Fortnite has recently celebrated its third anniversary, albeit under less than optimal conditions for the game giant. While this would seem to imply that Fortnite was made a mere three years ago, the truth is a little more complicated than that, and much of it has to do with the bizarre and complex processes behind game design.
Making Fortnite, working backwards
To simplify matters, let’s start from the present and work our way backwards. Fortnite today is different from Fortnite a year ago, and very different from Fortnite on its release day, and so the answer of when Fortnite was made depends largely on what you consider to be “Fortnite.”
The current iteration of the game, fully named Fortnite Chapter 2 Season 4, released on August 27th of 2020, only a few weeks back. This latest version was a departure from the previous season which featured very little in the way of Marvel characters and a progressively changing island layout as the result of a flood narrative.
For those of you who consider Iron Man and Wolverine to be integral parts of Fortnite then, the answer is that Fortnite was made just a few weeks ago, however I imagine that group is incredibly small.
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Fortnite Chapter 2
This takes us further back, to Fortnite Chapter 2, the current broad version of the game we call Fortnite. Chapter 2 brought with it a change in the island, and expanded what players could do on water. It also introduced some new features, such as the ability to carry knocked down players and upgrade your weapons.
For those of you that believe the current island, as well as the underlying mechanics of the game, are what constitute Fortnite, then the answer is that Fortnite was released October 14th of 2019, and it was made during the months leading up to that date.
Of course, this would only make sense if you consider Fortnite Chapter 1 to be a wholly different game from Fortnite Chapter 2, something you could potentially make a case for but would not likely be accepted by everyone. And so, further back we go.
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Fortnite: Battle Royale
Now this is the part where we start to see players split into two camps. Fortnite Battle Royale, the version of Fortnite played by most people, released September 26th, 2017. It featured a unique style of gameplay, with construction being a core part of the game, but each piece built still had to be placed manually and most of the community used it only lightly.
Weapon accuracy was still governed by an oft derided bloom mechanic which made your shots seemingly random, rather than being entirely accurate to where you aimed. Additionally, friendly fire was on, making for rather unfortunate events where explosives were less useful in team modes, and griefers would shoot their teammates for no reason.
Fortnite in September of 2017 is very different from Fortnite now, but is it different enough to be considered a different game? If not, then the answer is that Fortnite was made prior to that date. But, as usual, the true answer is even more complicated.
Fortnite: Save the World
Because Fortnite: Battle Royale wasn’t the first version of the game. It was initially imagined as a game that had much more in common with the likes of Dungeon Defenders than it did with PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, as players were asked to build around and defend an objective from hordes of zombies.
As a result, Fortnite: Save the World, the flagship version of the game, was released on July 25th of 2017, making that the official release date of the first version of the game. However, for many players, Save the World is an entirely different game from the Battle Royale variant, and it would be hard to find anyone for whom the name “Fortnite” referred to Save the World.
So if you consider Save the World to be the same as the Battle Royale game, then Fortnite was made and released in July of 2017.
Fortnite, announcement to release
But a game doesn’t get made overnight, and for Fortnite this process took a long time. Fortnite was revealed to the world six years prior to its eventual release, being shown at the Spike Video Game Awards in 2011, having been introduced by Epic’s own autour game director, Cliff “CliffyB” Bleszinsky.
At that award show, Bleszinsky stated that Fortnite was the result of Epic’s developers working on a project after the completion of Gears of War 3, wanting to cool off with something “different and fun.” From Bleszinsky’s description, the game came off as some sort of survival-crafting game, not unlike Minecraft or the deluge of other survivey-crafty games released around this time (Rust, Don’t Starve, Terraria, The Long Dark, The Forest, Subnautica, and on and on).
Of course, this might have had the same name as the game people play now, but if you were to play them side-by-side it would be hard to see more than a passing resemblance. Nevertheless, if you consider every iterative version of a game as part of the same legacy, and disregard even the drastic differences between them, then the answer for when Fortnite was made is a simple “sometime during 2011, but after Gears of War 3 was finished.”