How Fortnite’s expansion in the East could hurt the game elsewhere

SuperData Analyst Nate Monteverde explains why he believes Fortnite’s expansion in the East can lead to major issues

Fortnite Battle Royale has already established itself as a market leader in the gaming world. The Epic Games title has already generated over $1B in revenue across all console, PC and mobile platforms. Fortnite managed to grab the attention of high profile celebrities like Drake and Chance the Rapper and was even referenced in the World Cup finals when France’s Antoine Griezmann celebrated with the game’s infamous “Take the L” dance after scoring a goal. Despite its clear appeal among Western cultures, it has yet to be tested in the Eastern market. To truly test whether Fortnite has the potential to become a global phenomenon like League of Legends, Epic set their sights on a China release, where Fortnite finally became available in closed beta on July 24th, 2018.

Although Fortnite Battle Royale is currently in a testing stage in China, the upcoming official launch in the region raises the question of how this decision will impact the title’s future. When Fortnite’s biggest competitor, Bluehole’s PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), launched in China in December 2017, it was at its peak popularity. Unfortunately, incidents of cheating began to sharply rise around this point too. PUBG’s creator, Brendan Greene confirmed in an interview that, according to their BattlEye anti-cheat software, 99% of cheats in the game came from IP addresses in China. Bluehole’s failure to quickly address the high volume of cheating and hacking incidents negatively affected the game experience for their Western audience. As morale among PUBG’s players plummeted, they began to look for better alternatives where they could be free from cheating opponents. Fortnite Battle Royale benefited handsomely from this migration. Although PUBG is still popular today, Bluehole’s lack of preparation for a China launch significantly damaged the game’s potential and contributed to its decline.

According to survey data, nearly one in five (19%) battle royale players stopped playing a battle royale title because they were discouraged by rampant cheaters and hackers. PUBG’s buy-to-play status was not able to spare it from cheating players and Fortnite is even more susceptible to cheaters/hackers because it is a free to play experience. Epic must consider region locking (e.g., ping limits) the player base in China to serve as a first line of defense against potential cheaters. However, a region lock won’t stop determined cheaters who will use alternative methods, like virtual private networks (VPNs), that some players in China are already using to access the game. Furthermore, while Fortnite cheats and hacks already exist online, a full launch in China will likely bring both a wave of new players and cheating software to the game ecosystem. Therefore, Epic must continuously work with Kamu, their anti-cheat partner, to monitor and counteract the influx of new hacking software.

Epic now finds themselves approaching a pivotal moment in their game’s lifecycle, similar to where Bluehole was back in late 2017. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. If the Fortnite team cannot contain the increasing threat of hackers, they may soon find themselves losing ground in the market like their predecessor.