Why Is 'Fortnite' so Popular and What's so Addictive About the Cartoon Battle Royale?

fortnite wukong
My favorite Fortnite skin, Wukong. Epic Games

Fortnite has quickly exploded, conquering the Battle Royale genre. Predecessors like H1Z1 and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds have given way to Epic Games' cartoony but violent new kid on the block. The free-to-play game is available for PS4, Xbox One, PC and now Android and iOS, and its addictive gameplay and shiny skins have sparked an unimaginable number of downloads.

On Twitch, Fortnite is the new king, and its popularity on the platform is a major factor in its success. Games like League of Legends and Overwatch used to be the most-watched games on the site, but those days are long gone. Viewers by the hundreds of thousands flock to Fortnite streamers like Shroud, Myth and countless others.The biggest streamer of 2017 with a a fervent fanbase backing his macho persona, Dr Disrespect, moved from PUBG to Fortnite , constantly staying on top of trends.

The most-watched Fortnite streamer is Ninja, a former Halo pro turned Fortnite superstar. No streamer comes close to his popularity, pulling in more than 100,000 fans per stream. He's the first on the site to gather three million followers, coming close to the four million followers he's gathered on YouTube. Ninja is so popular that Kotaku wrote a profile piece without actually interviewing the guy, and a variety of outlets post about his income and subscriber count. In two weeks, Ninja managed to gather tens of thousands of subscribers, which sites like Polygon and IGN believed meant bot activity. He's currently at 160,000 subscribers and climbing rapidly.


— Ninja (@Ninja) March 12, 2018

Twitch issued a statement assuring online speculators that the rise in subscriptions had to do more with people activating their Twitch Prime accounts to get the Fortnite DLC. "We've seen large numbers of players trying Twitch Prime for the first time, getting free loot, and using their first monthly free channel subscription," a company spokesman told IGN. "It's great to see many broadcasters getting a bump from these new Twitch Prime members. New members are subscribing to these popular Fortnite channels and we haven't seen any indication of bot activity.​"​

So we have a game that's so popular that a skin add-on was enough to cause virtual cries of fraud. Fortnite 's popularity seems to have caught everyone off-guard, even the developers, who responded to hitting 3.4 million concurrent players in February by hiring more engineers to handle the server load. Epic Games has found the golden ticket and a shield potion or two.

Nothing quite sums up 2018 on the internet quite like Fortnite . It's highly addictive, fun to play and adds new building mechanics to a playful exterior that's fun for casuals and pros. You can pop into a match, be the first person to die and then just hop right into another. It's an endless, compulsive cycle that can swallow up all your time. I've told myself I was going to play one game before work, got caught in a spiral and woke from my trance at 2 A.M. with a dinosaur backpack I bought with real money.

Twitch streamer ClintStevens captured the moment as eloquently as possible; Epic Games managed to make a game everyone wants to play.