6:00am PT by Patrick Shanley
Shadow of 'Fortnite' Looms Over E3
As the annual E3 convention gets under way and many of the world's top game developers gather to show off their latest projects, one title looms over the Los Angeles Convention Center: Fortnite.
The Epic Games juggernaut has set the world of gaming alight this year, with monthly revenues topping $200 million. The third-person shooter has made waves across the industry with its free-to-play model; microtransactions; and Battle Royale mode, which pits 100 players against one another in an ever-shrinking map until only one is left.
The success of Fortnite has influenced many other developers, with established top dogs in the shooter genre such as Call of Duty and Battlefield announcing Battle Royale modes for their upcoming installments, Black Ops 4 and Battlefield V, respectively. Even smaller developers have pursued Battle Royale-style gameplay, including Vostok Games with its new Fear the Wolves title.
Of course, it's not just outright imitation that shows Fortnite's influence on the industry. Gearbox Software, which is behind the popular hybrid shooter-RPG Borderlands series, showed off a new, as-of-yet unnamed project with the working title Project 1v1 during a pre-E3 event several weeks ago. The new game is a direct response to Fortnite's 100-player Battle Royale, flipping the script to pit one player against another as two other gamers look on awaiting their turn.
Even Assassin's Creed drew vague comparisons to Battle Royale modes with the new "conquest battles" in the upcoming Assassin's Creed Odyssey. The new mode will feature 150 vs. 150 battles onscreen, though it will not be a competitive online mode. Still, the crowded, frenetic action was enough for viewers of Monday's Ubisoft press briefing to mention Battle Royale similarities, if only half-jokingly.
Meanwhile, a recent leak hinted that Nintendo will finally bring the massively popular Fortnite to its Switch console, the only platform the game is not available on. It's a natural fit, given Fortnite's colorful, youth-skewing art design and the Switch's younger market share. The console offers portable gaming, making it a great match for Fortnite's fast-paced gameplay that has already proved a hit with mobile gamers (the iOS version earned over $25 million in its first month alone).
Battle Royale is not the only topic of interest at this year's convention. Also on display from a number of well-known studios are games with female protagonists. While gaming is a medium with a diverse audience, the industry is often seen as male dominated, with the majority of games featuring male protagonists. This year, AAA titles such as Gears 5, Battlefield V and Assassin's Creed Odyssey all feature playable female leads, a first for both the Gears and Assassin's franchises.
Another trend at this year's convention is the continued push into VR by many publishers and developers. As VR technology continues to improve, the number of marquee gaming studios eager to be at the front of the new interactive hardware is on the rise.
Between Oculus, HTC and PlayStation VR, stand-alone headsets continue to aim at being commercially viable peripherals to gamers. Though adoption continues to lag behind where many analysts predicted it would be a few years ago, when Facebook acquired Oculus, sales have been slow but steady, and the gaming industry obviously believes in the tech.
But it's not just headsets at this year's E3. Haptic gloves, vests, full body suits — which offer the user tactile feedback in the form of pressure, vibration, temperature and other sensory information — all will be demo'd at this year's convention. There are also boots and omnidirectional treadmills that will allow players to actually run through virtual worlds, akin to what was seen on the big screen this March in Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One.
As with the headsets, what will eventually determine whether any of these devices catch on will be price, but it's now more likely than ever that at some point in the not-so-distant future, home VR rooms may be as common as home gyms or home theaters.