“Fortnite” Reveals Larger Trend in Gaming

Console games increasingly take advantage of mobile tricks


Photo by Epic Games

Various skins are displayed in this promotional image.

Nathan Fletcher, Staff Reporter

After playing Fortnite for a solid 20 hours (for research purposes only, of course), the one thing that shocked me was how familiar it felt. This was particularly odd considering how rarely I play these kinds of online multiplayer games. After staring at the home screen for a few minutes, though, it dawned on me: I was looking at a mobile game.

I don’t mean to say that Fortnite and Candy Crush are one-and-the-same, but there is no denying that the way Fortnite attempts to make a profit is comparable to the way many apps do it. First of all, Fortnite is free-to-play, which means that in-game-purchases are going to be necessary to turn a profit. There are two options available for purchase: a single-player campaign (which isn’t exactly popular) and outfits for your in-game character.

Now, if you are wondering how a video game gets its target audience of teenage boys to pay to play virtual dress-up dolls, the system only works because Fortnite operates as its own marketing campaign. It promotes a culture of conspicuous consumption to ensure that players feel the need to buy their skins, despite being quite literally worthless and doing nothing to enhance the game. The game is an advertisement of itself, to the point where gameplay seems to take a backseat to profit.

Video games have, of course, always been about profit. It’s an unfortunate truth of entertainment media that money is always the driving factor. However, it wasn’t until recently that video game developers started blatantly seeking ways to turn bigger and bigger profits.

A few months ago, an uproar erupted over EA’s Battlefront 2. For those of you that don’t know, Battlefront is a first-person shooter based on the Star Wars movies. The first game in the series was wildly successful, so you can imagine the hype for its sequel. Unfortunately, EA put in one tiny feature, and the internet blew up.

The problem was loot boxes. Think of loot boxes like a pack of baseball cards. You don’t know what you’re going to get until after you pay for it. They’ve long been used in mobile gaming with little complaint. However, there is an implication with mobile games that everyone else is paying to get ahead and no one cares that much because it’s just a casual app. In an online, highly competitive world it’s a completely different story.

Loot boxes and other money-raking tools aren’t just hated because they are obvious cash-grabs. In most cases, they undermine the game itself. Players are forced to potentially pay significant amounts, in addition to purchasing the game itself, just to complete it. It’s not really the same game if the only way to beat it is through monetary means. Nor is it fair that a player can get a reward that would normally take 40+ in-game hours to achieve with the swipe of a credit card.

Coming from someone who thinks Cuphead is a suitable example for the amount of plot a game needs, even I don’t think games should be allowed to devolve into what we see in Fortnite. Pay-to-win systems take away the challenge of the game, but pay-because-we-tricked-you-into-paying systems are even worse. It’s okay to want to make some money, but if developers keep letting profit get in the way of user experience and directing user experience to profit instead of gameplay, we will be stuck with the same overly-simple, unrewarding and repetitive garbage we currently have.

Nathan Fletcher

Nathan became a member of The Flightline in August of 2017. He is a senior this year, involved in cross country, track, and drama, and can be found watching movies outside of school. You can email him at [email protected]