It’s fair to say that Fortnite, and Fortnite Battle Royale specifically, is the biggest video game on the planet right now.
That’s an especially amazing feat when you remember that Fortnite was originally conceived as a cooperative online game of building defenses and fending off monster assaults. The battle royale mode that’s become so popular was added to the “main” (lol) game a few months after it launched as an early access release in July 2017.
Although Fortnite Battle Royale has been around since September of that year, it really found its footing in 2018. It’s wild to look back over the past year of Fortnite headlines and realize just how much of an impact this one game has managed to have in a short amount of time.
It’s not just a game at this point. Fortnite is a cultural touchstone, the sort of thing that’s so inherently interesting — for whatever reason — that it crosses all boundaries and seeps into all conversations. Let’s take a look at the moments that shaped its meteoric rise in 2018.
10. Creative Mode launches
Coming in Season 7… Fortnite Creative!
Design games and build your dream Fortnite with friends. Everything you make is saved.
Get early access to your own private island when you buy the Season 7 Battle Pass.Advertisement
— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) December 5, 2018
Epic Games launched Fortnite‘s Creative Mode in mid-December, giving players an entirely new way to interact with the game. It’s not quite Minecraft — you get your own island and you can build whatever you want there, but there’s no infinite sprawl of randomly generated weather biomes.
It does, however, inject a new layer of creativity into a game that already has all the tools in place to empower that approach to fun. In the few days since Creative Mode launched, we’ve already seen players recreate a popular map from Counter-Strike as well as the Dunder Mifflin office from The Office (among many other things).
Best of all, players can share their creations. Expect a whole new angle on Fortnite to explode in 2019.
9. Epic Games Store launches
The launch of the Epic Games Store — essentially a competitor to Steam and other game-peddling online retailers — made waves. Not only did it arrive with some promising indies locked in as exclusives right off the bat, it offers developers and publishers a more generous cut of sales money than competing storefronts.
What does it all mean? Thanks to the size of Epic’s business — as both the publisher of Fortnite and the proprietor of the industry-standard Unreal Engine software tools — Epic Games Store arrived as an immediate competitor to Steam, the industry leader in online games retail, on day one. The store’s launch didn’t directly impact Fortnite, but it’s fair to say that the market disruption Epic is chasing wouldn’t be possible without Fortnite.
8. Fortnite goes mobile
This isn’t so much a singular moment as a series of moves. Fortnite launched on all the hardware you’d expect back in July 2017: Windows/Mac, PlayStation, and Xbox. But then, in March 2018, the battle royale portion of the game came to iOS. A Nintendo Switch version followed in June. Then, it showed up for Android in July.
You have to understand: big-shit console/PC games don’t tend to make their way to mobile devices. And online shooting games don’t really jive with Nintendo. But Fortnite isn’t a terribly demanding game to play from a hardware perspective, and there’s an audience hungry to play it wherever they can. So Fortnite Mobile was born.
7. NFL partnership
Fortnite and the NFL are industry giants in their respective entertainment spaces. Few video games have the global reach of Epic’s still-young battle royale. And at some point in the past two or so decades, American football supplanted baseball as the top U.S. sport.
The two brands entered this partnership as equals, with no one riding the other’s coattails. Both brands have their problems. But make no mistake: This was a power move, plain and simple.
6. “Take the L” makes a World Cup appearance
When it comes to the global stage, there isn’t really a bigger platform than the World Cup. The 2018 edition of the international soccer tournament unfolded in Russia in June and July, and Fortnite made an unexpected-yet-memorable in one of those games.
During the July 15 finals match-up between France and Croatia, French player Antoine Griezmann made headlines after he scored a penalty shot, giving his team a 2-1 lead (France would eventually win the game, 4-2). But it wasn’t the score that made headlines, it was Griezmann’s celebratory dance.
He busted out “Take the L,” a taunting Fortnite dance that was instantly recognizable to a worldwide community of players.
5. Thanos comes to Fortnite
The Fortnite/NFL partnership was a big deal, but ultimately it was just a bunch of sports-themed cosmetic items added to the game. Epic’s partnership with Marvel, tied to the April release of Avengers: Infinity War, was a whole different story.
Thanos quite literally arrived in Fortnite. For the length of the Marvel event, all players had a chance of finding and wielding the prize movie Thanos sought, a fully assembled Infinity Gauntlet. The player that discovered it immediately transformed into the big, purple super-villain, charging them up with an array of powers that could tilt the balance in any match.
It was a nifty little moment that allowed Marvel fans to live out the fantasy of being an all-powerful space villain armed with a magical, universe-stomping golden glove.
4. Battle Pass introduced
This one’s a bit of a cheat. The Fortnite Battle Pass technically launched on Dec. 14, 2017 at the start of Season 2. But the game’s second season ran until Feb. 21, 2018, which means the most important impacts of this new addition to the game were felt this year.
For the Fortnite illiterate: Battle Pass is the heart of Epic’s Fortnite monetization. It’s the only way for players to get their hands on a particular season’s themed unlockables. Buying the Battle Pass opens up a separate leveling ladder for players to climb. So as you play and level up your profile the normal way, you’re also earning Battle Pass levels that, over time, unlock all the sought after items a season delivers.
Battle Pass isn’t just a big deal in Fortnite; it’s an industry game-changer too. Plenty of online-focused games these days make money by dangling cool cosmetic enhancements in front of players. Epic’s Battle Pass folds all that stuff into a progression tree, giving players something to reach for as they continue to play the game. Expect to see plenty more games embrace this approach to seasonal content in the next year.
3. Season 4 and the epic meteor strike
As much as the Battle Pass is instrumental in providing players with dangling carrots to reach for, it’s not what makes Fortnite the game an interesting thing to come back to. Credit for that goes to whichever team at Epic is tasked with crafting Fortnite‘s events, which now tend to cap off old seasons and kick off new ones.
The first big splash happened at the end of Season 3. Over the course of that season, players had spotted and started to track a meteor’s path across the sky. People saw this mysterious new arrival as something important. They were right.
On May 1, 2018, the first day of Season 4, the meteor came crashing down onto the map. It hit the location known as Dusty Depot and altered the landscape of Fortnite Battle Royale‘s single, sprawling map. Every season that’s followed has adopted a similar approach, building a mystery for players to puzzle over until all is revealed at the start of the next season.
2. PlayStation 4 cross-play
Cross-platform play is increasingly old news in the gaming world. More and more, we’re seeing platform gatekeepers swing open the doors for online games to connect players across the different machines they choose to play on. Through all of it, however, Sony has been the lone holdout.
Fortnite changed everything.
It started with a screw-up. When Fortnite launched on Switch, it suddenly became clear how restrictive a partially cross-platform game could be for certain segments of players. Anyone who had a PS4-connected Fortnite account found they couldn’t access their stuff (or their account) on Switch.
It was a huge mess for Sony. Longtime Fortnite players were suddenly barred from using stuff they’d paid for (and accessing a profile they’d spent time building), all because they’d made the mistake of playing the game first on PS4. Within four months, Sony backed down and launched Fortnite cross-play in beta. It’s only a matter of time now before other online heavy-hitters join the cross-play party.
1. Drake teams up with Ninja
The popular Fortnite streamer Ninja is off the mark when he claims that Drake made gaming “cool.” It was already a multi-billion dollar global entertainment market when Fortnite and Ninja both came along. That’s pretty “cool” to me.
But! Drake’s March 2018 team-up with Ninja was an absolutely massive moment for Fortnite. The game had been steadily building steam until that point, bringing in more and more regular streamers and viewers on a month-to-month basis. But the Drake moment, which shattered Twitch viewership records, took the game’s success into the stratosphere.
Here we had one of the biggest pop stars on the planet cracking wise with one of the most popular streamers in the Fortnite scene. It was explosive, and it probably cemented Fortnite‘s complete and total dominance as a streaming favorite in 2018.