The history of video games is an endless string of “who did it first?” competitions. Fortnite might be king of battle royale games, but Epic Games did copy the base concept from PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (which stole the idea from a DayZ mod). But it still felt a bit weird when Epic tried to ape the best innovation of Apex Legends, its biggest competitor at the moment. Unfortunately, for Fortnite, that attempt totally falls flat.
One of the things that really made Apex stand out was its intuitive ping system, which lets you point out loot and enemies to your teammates with the press of a button (instead of shouting it into a microphone). Almost as if they’re trying to keep up, Epic Games just sneakily added their own ping system Thursday morning with the release of Fortnite Season 8. It’s an improvement for sure, but it still pales in comparison to the brilliance of Apex Legends.
With a single button press in Apex Legends, you can suggest a far off location to head towards, draw attention to a building, or even notify their allies that a particular weapon or item is lying on the floor. You can even flag actual enemies thanks to the contextual feature. This effectively — and in many cases, more efficiently — replace direct human communication via voice chat.
This allows you to purposefully avoid toxic language in chat and more efficiently play the game. In-game characters will also toss in a quippy piece of dialogue to the tune of, “HEY! There’s a rare shotgun right here on the floor!” So not only does this feature make the overall experience smoother and more intuitive, but it reinforces the strongest aspect that Apex Legends has going for it: its fun cast of characters.
Fortnite’s alternative just pales in comparison, and works like something closer to a substantial enhancement on its previous world marker system. The key difference here being that you can place markers directly into the game environment rather than just the island map.
One excellent update is that every marker includes the your distance from said marker, so you can actually calculate how long it might take to travel to a destination. You can also double-click on a location to indicate danger, effectively replacing the fumbling of having to blurt out, “GUN-FIRE … from uhh … 2-2-236 … southwest … ?” Now, you can just double tap off in the distance.
This feature feels ripped right out of Apex Legends, as does another: Using the ping system on an item now displays the item’s icon and rarity. You won’t hear a piece of dialogue like in Apex Legends, but it’s still remarkably similar.
Here are all of the pertinent adjustments detailed in the official Fortnite version 8.00 patch notes:
World Marker Improvements
- World Markers are now visible in the world when placed close to you.
- Double-clicking the World Marker hotkey will place a “danger” version of that marker. World Markers placed while aiming with a weapon will also place the danger version.
- Added 2D UI indicators to the World Markers, making them easier to see through objects.
- World Markers now have an off-screen indicator and display the distance your character is from them.
- Placing a World Marker on an item will display that item’s icon and rarity.
- Placing World Markers remains on the same key for PC and console (KBM: Middle Mouse Button, Controller: D-Pad Left).
- Mobile also has a button that can be added to the HUD. Place this button by using the HUD Layout Tool.
Previously, Epic Games has seemed unconcerned about what other battle royale games were doing — even Call of Duty: Blackout. This is the first time that the company has seemingly directly tried to copy ideas from their competitors.
Perhaps Epic isn’t as confident in its dominance as it used to be. SuperData Research reported just last week that Fortnite revenue dropped almost 50 percent in January.
“Fortnite revenue on all platforms combined declined 48 percent month-over-month in January, although sales are still up significantly year-over-year,” they said. “This comes after a peak month in December and points to an increasingly lumpy revenue profile heading into 2019.”
That obviously had nothing to do with Apex Legends, which wasn’t released until February 4. But we can still read it as an indication that Fortnite’s overwhelming popularity might be waning a little bit.