Tilted Towers. Salty Springs. Greasy Grove. Whether you play Fortnite or not, you've probably heard of them at some point over the last year. As popular locations on Fortnite's one-and-only map, they've become something like a second (and very deadly) home to a lot of players over the last year. It's a strange thing, too, because less than 10 years ago a multiplayer shooter with only one map would've been derided by the masses as 'lacking content.' And yet, here we are, one map in, one year in, and Fortnite is still one of the most popular games in the world.
And yet, even though Fortnite's map has such a strong identity that players have yet to truly tire of it, you gotta wonder—will Epic Games ever release a new map for Fortnite? Let's investigate.
Will Fortnite ever get a brand new map?
Way back in April of this year, Epic Games design lead Eric Williamson spoke to Red Bull about the prospects for a new map. Things might have changed since then, but it seems like the philosophy of the developer is clear.
"A second map isn’t off the table, but it’s not something we’re focused on right now," said Williamson. "We had a pretty big map update earlier this year that added a bunch of new points of interest and changed up the game in a pretty big way. And then more recently, we added Lucky Landing, another new POI." The official Fortnite FAQ goes even further, answering yes to the question of new maps in Fortnite's future: "Yes, but not right away. Currently, we’ll continue making improvements to our existing map, including adding more points of interest."
VIDEO: James experiences Fortnite's first in-game event, live.
But we're not sure how old the FAQ is and whether it reflects the current plan at Epic Games. And the Red Bull interview took place long before major events, like the meteor that changed Dusty Depot into Dusty Divot, or the rocket launch that added rifts throughout the map, or the total desert makeover in the southeast corner, or most recently, the purple cube that turned Loot Lake into a swirling vortex and spawned a floating island. That's a lot of new stuff, enough to treat Fortnite's map as a Ship of Theseus scenario—is it still the same map if it's been slowly reassembled with different parts?
Navel-gazing aside, it appears that the team at Epic thinks Fortnite's map is better suited as a singular 'living' entity. And it makes sense! The philosophy jives with the constant addition and removal of weapons, tools, and mechanics to keep the meta in constant flux.
Plus, in-game world events like the rocket launch, the meteor crash, or the cube melting into Loot Lake generate palpable excitement. Witnessing a singular set-piece in a multiplayer game is still novel, and the changes to terrain and mechanics that they bring about are fun to explore long after the fact. The social aspect is maybe the best part, with players organizing viewing parties (which often go terribly wrong) or joining in with their favorite streamer like Tyler "Ninja" Blevins, who easily racks up 200,000 or more viewers whenever an event is about to go down.
The map changes that these world events introduce essentially remix Fortnite, especially with such a deep pool of tools to pull from. New points of interest, named locations, and smaller areas like the bouncy corrupted zones left by the cube give players incentive to land somewhere new, and new tools to try once they get there. It's thanks to the byproducts of these events—shockwave grenades, rifts, and shadow cubes—that allow old favorites like Tilted or Greasy to remain in play.
Adding multiple maps to a battle royale game also has had mixed results in the young genre's lifetime. Take PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, for example. For the better part of its first year, players only had the Erangel map to play on, and it was largely adored. Locations like Pochinki, Georgopol, and Rozhok became familiar and beloved in those early months.
And then PUBG's second map, Miramar, released into early access. The map was received poorly overall, but the bigger issue was that it segmented the playerbase. Instead of just jumping into a match, players had to choose which map they wanted to queue up for. The PUBG love affair quickly became overshadowed by complaints.
Miramar is the same 8x8 km as Erangel, but it's much emptier. More open areas leads to more downtime, and some super slow matches in what can already be a slow game. After the early grace period, the general sense was that everyone just wanted Erangel back in the fore.
Had PUBG Corp decided to stick with Erangel and update it more often as opposed to making Miramar, and later the smaller map Sanhok, then maybe the discussion around PUBG would've been more positive over the last year. It's still a massive international hit, of course, but adding new maps so soon might've been the wrong call.
It makes me think that recreating the success of the first map in Fortnite won't be easy for Epic. The map has seen so many changes throughout 2018, most of which have been well-received, that it seems like the obvious path to stay on.
A new map could be what Fortnite needs in the next year, or years from now. But for the time being, Epic should, and likely will, just stick with what works: surprise, iteration, and experimentation. At least until it doesn't work anymore. There's no rush.