Love it, hate it, stream it, meme it, or cook it—Fortnite saved the world by taking it over. Numbers have only increased since our year-one checkup of Epic’s battle royale block-annihilator, and its affinity for tossing a couple extra zeros to the caboose of its extraordinary stats makes it a matter of time before “Fortnite-ian” (it’s a work in progress) replaces buzzwords like “titanic” and “colossal.” The phenomenon parties on, so let’s see how many people are playing Fortnite these days.
As before when we last took Fortnite’s pulse, gleaning concrete counts requires some guesswork. Only Epic knows the actual player count, and it typically shares important milestones across all the platforms Fortnite exists on: consoles, mobile, and PC. A good starting point, then, is to focus on the Epic Launcher, the studio’s proprietary distribution service, a digital storefront generating as much controversy as revenue, and, crucially, the sole borders of Fortnite’s PC territory.
The short answer: a lot
Still, it’s Epic itself that most recently hinted at some unbelievable growth. During a presentation at the Game Developer’s Conference in March, Epic divulged Fortnite had reached a peak player concurrency of 10.8 million, a whopping 218 percent increase in activity from the prior figure of 3.4 million reported last year. That’s also a month and some change out from the supposed 10.7 million-strong Marshmello live concert hosted within Fortnite in February. That’s more people than the population of Sweden.
Epic revealed Fortnite touts 250 million registered accounts across all platforms. Of that cool quarter billion, 85 million rest on the Epic Launcher.
Here’s where it gets interesting: Epic claimed 40 percent of its launcher users don’t have Steam, an astonishingly thick slice of its community, but somewhat more sensible in context. Until the rollout of its store last December, the launcher’s only occupants were Fortnite and a sadly atrophied Unreal Tournament pre-alpha. That translates to a division of 34 million PC players who solely use the Epic Launcher.
That heftily suggests a possible active PC player base of at least a couple million, but trying to scrutinize cleaner figures only takes us deeper into the conjecture jungle. For one, the majority of factual numbers for the PC pertain to just accounts. Second, without knowing Epic’s specific criteria for distinguishing between active, inactive, and Steam-averse accounts—Epic’s source is an obliquely described “user survey,” and the launcher lacks accessible data à la Steam Charts—it's a starkly blunt reminder of how completely Epic runs the show.
As the Epic store continues expanding, the total number of Epic launcher users is only going to get further from the potential Fortnite base as more games, free or not, are released on the platform.
So, what’s the secret? How has Epic kept its lightning-in-a-chug-jug from fizzling out? In a word: updates. Fortnite’s content cycle is a continuous blitz of steady patch fixes, weekly and monthly events, new weapons, and game-changing items that revitalizes the hammered-in battle royale flow nearly every time you launch the game.
Season 7’s Creative mode is a self-powering infinity engine. You can ask a van to reboot your fallen squadmate. Season 9 is just around the corner and Epic is already teasing the return of a certain purple cube.
Among crunch concerns and a shrewd business model for knocking Steam’s crown askew, Epic nevertheless has defined what it means to run a live service game. Think of it this way: there’s no better thumbing of the nose to an impressively loud opening salvo from new blood than getting bigger.