Feature Article

Fortnite Finally Gave Everyone A Break And It Was Terrifying

V-Bankruptcy hurts.

On this week's episode of the GameSpot After Dark podcast Jake, Lucy, and Tamoor are joined by Mary Kish, former GameSpot staff member, current Twitch employee, and all-around amazing streamer. The gang talks about the latest happenings in the world of video games, which includes the great Fortnite downtime of 2019. They also talk about their impression of Overwatch and The Witcher 3 Switch, as well as Disco Elysium, and Outer Wilds. Also, butt cheeks.

Where You Can Listen

Night Night, Fortnite

Tamoor: For people who don't know, it was Fortnite; season 10 finished. They ended the world of Fortnite as we know it by sucking everything into a black hole, and then for around a day it was just that black hole.

Mary: The servers went down. If you started the game up, it allowed you to uninstall or quit, which was really shocking for a bunch of 12-year-olds, without a doubt.

Lucy: I'm trying to think what the equivalent of that was when I was a kid. Oh, Sims expansion packs would get to like 75% install, and then just break. Or, you could install a Sims expansion pack and you would load up the game, and the Sims would all just be completely still and not move. That's the only frame of reference I have for wanting to play a game so badly and the game not cooperating, that I freaked out.

Tamoor: Losing internet connection when your mp3 download is at 97%.

Lucy: Oh, it's when your friend used to send you songs that they downloaded from iTunes, and then you open it on your computer and it says, "You need the iTunes password of the person who bought it," and then they wouldn't give it to you.

Mary: It's like being fairly through a game and then losing your save file.

Tamoor: But that happened and people freaked out-understandably, in some regard.

Lucy: What a PR move, though. I mean, that's nuts.

Tamoor: It was, considering... I won't quote it, but that game, some people have broken down how much that game makes on a day-by-day basis, and it is more money than we could ever earn in three lifetimes combined. People have obviously invested a lot of time into that game, a lot of money into that game, and they freaked out when it happened.

Mary: They asked for their money back.

Tamoor: Yeah. I think the thing that I struggle with is, it's very obviously not going away. Kids aren't going to be like, "Oh."

Lucy: Kids don't understand that, no.

Tamoor: Kids won't understand that, but my hope would have been a parent would have gone, "It's not going away. Relax. It'll be back. It'll be all right."

Mary: I thought it was funny to watch them freak out.

Tamoor: I was like, "Oh, it's a brief respite from Fortnite."

Lucy: Not having to write new stories about Fortnite.

Tamoor: Yeah, because honestly, perhaps I shouldn't say this, but I wrote through half of a story, which was basically about: this season has given me something I've wanted for so long, and that is an undeniable opportunity to not think about Fortnite for a while.

Because the reality of the situation is, wherever you are, there's a whole group of people out there that has to think about Fortnite [constantly]. On our side, we write about it and make videos about it, and it's... You can be like, "Oh, you don't have to write about it." Well, yeah you're right, we don't have to write about it. But then also, we're giving up a lot of-

Mary: SEO juice.

Tamoor: ... SEO juice, traffic. That sounds really cynical, but the way I see it is: Yeah, I will happily write about Fortnite until the cows come home because that traffic is what gives everyone else the opportunity to follow a passion project, and to make a video that probably won't do as good numbers as a Fortnite video would, but it's something they care about.

Mary: Jumping on that Fortnite grenade for your peers?

Tamoor: Yeah, exactly. It's like some of the freedom to do that is afforded by what covering Fortnite does. That's one side of it, but then if you're a streamer... I was watching a streamer go through the transition process from one season to Chapter 2, which is what it is now, and those streamers have to be on all the time. If they have to play Fortnite all the time, their lives are consumed by Fortnite. I guarantee-

Mary: They get burnt out.

Tamoor: Yeah, I guarantee you there's probably a few that are like, "Man, I don't have to think about Fortnite. Nothing's going to happen for at least 48 hours or 24 hours." I imagine there's some brief respite there, and even for people who work in marketing and various other ancillary industries that feed into Fortnite, it's something like... It was a break, right?

Mary: Yeah. Fortnite is a machine, and you're 100% [right] that streamers go through burnout just like writers or any other trade where they genuinely want to do something else. But you have to understand that especially a full-time streamer, someone who's made a living out of it, they're not just really good at video games, they're gamifying their lives; they know that playing Fortnite min/maxes their chances at getting more subs, more donations, and more viewers. If you want to take that seriously and grow your channel, you play what is hot; you play the number one game, and the number one game for so long has been Fortnite and you cannot stop this. If you're trying to grow, you have to play Fortnite, and that is exhausting for a streamer who is craving something new.

Tamoor: The interesting discussion is whether Epic is aware of that. They're aware of the fact that they have an industry, or they have this massive group of people who are either relying on the economy that Fortnite has created within the game and within streaming as a whole. They know that there are established people, there are people who are halfway there, there are people who are a quarter-way there, and there are people who are just starting there.

What are the realities of taking that game offline? It might serve them a purpose, but how much responsibility do they have to think about those people? I don't have the answer to that. As well as saying that, I bet you there are loads of Fortnite player-streamers that are probably like, "Oh, thank God I don't have to think about Fortnite."

Mary: You just play the next biggest thing. You just, now you're Apex Man.

Tamoor: Exactly, but also it's... You have to do your due diligence and say there's also... there are Fortnite streamers there that were like, "Oh, God, it's gone for a day. What do I do?"

Mary: Right. It's probably both. I think it's probably more relief than it is stress. I also think that, at the end of the day, we all know that the money machine, the million-dollar whale isn't going to go away forever. There was no one who probably looked at that black hole, besides maybe a couple of youths, that were like, "It's never coming back." We all knew that it would come back, it was just a matter of time. But it is interesting to think about what a streamer would do if their cash cow, or the game that they play that everyone expects them to play is no longer around.

Jake: I might be getting the streamer wrong, but didn't... I think summit1g, he was playing a lot of Fortnite because that's what was big. Then finally, he had a breaking one day and he's like, "I can't play this game anymore." Then he switched to Sea of Thieves, and that was part of the reason why Sea of Thieves had that up-trend for a while there. Because he was just so tired of it, and he's like, "I don't care. I don't care if I don't get any viewers. I don't care if I lose most of my viewers. I cannot play more of this game, I am so burnt out."

I don't know if things have changed since then; maybe he's back on Fortnite, maybe not, I don't really keep up with that kind of stuff. But I found that story super fascinating, and also just kind of inspiring because you hear about that a lot, streamers burning out on the games they're known for. It was kind of cool to hear someone who was just like, "You know, I'm just going to play what I want."

Mary: I'm going to play something I want.

Jake: Maybe it won't work out. He's probably in the minority in the fact that, first of all, he was already pretty big so even that-

Mary: He can afford to. That's the story you don't hear, is that he can afford to do it. We also have really large streamers that for whatever reason, like xQc today was like, "I'm going to play Poly Bridge." And you know what? He had 20,000 people watching him play Poly Bridge, and that probably really helped the devs of Poly Bridge and that's rad, but he can afford to.

What you don't see are all the people who are trying to get at that level that have to play the main games, and I think that's that, as a company, we even are trying to encourage people to take a break from. It's just very difficult to tell someone who's trying to make it to also play what they want, and the statistics don't lie.

Tamoor: Because I wasn't playing the game but I was writing about the game and covering it, I wanted to find someone who would focus on what was happening but also had a decent community around there. Watching this person was like, this person clearly at some point cared about this game and enjoyed this game; but it was this weird situation where it seemed like he was an auto-pilot, where the basic function of his existence was to entertain. But that meant he was playing the game, and any time someone said a word he would take it, process it and try to make it somehow entertaining.

There was a lady on the other side talking just normal things like, "I'm going to get breakfast," and then he'd be playing and sing, "Breakfaaaaaaaaast." It's like, this person's just taking external stimuli and [automatically trying to turn] it into something even remotely engaging. I was watching it and I was like, "I feel so bad for this person." it was simple things like someone would ask him a question and he'd be singing the question back and then going, "Oh, I need to answer this question." And external stimuli like, "Oh, man, can see the shaking?" And like, "My phone's ringing. Oh, isn't that cool? The alarm is going off on my phone, isn't that weird?" And you're like, "No, dude. You don't have to turn every moment of your existence into entertainment."

Mary: Content, yeah.

Tamoor: That's the scary part of it. But then this person reached 200k viewers and I was like, "I guess that's what it's all there for."

Lucy: But at what cost?

Tamoor: Yeah, but at what cost? It was just like, oh, man. Fortnite is just a weird, sticky subject that-

Mary: It is.

Tamoor: For as much good as it does, it does a lot of things are questionable.

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Tamoor Hussain

Tamoor Hussain is the Managing Editor of GameSpot, he has been covering the video game industry for 15 years, having worked in news, features, reviews, video, and more. He loves Bloodborne and other From Software titles, is partial to the stealth genre, and can hold his own in fighting games too. Fear the Old Blood.



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