Fornite's new weapon-free mode must be eating some of Houseparty's lunch

The new Party Royale mode encourages virtual hangouts, racing, and other minigames.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Animal Crossing: New Horizons may have become everyone’s new favorite island game during quarantine, but Fortnite’s not giving up so easily. Epic Games rolled out a new, weapon-free Party Royale mode that better reflects players’ diminishing bloodlust and increasing desire for virtual community.

ArsTechnica reports a few content creators were invited to take the mode for a spin ahead of launch this coming Friday, and Epic Games confirmed the mode’s existence to Polygon on Wednesday. The leaks seem to have forced Epic Games' hand because Party Royale is currently live for all players.

No guns, no problem — Fortnite data miners ShiinaBR and Lucas7Yoshi are credited with the initial leaks of a new map called “Papaya.” In this version, players can participate in mini-games and races as well as hang out with friends in virtual theaters, “hubs,” and sports fields.

Here we are now, entertain us — Epic Games, echoing early emails sent to creators, told Polygon “Party Royale is a new experimental and evolving space. Leave your weapons and mats behind.” Lethal weapons are the only ones excluded; players will be able to access the likes of paintball guns in the game. This violence-free mode sets the stage for more entertainment partnerships like the Quibi shows and Travis Scott concerts the platform has already been used for.

The best part of Party Royale for may players may be the lack of building, something that's proved divisive in Fortnite and long been a bugbear for players of the other, big-name (but somewhat less popular) battle royale title, PUBG. Still, at the same, time the new mode reinforces the old adage, "Built it and they will come." In droves, it turns out, especially if they're teenagers, stuck at home, and starved of social events.

Houseparty, the recent digital hangout spot du jour for quarantine, which is also owned by Epic, will likely be seeing lower user numbers if this continues. But as Apple proved with iPhone and its expediting of the iPod's demise: Better to cannibalize your own product than not and have someone beat it.