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'Fortnite OG' salutes its past while building toward gaming's future

Fortnite players provide their thoughts on this unique comeback of Fortnite's 'glory days'

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Sticky notes spelling out the message "Fortnite?" on a fifth floor window of Palo Verde West in Tempe on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023.

Franchises and entertainment companies re-releasing old content or creating new, derivative content is nothing new. Still, the release of "Fortnite OG" is a unique take that could shake up the gaming world. 

Fortnite has been impossible to miss since its explosion in 2018, quickly rising to the top of the gaming industry and setting a standard for many now-commonplace features.

Fortnite rose to popularity for many college students when they were coming of age. Many players grew up with the game and were able to foster and grow friendships because of it and its cooperative but competitive nature. 

"It was great to get home from school during that time and play with friends," said Mavrik Garrison, 19, a Fortnite player with over 2000 hours. 

Garrison said that while many kids at the time would use sports for fun and social interaction, his friend group had Fortnite. Many other players had similar experiences. Thus, there was a lot of market for a return of the game's 'glory days' from Fortnite's player base.

The game has been relevant in recent years but has taken a noticeable hit in player count since its peak. 

"Fortnite (isn't) going anywhere, especially since it caters to so many different age groups and demographics," said Audranay Harvey, a sophomore studying applied biological sciences.

But for original and new players alike, this comeback was big.

"I was obviously excited," said Asad Jamal, the vice president of eSports at ASU, a junior studying information technology and a former Fortnite competitor. "I'm kind of someone who gets tricked into nostalgia pretty easily. But honestly speaking, I thought it was a good idea."

And so far, it has been. The buzz around the game in recent weeks has been second to none since the launch of "Fortnite OG" on Friday, Nov. 3. According to Elite Games, Fortnite recorded a record 44.7 million players on the following Sunday, more than any day in the game's history. This incredible success for Fortnite's numbers has certainly not gone unnoticed either.

Garrison said that every other gaming company keeps an eye on Fortnite, and Epic Games is a trendsetter in in-game content and business decisions.

Activision Blizzard attempted a similar comeback with "Overwatch 2" in 2022 but with less acclaim. 

"The big game developers, they're all peering over the desk looking at each other's homework," Jamal said. "I'm sure (Fortnite) learned some lessons, both good and bad, from the Overwatch 2 release."

This looks to be a direct result of listening to their players but still holding creative and narrative control. In most circles, players have wished for a return to what Fortnite once was, as its 'Ship of Theseus' nature of changing little by little has ended with what was almost an unrecognizable game. 

"Everyone knew they wanted the old map back; Everyone knew that it would give you that feeling, and it did," Garrison said. "The player base knows best. As long as you can keep them happy, your players are going to keep playing, and that’s all that really matters for your game."

But though the game's success is extreme now, there are questions once "Fortnite OG" ends on Dec. 2. Garrison said that Fortnite is undoubtedly bracing for some dip once this chapter is over and that their rollout and release of the upcoming Chapter 5 will reflect this. 

"When people are saying, 'bring back the OG Fortnite mode,' obviously they mean permanently, but I think Fortnite knows that nostalgia will eventually run out," Jamal said. "You can't turn back the clock."

Jamal also suspects that "Fortnite OG" wasn’t just fan service but also a test that allowed Epic Games to analyze what works and what doesn't. Through it, the company can best prepare for the future through the players' reactions. 

As for the future of gaming, "Fortnite OG" will make some impact. Despite its success, some players don't want every company to try their take on a similar callback. 

"Putting out so many updates and changing the game so much in such a short amount of time isn't necessarily what the people want," Harvey said. "Eventually, the same things do get old."

Nonetheless, attempts will be made. It just comes down to their quality, 

"In order for (gaming companies) to try and keep that piece of the pie that they have, they have to keep innovating; they have to keep reinventing themselves," Jamal said. "One of those ways is bringing back the old in a fresh way. This format was a really great idea for (Fortnite)."

Edited by Claire van Doren, Walker Smith and Caera Learmonth.

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