It’s the game that captivated children and teenagers while sending parents worldwide into a panic. But signs are that Fortnite is on the wane. A year ago Finnian Lounsbury spent up to four hours a day glued to Fortnite. But now the 12-year-old is one of many players who have abandoned the controversial title and moved on to newer games – and he is far from alone.
Fortnite’s “battle royale” involves up to 100 players fighting to be the last one standing. It attracted criticism from parents, teachers and cyber safety experts who worried about the impact the game might have on young children.
Finnian started playing Fortnite when his friends at school suddenly started talking about it.
“I just got hooked for a while,” he says. “It is pretty addictive. It’s a very inviting game with all the goofy characters and the sense of trying to be the best at something – trying again and again at becoming number one.”
But as new games entered the market, Finnian lost interest and moved on.
“There isn’t nearly as much hype around Fortnite anymore,” he says. “A lot of people have stopped playing because it’s quite a repetitive game.”
Epic Games, the publisher of Fortnite, doesn’t report regular statistics about the game’s players or how active they are. Its last update in March showed there were 250 million accounts worldwide.
But data from Google Trends, which tracks the popularity of search terms, shows interest in Fortnite has steadily declined since a peak 12 months ago. Over the same period, Minecraft has seen a spike in popularity as gamers rediscover the decade-old title.
Fortnite vs Minecraft
Australian Google searches for Fortnite have dropped as Minecraft has spiked.
Gaming industry expert Jamie Skella says Fortnite peaked last year but remains a hugely popular game with some “staggering” numbers.
“It’s one of the largest cash cows in the video game industry,” he says. “Everything ebbs and flows – it’s rare we see any game grow for a long time.
“Whether Fortnite will stand the test of time in the long-term is yet to be seen [but] it’s still the biggest game on the planet.”
However, Fortnite has fallen to third place on Twitch, a live-streaming video platform where people watch other gamers play. The game has seen a 22 per cent drop in hours watched over the past month.
Susan McLean, an ex-policewoman who runs Cyber Safety Solutions and regularly speaks to schools and parents about keeping children safe online, still has concerns about the game.
“Whilst Fortnite might have waned a bit, it’s still the number one game kids play, without a shadow of a doubt,” she says.
“Nothing comes close. Every day when I’m in a primary school, all the teachers will talk about is the problem with Fortnite.”
“That sort of content is not suitable for young children. It desensitises them to violence. A year five boy said to me: ‘I don’t kill to win, I exterminate everything in my path’. That’s how he justified it.”
Ms McLean encourages parents to hold firm and resist peer pressure. “Parents think everyone is playing it so it must be okay,” she says. “It’s a parent’s job to be protective and restrictive. It’s a parent’s job to say no.”
An Epic Games spokeswoman said the company advises parents to “review the ratings given to games in their country and use that as a guide to help decide if content is appropriate”.
Additional reporting by Tim Biggs.