After its release as an early access title in July 2017, Fortnite quickly became a hit. Within months, the game had millions of daily players, and the popularity of the game sky-rocketed.
Being free-to-play, practically everyone that owned either a PC or gaming console were playing the game, to the extent that Fortnite became not just a game but a cultural phenomenon.
It says a lot about Fortnite’s popularity that even people with no interest in gaming have heard of it. I’m sure most of us remember the ‘Fortnite mania’ of 2018 and early 2019.
Where it seemed like literally every kid on the block was playing Fortnite, and if they weren’t, they were probably doing the silly dance.
The game’s growth was spurred on by Twitch streamers, too, with popular streamers like Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins playing the game live to audiences of tens of thousands of people at a time.
But, you’ll have noticed, Fortnite has receded from popular culture. So, is Fortnite dead? Well, no. Whilst it certainly isn’t the powerhouse it once was, Fortnite is still very much alive and kicking.
What Is Fortnite?
For those of you who’ve been living under a rock, we’ll quickly discuss what Fortnite is and its gameplay. Fortnite is a free-to-play Battle Royale video game published by Epic Games.
In it, 100 players are dropped onto an island, and must fight it out with other players to be the last player(s) standing. Players can either fight alone or in ‘squads’ of two, three or four players.
Continuous progression is guaranteed by the ‘storm’, a life-draining force that gradually constricts the playing area and forces remaining players into an ever tighter area.
Eventually, one player or team will remain, with that team emerging victorious. Upon its release, Fortnite’s unique selling point was its construction elements.
Players could interact with the world by destroying objects for resources (e.g., brick walls to get bricks) which could then be used by the player to build their own structures.
These structures could offer significant strategic advantages, for example, building a defensive wall for cover. The best Fortnite players quickly became those who could best leverage the game’s building mechanics.
How Popular Was Fortnite At Its Peak?
Since its release in summer 2017, Fortnite has registered a whopping 350 million players.
For context, that’s double what Minecraft, another gaming phenomenon, has managed since its release in 2009, a whole eight years before the release of Fortnite.
Having a lot of users is one thing, but how many of those are actually playing the game? Well, Fortnite peaked at a jaw-dropping 78.3 million active users in August 2018.
Perhaps surprisingly, however, Fortnite actually reached its peak number of daily players much more recently, in May 2021.
Calculations have shown that some 35 million players played the game on a given date, which is absolutely mad!
How Popular Is Fortnite Now?
In April 2022, Fortnite managed an average of 268,051,143 monthly players, with a peak daily player count of 24,124,603.
In the same month, Fortnite managed an average of 98.9K concurrent viewers on twitch, showing that there are plenty of people still watching Fortnite as well as playing it.
This does not represent a gradual decline, however. In fact, with the release of Fortnite Chapter 2: Season 1 in October 2019, Fornite enjoyed a new lease of life that it has enjoyed ever since.
The player count jumped by some 44 million that month, and the number of average monthly players has remained comfortably over 200 million ever since.
Having said that, the more recent trend appears to be one of noticeable but gradual decline. Fortnite Chapter 3: Season 1 released in December 2021, a month that saw the game average roughly 275 million monthly players.
However, this season appears to have failed to attract as much interest as previously, with it being unable to arrest the downward trend from 290 million average monthly players in May 2021 to 268 million in April 2022.
That’s a loss of 22 million players in under a year.
So, Is Fortnite Dead?
As you can see from the sheer numbers still playing the game, Fortnite is far from dead. Nonetheless, it’s easy to see why you might think Fortnite is dead.
The game has certainly had its highs and lows in terms of popularity over the last few years, and multiple factors have influenced the perception of Fortnite’s popularity, even if crunching the numbers show a much less precipitous decline.
For example, in May 2019 the streamer Tfue quit Fortnite, stating that he was burnt out playing the game and simply wasn’t enjoying it anymore.
At a similar time Ninja, who along with Tfue is one of the top two streamers on twitch, also quit the game. He cited similar reasons, saying he found the game to have become stale.
Ninja has since returned to the game, but losing two streamers with the influence of Ninja and Tfue (a combined 25 m+ subscribers) was naturally going to affect the game’s popularity.
The game’s player count has actually bounced back significantly since that time, but it helped to build the perception in the popular culture that Fortnite was dead.
Since that time, Fortnite hasn’t been nearly as popular in the culture at large, even if it remains a very popular game.
Another factor adding to the perception that Fortnite is dead is that the game has recently released a mode without building, which is what helped Fortnite to take off in the first place.
Clearly, removing one of the key gameplay features to attract players or entice players back is going to create a feeling that the game isn’t what it used to be.
Fortnite is not dead. Hundreds of millions play every month, whilst tens of millions play every day. A peak of nearly 100,000 people have been recorded watching Fortnite Twitch streams at any one time in April 2022.
There’s no doubt however that the game has lost some of its momentum, and certainly its cultural relevance. Popular streamers quitting the game has helped to build a perception that Fortnite is dead, but the numbers playing tell a different story.