained its high level of popularity for far longer than most people expected it to. “Pokemon Go” didn’t stay at a fever pitch for this long, and nor has anything else in living memory. All good things come to an end, and the game’s time at the top of the tree had to come to a halt eventually. Even if it’s attracting fewer players now than it was a year ago, it’s still a very popular and profitable game. It doesn’t have to be ranked number one to continue to deliver big money to Epic, and so they shouldn’t be overly concerned about losing the top spot if that’s even really what’s happened. Ten thousand is a big number, and it’s a lot of people for a survey, but it speaks only for teenagers, and even then, it’s only teenagers in the USA. Opinions and habits elsewhere in the world might be significantly different.
If Activision’s juggernaut has indeed toppled Epic’s, the ball is now in Epic’s court to respond. Even if they’re still making money, they’ll want to wrestle their crown back, and we’ll be interested to see what they come up with in the attempt to make that happen.
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