Is Fortnite Flying Too Close To The Sun?

We’re all familiar with Fortnite, a behemoth in the modern gaming industry. Fortnite is a trendsetter; a game that revolutionized the live service genre, the battle pass progression system, multiversal franchise crossovers, dance trends and much more. Fortnite, much like the Greek gods in the latest Myths & Mortals season, worked hard for its wings and took off to heights other games could only dream of. However, after a surprising number of fumbles that has left fans disappointed and concerned, is Fortnite flying too close to the Sun?

As time has passed, Fortnite has amassed a gigantic fan base. What started as a quirky battle royale concept and known as a game beloved primarily by children became a gigantic, franchise-crossing titan of gaming. With fans both young and old from every walk of life, it will always be hard to please everyone. What’s surprising however – and almost impressive – is that the latest changes to Fortnite have outraged most of this broad fandom. No matter why they’re in it, Fortnite gamers have become increasingly unhappy with what Fortnite is trying to become.

Fortnite character gliding down onto castle walls
Fortnite has been flying high for quite some time.

Let’s start with a big topic that’s been making waves in the fandom recently: cosmetics and pricing. A key part of the Fortnite experience is equipping skins, emotes, back blings and more. The core Battle Royale needs to be a fair and even experience whether gamers are playing for free or have invested hundreds of dollars in V-Bucks, so a huge emphasis is put on customization and self-expression in the form of cosmetics. 

Every Fortnite player has their preferred skins and emotes, with each Battle Pass being absolutely stacked full of new ways to show off your style. Before now, these cosmetics all had quite consistent rarities, ranging from Common and Uncommon right through to Epic and Legendary. Cosmetics coming from other franchises could even have their own unique rarity, such as Marvel Series for Marvel-related cosmetics, or Gaming Legends Series for The Witcher’s Geralt or Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft. The rarity system did a lot to create a consistent pricing experience and help players know what to expect with their purchases – yet Fortnite has now removed a majority of them. 

Fortnite Rarities
Fortnite used to indicate rarity with bold colour backgrounds, such as Uncommon, Rare, Epic and Legendary (from left to right).

Not all rarities are gone, other franchise rarities such as the aforementioned Marvel and Gaming Legends rarities still exist to denote a multiversal Fortnite cosmetic, as well as other unique rarities like Frozen or Dark. However, the core foundational rarities of Common through to Legendary have been removed, making the majority of existing cosmetics effectively the same rarity. 

Epic aimed to retire these tags of cosmetic quality to create a more cohesive experience, but that’s not how the change was received by fans. In removing the rarity of cosmetics, Epic also removes a consistent pricing experience that was once possible when rarities were assigned. In the past, it was expected that an uncommon skin would cost 800 V-Bucks, whilst a Rare may be 1,200 V-Bucks. The pricing and the rarity created a cohesive purchasing experience that balanced expectations of cost to what would be received. With this consistency removed, Epic has the option to potentially “overcharge” on what would previously have been cheaper had it been assigned a rarity. This could have even already happened.

Hael Fortnite skin
One skin became a catalyst of controversy.

Take a skin like Hael, a new Fortnite outfit that only comes with a skin and nothing more in terms of accessories. This skin would typically be considered an 800 V-Bucks Uncommon due to it only coming with one item, but it was listed as a 1,200 V-Bucks Rare. The outrage that formed around this overpricing was immediately followed by the update removing rarities just two days later. The removal of rarities means Epic can simply say that pricing is what that skin is valued at, based on nothing but vibes and potential greed. The rarity system, whilst at worst being possibly viewed as visual clutter in the UI, helped cosmetic pricing feel fair and expected. Without it, pricing can be made higher or lower to maximise the gouging of V-Bucks from players without guaranteeing them a certain standard or quantity of cosmetics.

The complaints and accusations of greed didn’t stop there though. Cosmetics are bought from the Fortnite in-game store, a list of items available that day with different sections and categories refreshing their inventory on different days through the week. In the latest updates, the Fortnite item shop has been absolutely swamped with items, including a mass of things for other game modes mixed in with the base Battle Royale items. 

Lego Cover
Fortnite has been expanding its game mode offerings, such as with the survival mode LEGO Fortnite.

The alternate game mode LEGO Fortnite was met with a lot of praise after its launch, but the reveal of its paid LEGO builds packs to virtually build new LEGO structures in-game came with a lot of backlash. Not least because of the bizarre concept of paying upwards of $20 for fake virtual LEGO, but also because of the space this now hogs up on the Fortnite item shop. If you’re looking to spend what few V-Bucks you’re rewarded with from grinding the Battle Pass, you’re going to need to scroll through a slew of LEGO Fortnite building packs, Rocket Racing cars and decals, and Fortnite Festival jam tracks and instrument cosmetics. 

What used to feel like a fun roulette of different optional items every day now feels like an overwhelming, overstimulating and overpriced plea for money, shoving every type of cosmetic from every type of game mode possible in the player’s faces, regardless of whether they even play those game modes or not. 

Fortnite Item Shop chart
Item shops that used to fit on 1-2 screens now need to be exported into huge tables by fans to keep up with.

When you do manage to find some regular Fortnite Battle Royale cosmetics, you may not even get a good selection, as the store has been accused by fans of using AI to generate what cosmetics will be available on each day. This is due to the fact that some skins reappear very frequently or even linger for over a week without changing out, others will appear without their entire sets available for players to piece together, and some just won’t show up for hundreds of days without any reason for their absence taking so long. Epic doesn’t comment on how its Fortnite item store works, leaving players completely in the dark as to who is making the decisions of what will be available for purchase.

Changes to rarities and store content aren’t the only issues Fortnite has ran into with its fanbase though, as the in-game locker where skins and emotes are equipped has also gradually been changed for the worse. What was once clean and easy to understand is now full of different tabs, buggy buttons and a flat uninspired design. The whole thing just feels so lifeless compared to how it once was. This isn’t just a case of nostalgia, as some upgrades have made the UI feel considerably more modern and intuitive, but the addition of LEGO packs, cars, instruments and more just makes the whole thing incredibly cluttered, but also presented in a way that’s as lifeless as possible.

Fortnite Locker UI
Fortnite’s old locker UI (left) has gradually become much less interesting (right).

The sanitization of the locker UI into something flat, boring and messy is a problem spreading its way across Fortnite. They’re pushing out more emotes than ever based on whatever dances were trending months ago when they were created, and they’re losing their lustre a little as well. Take, for example, the dance emote based on Doja Cat’s Paint the Town Red. On release, this emote understandably censored the word “b*tch”, but also the word “devil”. This censor was completely unnecessary though, as Fortnite already has an emote where the word “devil” is said uncensored in another song. Whilst Fortnite did walk back this change after fan outrage, it’s yet another example of unnecessary change leading to a more sterile experience.

Up until this point, whilst the changes may be frustrating, at least they stay out of the core gameplay experience. Fortnite is known and beloved mainly for its core game mode, the iconic battle royale. The latest season drop, Myths & Mortals, was also met with a lot of fanfare (despite some lackluster skins as I discussed here). The season not only adds Greek god and goddess skins, but also made their powers available to find on the map. It was a whole lot of fun to soar around the island wearing the Wings of Icarus, bringing down fury with the Thunderbolt of Zeus and then going for a finisher with the Chain of Hades. Rather, it was fun, until they got vaulted. 

Fortnite Chapter 5 Season 2 Myths and Mortals
Fortnite‘s latest season adds the pantheon of Greek gods.

Yes, Fortnite vaulted and made unavailable the mythic items that made up the point of the entire season. In full fairness, they were replaced with mythics from Avatar: The Last Airbender, but a cynic might say that this change was made to promote their Avatar cosmetics and limited-time battle pass. Whether you agree with that interpretation or not is up to you. In a way it’s almost poetic. Being able to play as Greek gods roaming the Fortnite island without their powers almost describes the state Fortnite finds itself in now – a titan of the industry that is known, feared and worshiped in every corner of the gaming landscape, but starting to lack what made them special in the first place. 

Fortnite wants to make money, it always has and it always will. That isn’t necessarily an issue, and it’s to be expected from a gigantic live service title. What Fortnite has always done so well however is being able to balance monetisation and delivering value for their players. A slew of unwelcome changes combined with the diminishing quality of what made Fortnite so attractive in the first place is certainly risky for the long-term life of the live service, a genre that is entirely dependent on player engagement. They may be flying high when it comes to profits, but Fortnite should be wary of what happens when players get pushed too far.

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