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Fortnite: Battle Royale: everything you need to know

Get the lowdown on Fortnite: Battle Royale, which is now in season 6.

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Season 6 is fast approaching.

CNET

In just a matter of months, Fortnite: Battle Royale went from a successful video game to a global phenomenon. After a rocky development, the free-to-play game has captured the attention of gamers on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PCs, iPhones, and Android devices. And with Sony's recent announcement of a cross-play beta with all the major gaming platforms, the world's biggest game is about to get even more popular.

Fortnite began as a zombie-killing, cooperative third-person shooter where you built fortifications, held off hordes, and moved on to the next attack. What's now known as Save the World mode has tons of RPG elements as well with skill trees, character classes and more. It was first revealed by developer Epic Games in 2011, making infrequent appearances for years before finally entering early access in 2017. That $40 cooperative title made with the Unreal Engine stood by itself for months, but it wasn't until Epic decided to add a free battle royale game mode to drum up awareness for the core game that Fortnite went from a mildly successful game to a worldwide phenomenon.

What is Battle Royale?

The battle royale genre is fairly new to gaming, but has quickly taken hold as one of the most popular on the planet. The rules are simple: One hundred people jump out of Fortnite's battle bus and parachute down to an island, search for assault rifles and gear, then battle it out until only one person is left standing, resulting in a victory royale. Meanwhile a storm closes over the island with ever-shrinking circles, forcing people to fight to survive. It takes heavy inspiration from its namesake: a Japanese manga and movie of the same name that follows a similar, murderous arc.

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In Season 5, the Fortnite map got major changes, adding Lazy Links (top center) and Paradise Palms (desert area in lower right).

Gamespot

Battle royale games entered the mainstream with PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds (PUBG), a more realistic-looking title that laid much of the groundwork for Fortnite's success. But for a number of reasons, Fortnite has swiftly overtaken its predecessor and stands alone at the top of the gaming world's popular consciousness. The creators of PUBG initially weren't happy with this news, and after a number of public complaints, challenged Fornite over copyright infringement. They have since dropped the lawsuit.

Legal entanglements aside, part of the appeal with any battle royale game is that every match can feel different. You can drop in wherever you want and the eye of the storm closes in on different locations every game. Throw in the ever-changing combinations of randomly-generated weapons and gear (including jetpacks!) as you or your team struggle to become the lone survivors, and you can see why the game has hooked in so many players.

But what keeps them coming back to Fortnite are weekly updates with new items and limited-time game modes. As an example,  one update for the game added shopping carts you could drive, giving players the game's first vehicles and giving people yet another reason to jump back into the game. Another update unveiled Playground mode, which lets a squad of friends drop down to the island without the threat of the storm so they can experiment with weapons and practice building structures. The larger Season 5 update added new areas to explore and All-Terrain Karts you could drive with your whole squad. Plus, it didn't hurt that Fortnite set the stage for future tie-in events with an Avengers: Infinity War cross-promotion in which players were able to seize the Infinity Gauntlet and become Thanos while playing the game.

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Lush landscapes are the setting in this life or death game of survival.

Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Where you can play Fortnite

You can play Fortnite on PS4, Xbox One, Mac, Windows PC, Nintendo Switch, Android or iPhone. You can download Fortnite for free on all platforms, but you'll only be able to play the Battle Royale mode. The aforementioned cooperative mode, called Save The World, costs $40 and is unavailable to mobile users. But even on the platforms it's available on, Save The World Players are becoming a rare breed compared to the Battle Royale crowd.

It's important to note that the game works near seamlessly on most platforms, but Mac users have raised concerns about low frame rates, stuttering and more

Fortnite cross-play

For months, Sony didn't allow full Fortnite cross-platform play with the other major consoles, angering players isolated from friends while still playing on the world's most popular console. Sony repeatedly claimed players' experiences might be diminished, but it later announced a cross-platform beta would allow PS4 players to connect with both Xbox and Switch players. The program currently covers PlayStation 4, Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows and Mac platforms.   

Where can I get the Android version?

In an interesting move, Epic Games announced that Fortnite cannot be downloaded from the Google Play Store. Instead, the company has a stand-alone installer on its website requiring players to side-load the game onto their devices.  

Fortnite came exclusively to the Galaxy Note 9 first, but Epic Games has full list of phones the game's Android beta will work on now that the exclusivity period is over.

So many in-app purchases

Since Fortnite's Battle Royale mode is free-to-play, Epic Games tempts players with cosmetic items in its in-game store. Fortnite has in-game currency called V-Bucks (you can buy with real cash or earn them slowly through gameplay), which you can use to buy items. None of the items, weapon skins or emotes you buy will give you an advantage in the game, but fun items like dance moves, new outfits and new gliders are in constant rotation in the store to entice you to fork over your money so that your character can perform a ridiculous dance upon winning.

Now playing: Watch this: How to stop your kids from making Fortnite in-app iOS...
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There's no harm in differentiating yourself from other players if you're willing to spend a little cash. But it can be problematic if, for example, your child has access to in-app purchases on your phone and gets pulled into the freemium cycle. Thankfully, we found ways to let your kids play without you having to pay.

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This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Getting items and V-Bucks with the Battle Pass

Maybe you want one of those nifty dance emotes, but don't want to buy them individually. Instead of paying for them in the store, you also can earn dance moves, outfits and other items by buying the Battle Pass. The Battle Pass costs $9.99 and has a tiered system that enables you to earn loot over time by completing challenges.

Fortnite gets major updates roughly every quarter, and they kick off what Epic calls a new season. We're currently in Season 5, which brought big updates, including two new named cities on the map, All-Terrain Karts you can drive with a whole squad, and tons of other tweaks. With each new season comes the opportunity to buy a Battle Pass for that season. There are new challenges in each week of the season that reset every Tuesday at 4 p.m. PT. Challenges can task you with getting a certain number of kills with a specific weapon or going to specific locations as you play.

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Some challenges will be easy to complete over time, but you'll have to focus to get the tougher ones.

Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

For example, a challenge can be "Open seven chests in Pleasant Park." So when you drop into the game, you can head to the Pleasant Park neighborhood to try to find seven chests in one game (which would be quite a challenge!), or you can complete the challenge over the course of several games. When you're finished you'll get points toward unlocking the next tier of the Battle Pass, which might award you a dance move, V-Bucks, emotes or other items. You can always scroll through the tiers to see the stuff you'll get in the future.

The more weekly challenges you complete, the faster you'll unlock tiers, making it yet another way to slowly get items over time.

You'll have until the end of the current season to unlock as many of the 100 tiers as you can. When the season is over, any progress you made in your challenges will be reset, and you'll need to buy a new Battle Pass the following season.

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As you complete challenges, you'll unlock tiers that give you rewards. I got this cool skydiving trail at Tier 20.

Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Where you can watch Fortnite 24/7

There are an unlimited supply of Fortnite videos on YouTube, and the game has become the most watched game on Twitch so you won't have any trouble finding a video or stream to watch to get Fortnite tips. According to Twitchmetrics at the time of this writing, Fortnite garners an average of more than 200,000 viewers at any given time across several Fortnite channels. Second on the list is League of Legends, which gets a little over 100,000. PUBG, meanwhile, comes in third with almost 55,000. The apprentice, as you can see, has now become the master.

There are tons of different Fortnite streams to choose from, but the most popular Fortnite streamer by far is Ninja, who has 7.5 million followers on Twitch. He's so popular that he did a stream playing Fornite with rapper Drake that broke the Twitch viewer record with a peak of over 600,000 people watching at the same time. And you can expect even more places to watch competitive Fortnite and esports leagues in the future, with Epic announcing a $100 million investment in esports tournaments.

Long story short, you won't have a problem finding a game to watch, but why not just download this free game and try it out yourself? All it'll cost you is all of your free time and a few $10 Battle Passes once you're hooked.  

Live events

During the summer 2018, Fortnite had a one-time live event that required players to be online at a specific time, lest they miss it. This first live event was a rocket launch the company teased a few days in advance. At the appointed time, millions of players parachuted to the rocket silo location to watch as it launched into the air, exploded and created a multidimensional rift in the sky, along with smaller rifts sprinkled throughout the map. The aftermath revealed giant areas of the map had been changed.

In season 5, during a live tournament, a giant purple cube appeared on the map. It then proceeded to slowly move around the map making people speculate it might destroy another area or make other map changes. As season 6 kicks off Thursday, Sept. 27, we're likely to figure out the final destination of the cube, but this is just another way Epic keeps players wanting to play more. 

We can't know Epic's plans for future events, but the rocket launch and purple cube events generated tons of hype for the game by creating a "you had to be there" moment, making more special events likely.

Where can Fortnite go from here? 

It's tough to say what Epic Games might do in the future with what is currently the hottest game on the planet. The company is doing a great job of adding new weapons and features nearly every week so it will be interesting to see which direction it takes. 

Epic has also generated and kept interest in the game through season long events and a mysterious back story that slowly unfolds over time. As examples, the end of season 4 brought players a rocket event that changed the map significantly for season 5. At the end of season 5, a strange giant purple cube zapped into existence and has since been slowly moving around the map with most players speculating it will be the key to changes in season 6. Keeping the players guessing seems to be the theme here, and by all measures, Epic is succeeding at keeping people coming back for more. 

Fortnite could also follow PUBG's example and add news maps to spice up the gameplay (but made with Fortnite's signature, goofy style). More vehicles could be another interesting direction to go in, with competitors PUBG, H1Z1 and now Call of Duty: Blackout successfully featuring vehicular gameplay.

First published May 25 at 5 a.m. PT.
Update Oct. 31 at 12:35 p.m. PT: Updated information about Fortnite's season 6.

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