Fortnite seems unstoppable with nearly 250 million registered players

Despite increasing competition from games like Apex Legends, Fortnite's popularity shows little sign of letting up.

Ian Sherr Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. At CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
2 min read

Fortnite continues its epic run.

Epic Games

Fortnite, as much a cultural phenom as a video game, continues its march toward world domination.

The cartoonish shooting game has notched nearly 250 million registered players since launching in 2017, its developer Epic Games said Wednesday. That also means the game has added about 50 million players in the past four months since Epic last announced a player count, then at 200 million.

The news doesn't just indicate that the game continues to be one of the more massive hits of all time, it also shows that new rivals such as Apex Legends haven't yet stolen new players away in significant numbers. Both games pit players against one another in a "battle royale," or last-man-standing competition. They're both also free to download, making their money by selling visual flares and other trinkets that don't affect gameplay.

"We're not seeing any downward trend at all" in user data, Tim Sweeney, Epic's CEO, said in an interview. 

What's made Fortnite particularly popular is its cartoonish and silly animation style, characters whose winning dance move "emotes" have been mimicked by kids and stars around the world, and its regularly changing challenges for players to perform. Still, Fortnite's not the only game of its type. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, known as PUBG, was first released in 2017 and currently counts 100 million users. And Apex Legends, which launched from Electronic Arts in February, has been gaining attention too. That game grew quickly after launching in February, pegging 50 million players in its first month.

As interest in Apex Legends has heated up, analysts have begun to wonder whether it can unseat Fortnite as the biggest battle game out there. Fortnite's continued growth may suggest otherwise.

"Fortnite is equal parts online multiplayer shooter game and social hangout littered with funny dances and colorful emotes," Joost van Dreunen, head of Nielsen's SuperData Research, wrote in a column last month. "Apex offers a well-balanced middle-ground between the more serious shooters we all love and a touch of color."

Sweeney said he isn't worried. He said the regular changes Epic makes to the game help keep it interesting, and the silliness helps keep the community welcoming.

"Fortnite is the first shooter game that has a very large female population -- we've seen it as high as 35 percent. And well, gee, why isn't it 50 percent? But that's unprecedented for any game of this sort," he added. "It's a really fun game you can play a lot of different ways."