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‘We didn’t expect this’: Local Fortnite creative director talks video game’s mania

By Liesl Nielsen, | Posted - May 10th, 2018 @ 3:44pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Even if you’re not a video game aficionado, you’ve probably heard of Fortnite: Battle Royale without knowing it.

The massively popular video game had more than 40 million players worldwide in March and has likely amassed even more since the game developers released Season 4 on May 1.

“We’re thrilled and humbled by how crazy popular the game has become,” said Donald Mustard, creative director at Epic Games, the developers behind Fortnite. “I don’t think you can ever predict this level. We knew the game was fun … but we didn’t expect this.”

Though Mustard, a Salt Lake City native, rarely gives interviews (he prefers the game to speak for itself), he joined KSL for an exclusive interview on KSL Newsradio’s JayMac News Show Friday to talk about the game’s unprecedented fame.

Fortnite: Battle Royale is a free, Hunger Games-esque online game that lets 100 players leap out of a plane onto a small island, then fight each other until only one player is left.

Players can run around the island collecting weapons and resources to defend and attack. As the game progresses, the island shrinks so players are forced closer and closer together, and the last survivor is the winner.

“The map in Fortnite is the main character of the game,” Mustard said, explaining that Fortnite’s developers try and keep it fresh by adding something new to the game each week.

But unlike other battle games, Fortnite’s graphics are bright, cartoonish and fun, giving the game a family-friendly appeal for all ages.

“Fortnite is a very social game,” Mustard said. “(It’s) lots of people coming together, engaging together, and we try very hard to be living room safe. There will never be anything in the game that, if your mom walks by, she won’t be like, ‘Woah, what’s happening?”

Players can also collect crazy costumes and show off zany dance moves that are programmed into the game. The game developers are frequently adding new dance moves and receive requests from players all over the globe. Even celebrities like Snoop Dogg have gotten in on the fun.

At any given moment, hundreds of thousands of people are watching other gamers play Fortnite on Twitch, a live streaming video platform, Mustard said.

“It’s insane the amount of people playing the game.”

And part of Fortnite’s pull is, not only its non-existent price, but its accessibility across consoles and platforms. Fortnite is available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and iOS devices. An Android version is in the works, too. The game also allows for cross-platform play, meaning everyone can play together, even if they’re not on the same platform.

“We have hundreds of millions of impressions on social media,” Mustard said. “It’s just thrilling people are so excited about it, and we love that we’ve been able to create something that people love playing.”

Though the game is free, players in the game can spend “v-bucks” to buy resources, costumes and other perks — and v-bucks cost real money. Fortnite: Battle Royale surpassed rival PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds in total monthly revenue for the first time in February with $126 million, according to Forbes.

The company may also be coming out with merchandise within the next few months, Mustard said.

“We know a lot of people want that,” Mustard said. “When we do that … we want to make sure any merchandising matches the quality of experience in the game. But we’re actively working on it.”

Mustard said the most pressing priority is to bring the game to as many platforms as possible and update the game weekly.

“There will be some new cool thing. We have lots and lots of plans, and part of the fun is the discovery,” he said. “It’s very humbling for all of us at Epic. … Man we’re just getting started.”

Liesl Nielsen

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