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Gameverse | November 13, 2019

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Does Fortnite Need a “Classic” Mode?

Matthew Byrd

Fortnite is more than a video game. It’s a cultural phenomenon that elevated the battle royale genre and captured the attention of older and younger gamers alike. It was even featured in the highest-grossing film of all-time, Avengers: Endgame.

Perhaps more importantly, Fortnite has changed the way that videogames are updated, monetized, and viewed from a business perspective. Fans may not like thinking about that element of the game, but years from now after Fortnite‘s popularity has faded, it’s that element of the experience that will likely endure.

It’s also that element of the game that begs the question, “Does Fortnite need a Classic mode?”

The term “classic” in relation to game updates has spiked in popularity recently due to the release of World of Warcraft: Classic. Basically, it’s come to mean allowing players to access a game in its original (or close to original state). When done right, it can work well. We even called World of Warcraft: Classic one of the best games of 2019.

The problem is that not every game is a candidate for the classic treatment. Certain games (like Rainbow Six: Siege and Destiny) have improved over the years for the better. Fans likely wouldn’t want to revisit them for anything more than a quick nostalgia trip.

So which games do qualify for the classic treatment? There’s no one answer, but the most likely candidates do tend to be games that have become slightly bloated over the years and have lost something that they originally offered.

This brings us to the curious case of Fortnite.

On the surface, Fortnite is the perfect candidate for the classic treatment. Few developers have updated their games as aggressively as the Fortnite team. Some of those upgrades resulted in simple balance changes, but others have been more…aggressive. Over the years, we’ve seen entire Fortnite zones be deleted or altered significantly. We’ve seen entirely new mechanics added to the game, and we’ve seen weapons come and go. The latest version of Fortnite is far, far removed from the game’s origins.

Such an aggressive and consistent update schedule is usually a good thing, but with Fortnite, it’s possible that the things you loved about a particular era in the game simply no longer exist anymore. On the surface, people would be very interested in revisiting those eras.

This is where things get complicated, though. First off, we don’t know how many people are craving Fortnite in its original “classic” form. Few people will tell you that’s the best era for the game. At the same time, there are eras of the game which people do consider to be their favorites. As such, you could argue that an option to play on a server that allows you to play the game as it existed after a particular patch would be highly appealing.

Would Epic ever actually do that? Sadly, they probably wouldn’t. Besides the amount of time and money that would go into such a project, classic Fortnite options would likely splinter the game’s economy and player base. Fortnite‘s popularity is a perpetual motion machine that is largely based on the appeal of what’s new. Divide streamers and players into various server options, and Epic risks hindering just how popular and lucrative Fortnite is.

But if we’re focusing on content and player experience, then yes, Fortnite and its massive player base would simply get more out of classic options for the game being made available to them. Whether or not we actually ever see them may say more about the tricky fiscal situation it puts the Fortnite team in more than whether or not classic versions of certain titles remain a good idea from a player perspective.