• The VOIDRUNNER'S CODEX is coming! Explore new worlds, fight oppressive empires, fend off fearsome aliens, and wield deadly psionics with this comprehensive boxed set expansion for 5E and A5E!

The Fortnite-ification of Everything

I still don't buy the idea that having different settings "fractured" the D&D player base: no one I ever knew refused to buy Forgotten Realms or Ravenloft books because they "only played Dark Sun." Yes, people may have had favorite settings that they focused on, but everyone always bought everything they could in my experience, and ran multiple games in different worlds, including homebrew...

I still don't buy the idea that having different settings "fractured" the D&D player base: no one I ever knew refused to buy Forgotten Realms or Ravenloft books because they "only played Dark Sun." Yes, people may have had favorite settings that they focused on, but everyone always bought everything they could in my experience, and ran multiple games in different worlds, including homebrew which they would fill with ideas cribbed material from all the books. Just because Greyhawk was my favorite didn't mean I didn't also buy up Drow of the Underdark and Dragon Kings the moment I saw them, or consider The Code of the Harpers to be one of the best and most interesting D&D books I've ever owned and still crack open to read through today.

Producing more books than they could sell is what killed TSR, not having multiple settings.
 

talien

Community Supporter
The online battle royale video game Fortnite has become a smash hit that is changing the industry. But what makes it so popular are the same elements that are behind Dungeons & Dragons' recent surge.

fortnite.jpg

The Formula for Fortnite's Success​

Fortnite features up to 100 players parachuting onto an island, where they battle it out in a timed challenge, collecting shields and weapons, building fortifications, and eliminating other players on one large map. The game's popularity is on par with World of Warcraft and Minecraft in changing the video game landscape. It currently has over 200 million registered accounts across all platforms, averaging 37 terabytes per second on most networks -- the largest recorded amount Akamai Technologies has ever observed. Fortnite's Battle Royale made parent company Epic Games $2.4 billion in revenue in 2018, raising Epic Game's valuation from $825 million to $8.5 billion. It's a big deal, and other online shooters are hoping to mimic its success by copying the battle royale format.

Fortnite's success rests on three pillars, as outlined by Fortune: accessibility, sociability, and spectacle.

Accessibility​

It has long been a concern for any popular game that players can play it easily and, for multiplayer games, play easily with each other. This requires easy access to the game and a gameplay experience that's the same no matter who is playing it.

We've outlined in the past how Dungeons & Dragons suffered from this as it grew. Basic and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons separated rather than united the player base, and the various game worlds with their unique rules made for many different campaign settings that further splintered gaming groups. D&D eventually phased out the Basic/Advanced dichotomy and narrowed the many worlds to the Forgotten Realms. D&D has also slowly evolved its beginner sets with free-to-play versions like the online "Basic" set of rules, making it more accessible than ever.

On video game platforms, different gaming consoles created different experiences. A player on a laptop could not play with another play on a mobile device, or a Playstation, Xbox, or Nintendo Switch. Fortnite cracked that code. Now all players are playing in the same world -- a world that is easy to play immediately -- and play in the same game. The effects of this are huge, creating a gaming community that is agnostic of which device you play on.

More important, like the Basic rules of D&D, Fortnite is free to play. It's all the accessories that cost more, and Epic Games wisely focused its efforts on providing compelling, optional content than on game-breaking rules to entice players to spend their hard-earned money. Converting players is challenging -- a 2% conversion rate is common -- but Fortnite averages an astounding 68.8% conversion rate, spending on average $85!

Sociability​

D&D has always been built on the underpinnings of social engagement. The game encourages groups of four or more players coming together along with a game master. It also requires a time commitment of a few hours or more, something that high school and college students often have more of (and a stable pool of players to choose from). That model has expanded to include working adults who are willing to carve out leisure time for "game night" with their friends.

Fortnite mimics this aspect too. Players can join games in squads of up to four, although there's no classes or specialization to speak of. Fortnite's map is static, but it changes with each season, providing new goals and new equipment that alters the game in significant ways. In this regard, Fortnite has a lot in common with D&D hexcrawls, in which deep exploration of a map unearths new and exciting adventures.

Spectacle​

If D&D had a weakness in the past, it was spectacle. The game was largely confined to small groups playing in mostly non-public areas. Tournaments alleviated some of this, but to the casual observer, seeing actual gameplay was difficult to come by. That all changed thanks to video, livestreaming, and podcasts.

This also affected how D&D was perceived and played. D&D's playerbase has expanded tremendously to encompass people from all walks of life, and the Fifth Edition art has changed to reflect that. More women are playing D&D than ever before, and by making it accessible on channels like Twitch and YouTube, D&D is finding audiences who might not normally have encountered it.

D&D is also never the same game twice. Because game masters control the flow of the game, even the same adventure played by two different game masters will likely be quite different. This makes it fun to play repeatedly and at length; the tropes may be familiar, but the gameplay is always innovative.

Fortnite replicates this feature in a few ways. In some games, death is permanent until the match ends, but players can immediately "snoop" the camera of their surviving comrades (or just other surviving players) to see how the game concludes. Players can take snapshots or record videos of their games and upload them. Some streamers are making $500,000/month in this fashion. It also regularly releases "skins" (changing the PC's appearance) in a wide variety of ethnicities and genders, so that players can represent themselves however they choose. And with each new season's release, the map and the available skins change, ensuring gameplay varies even on the same island map. Paul Tassi in Forbes summed it up:
Fortnite is so big it’s expanded beyond simply being a game. It has created its own footprint in pop culture through memes and shared icons. It has become essentially a social network for a generation of kids who meet up in game mostly to hang out as they just happen to kill things, though you can now also just chill in Playground and Creative mode without even doing that. I’ve never really seen this since maybe Minecraft, and this is even bigger than that.
Fortnite's impact is enormous, and it's no coincidence that D&D is experiencing a similar surge in popularity. What makes a good multiplayer game extends across platforms and genres; Fortnite's just capturing what made D&D so special in the first place.
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Yes, people may have had favorite settings that they focused on, but everyone always bought everything they could in my experience, and ran multiple games in different worlds, including homebrew which they would fill with ideas cribbed material from all the books.

Your anecdote doesn't match mine.
 


I

Immortal Sun

Guest
I still don't buy the idea that having different settings "fractured" the D&D player base: no one I ever knew refused to buy Forgotten Realms or Ravenloft books because they "only played Dark Sun." Yes, people may have had favorite settings that they focused on, but everyone always bought everything they could in my experience, and ran multiple games in different worlds, including homebrew which they would fill with ideas cribbed material from all the books. Just because Greyhawk was my favorite didn't mean I didn't also buy up Drow of the Underdark and Dragon Kings the moment I saw them, or consider The Code of the Harpers to be one of the best and most interesting D&D books I've ever owned and still crack open to read through today.

Producing more books than they could sell is what killed TSR, not having multiple settings.

I almost never buy published settings. I'll play in them, but I won't run them. This includes 3PP published settings too. I just don't feel like I can ever really "get into" them like a setting I made up myself. That's probably a "me" problem, but still, it means I'm not buying those books.

There are a lot of books I don't buy from older editions, mostly because I don't feel the pressing need to have them because I don't feel like there's anything they really present that's new or interesting to me.

So yeah.
 

The article really reads more like "The D&D-ification of Fortnite" rather than the other way around.

But for the record, I never purchased setting-specific material. The DM's first job is to create the world, and setting material gets in the way of that.
 

MarkB

Legend
Is it worth mentioning that Fortnite's Battle Royale mode was originally a spin-off of a quite different game, and that it took someone else's original concept and simply refined and polished it in order to become the market leader? I'm no historian, but we could probably find some parallels for that in the RPG market.
 

theworstdm

Explorer
I still don't buy the idea that having different settings "fractured" the D&D player base: no one I ever knew refused to buy Forgotten Realms or Ravenloft books because they "only played Dark Sun." Yes, people may have had favorite settings that they focused on, but everyone always bought everything they could in my experience, and ran multiple games in different worlds, including homebrew which they would fill with ideas cribbed material from all the books. Just because Greyhawk was my favorite didn't mean I didn't also buy up Drow of the Underdark and Dragon Kings the moment I saw them, or consider The Code of the Harpers to be one of the best and most interesting D&D books I've ever owned and still crack open to read through today.

Producing more books than they could sell is what killed TSR, not having multiple settings.

I agree that TSR probably hurt themselves by saturating a niche market with books, but too many settings definitely didn't help. Not everyone (including me) had the money to buy every single book produced for D&D so they had to make choices about which ones to buy. Setting was a determining factor for me in this decision. It remains so even with 5e today. WotC has put out some books in settings like Ravnica or Eberron that don't appeal to me. So, I didn't buy those books.
 

trancejeremy

Adventurer
Probably the most annoying thing (at least in video game) is that now characters in games always have to dance after winning. It drives me crazy in the two recent Forza games.
 

If TSR put out the same number of books but set them all in a single setting it would not have helped them. The number of products published each year at that time was enormous. Only a very financially invested collector could buy them all. If you bought every setting book in your setting of choice, plus all the setting-neutral books, you were still investing a good chunk of change.

5e hasn’t abandoned its settings, and the official setting officially encompasses all of them. Diversifying settings is actually a profitable endeavor (in my opinion), if done right. There are people who have bought some of the 5e non Forgotten Realms stuff while passing on the Forgotten Realms stuff. There are also some people who will only buy Forgotten Realms (though I doubt there are a lot in that category because of how the Forgotten Realms is presented). The difference between now and then is that they are paying better attention to the market so as to avoid too much of this or too little of that.
 

Related Articles

Remove ads

Remove ads

Top