The incredibly popular battle royale video game “Fortnite” opens its doors to another 250 million or so players when it arrives this summer on Android, the founder and president of the developer behind the gaming phenomenon told Variety.
Tim Sweeney calls that potential jump in players modest compared to the 2.5 billion Android devices in the hands of consumers.
“Our expectations for 2018 are modest because ‘Fortnite’ requires a recent high-end Android smartphone,” he said. “‘Fortnite’ brings the game’s full PC and console experience to Android; of the roughly 2.5 billion Android devices, we estimate around 250 million are Fortnite-ready.”
In June, Epic announced that 125 million people have installed “Fortnite” since its launch in 2017. Analysts say the game makes an estimated $300 million a month for Epic Games, though Epic declined to comment on revenue.
The Android version of the game will include full cross play and cross progression support with PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, Mac, and iOS, Sweeney said.
Initially, the Android version will not support the use of controllers and will block the use of a keyboard and mouse to “ensure all players compete on a level playing field,” Sweeney said.
“In time, we’d like to support both, and matchmake with players having similar controls — for example Android+controller users playing with console players, rather than Android touchscreen players.”
Currently, “Fortnite” is available on Windows, Mac, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox, and Apple’s iPhone. Once “Fortnite” hits Android, the game will essentially be on all major platforms that play games. Variety asked if the company has thought about focusing on augmented and virtual reality next.
“We don’t have plans, but we’re thinking a lot about AR and VR possibilities,” Sweeney said. He also noted that there are no plans to bring the other major element of “Fortnite,” Save the World, to mobile.
“Fortnite’s” massive fanbase, which includes a large number of actors, professional athletes, and other celebrities, have given the title and its creator the ability to push the bounds regarding the way the game evolves, makes money, and, most recently, is sold.
When the game comes to Android, it won’t be through the Google Store. Sweeney said that’s because Epic wants to have a “direct relationship with our customers on all platforms where that’s possible.”
“The great thing about the internet and the digital revolution is that this is possible, now that physical storefronts and middlemen distributors are no longer required,” he told Variety. “Second, we’re motivated by economic efficiency. The 30% store tax is a high cost in a world where game developers’ 70% must cover all the cost of developing, operating, and supporting their games. There’s a rationale for this on console where there’s enormous investment in hardware, often sold below cost, and marketing campaigns in broad partnership with publishers. But on open platforms, 30% is disproportionate to the cost of the services these stores perform, such as payment processing, download bandwidth, and customer service. We’re intimately familiar with these costs from our experience operating ‘Fortnite’ as a direct-to-customer service on PC and Mac.”
On PC and Mac, Fortnite is downloaded through an Epic Games launcher downloaded directly from the developer’s website. The same will be true for Android. Eventually, that Fortnite launcher, which will only be available to download for free from Epic, may bring others of the studio’s games to Android. That’s how the company now releases its titles to Mac and PC.
And Sweeney said he hopes to continue to work with Google on this effort. He noted that Epic discussed their approach to “Fortnite” with Google prior to announcing that it wouldn’t be made available on Google’s storefront.
“Google built Android as an open platform, and we’re eager to work closely with them to further Android as a platform that brings console-quality games to smartphones,” he said.
He also noted that Epic has paid close attention to how it can ensure customer safety when essentially sideloading an app onto an Android device.
“The core of Android security is its system for use permissions — users can opt in or out of installing software and granting permissions to that software — for example, permission to access the microphone,” he said. “‘Fortnite’ works seamlessly with that. We’re also working to educate users to only install software from sources they trust, and that the only way to download ‘Fortnite’ on the web is through epicgames.com.”
While the game will be made available directly through Epic for Android devices, it still goes through iTunes on iOS, meaning that Apple collects a percentage of sales on that device.
Sweeney told Variety that he’d like to find a way to also publish “Fortnite” directly on iOS devices, but it sounds like he doesn’t have any plans yet.
“We’d like to see Apple open up iOS to installation of software and third-party software from the web,” he said. “It doesn’t seem right that a platform with a billion devices sold is locked to a single store and single in-app commerce service.”