Fortnite quickly became the king of pop-culture crossovers, and it’s clearly a successful business plan for creators Epic Games. But these quick bites of hype are coming at the expense of the game’s long-term quality.
Crossovers are certainly nothing new in the world of Fortnite. For a long time, it was exciting to see your favorite TV shows or comic books join forces with what is undeniably one of the world’s most popular video games. Whether it was a limited-time mission inspired by Marvel supervillain Thanos, or a Demogorgon skin from Stranger Things, there was something to get everyone hyped, and they fit rather nicely into the battle royale genre – even if they did look a little odd alongside the likes of Peely and Fishstick.
Things began to get a little more divisive when the hyped-up Star Wars live event in Chapter 2 Season 1 delivered little more than a trailer for the movie Rise of Skywalker, leaving fans disappointed with the lack of actual gameplay.
Then, Chapter 2 Season 4 dialed things up to 100, becoming what was essentially one big advertisement for Marvel Comics, with a Battle Pass that exclusively featured the brand’s most famous characters as unlockable skins and a map overhaul with superhero-themed locations.
For Marvel fans, this collaboration was a dream come true, and in many ways, the season acted as a stand-in for the Avengers game they deserved but never got. It allowed them to watch their favorite Marvel icons including Storm and Venom duke it out, while the special powers like Iron Man’s Unibeam were a fun addition. But for players who weren’t Marvel fans? Well, it meant four long months of almost nothing else to enjoy, and that Fortnite magic got a little lost along the way.
Chapter 2 Season 5 initially seemed to buck the trend with only one major crossover at launch, the well-received Mandalorian, and a slew of original characters. But as the season played out, it became pretty clear that the ‘bounty hunter’ theme was pretty much an excuse to cram as many pop-culture crossovers into the game as possible. In the space of three months, high-profile franchises including God of War, Halo, The Terminator, Street Fighter, Predator, Alien, G.I. Joe, The Walking Dead, and even TRON all ended up tied into the Fortnite multiverse.
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As for the game’s actual story? Well, there hasn’t been much – if any – of that in recent seasons. Players have been craving a backstory for the recently-introduced Imagined Order, an explanation of The Island’s mysterious hidden bunkers, and for the remaining members of the longstanding organization known as The Seven to be revealed. Unfortunately, they’re still waiting, and it’s beginning to feel like Epic is more concerned with mass-producing crossovers than crafting original Fortnite stories.
When Fortnite’s own characters are more intriguing than gaming icons like Master Chief and Chun-Li, it highlights one of the biggest issues with these crossovers: The core game just doesn’t benefit from having them around. Compared to a series like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which handles its many crossovers with incredible attention to detail in a way that really affects the game’s meta, Fortnite feels a little cheap. Characters like Marvel’s Deadpool, for example, are so well-known for their charisma and witty dialogue that seeing them reduced to a generic costume which – for the most part – behaves in the same way as every other skin in the game, well… it simply doesn’t do them justice.
There is some hope on the horizon, though. With Season 6 arriving imminently, Epic have announced a series of Zero Point comic books that will merge the world of Fortnite with DC Comics. The news was met with concern from gamers who worried the entire season would be DC-themed, but it doesn’t look like that will be the case. Instead, it’s been revealed that the storyline of the comics will have a direct impact on in-game events and Fortnite lore, with Batman, Harley Quinn, and Catwoman leading the charge.
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This sounds exactly like the level of respect that Fortnite needs to give its collaborations, and marks a step in the right direction towards giving these high-profile franchises some actual substance and significance in the Fortnite multiverse. After all, most of the characters that have crossed over to Fortnite have a long and beloved history, and they (and their fans) deserve more than a quick cash grab cameo; hopefully, Season 6’s DC Comics collaboration will set a new precedent for quality over quantity.
Nobody is asking for Fortnite to cut out the crossovers entirely – and most don’t want them to, either. They offer a fun addition to the game for those that enjoy them. But if Epic want to keep everyone happy, they must strike a balance between relevant pop-culture cameos and a return to Fortnite lore going forward.