It happened seemingly overni(gh)te – Epic Games' battle royale-style game, Fortnite, was made available for free download and immediately became a gaming sensation.
In less than a year the game had surpassed over a million players, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Its popularly has been fueled by Twitch streamers such as Ninja and Myth, and more recently a historic matchup which saw rapper Drake join Ninja's team for the most widely watched Twitch stream to date. While some critics have expressed criticism in its similarity to PUBG, the game's building mode adds an entirely new dimension and strategic element that makes Fortnite a much different game.
This rapid growth is good for everyone involved, games, fans and streaming services. But what does it mean for the future of gaming, and how did we get here?
Battle royale games such as Fortnite and PUBG would not have grown so rapidly and monumentally had it not been for streaming services like Twitch. These sites allow talented (and amateur) gamers to share footage of the games they're currently playing live for audiences to watch, often narrating and commenting while doing so. Before this, streamers would have stream via their own websites acquired from companies like 1&1, or video sites like YouTube, but their streams wouldn't take place in real time (YouTube only introduced this later). In the case of PUBG and Fortnite, popular streamers contributed greatly to the sales and downloads of these games with an Opera-like effect - that is, interest in the games skyrocketed when they were mentioned and played by top streamers.
How gaming changed
Whereas gaming used to be a competitive endeavor, trying to beat the game itself or other players in a multiplayer area, it has since evolved. Matthew DiPietro, Vice President of Marketing at Twitch said it best:
It's likely that game development in the future will be geared more towards making games more "streamable" to further capitalize on the massive viewership attracted to platforms like Twitch. This in turn will lead to more and more popular streaming personalities, creating an entire new league of celebrities idolized by young people.
Ultimately this demonstrates more than anything that while gaming used to be a fringe interest for geeks and bookworms, it's now firmly situated in mainstream culture, and will continue to grow unabated.