from Fortnite The final season kicked off a big overhaul: developer Epic Games removed building, perhaps the game’s most iconic feature, from the main battle royale modes. It was a risky move that had the potential to diminish interest in the game. Instead, it seems to have had the opposite effect, especially for some heavy streamers.
Not everyone was immediately on board with what Epic is now calling Zero Build Mode. “I hated it at first and was absolutely pissed,” Michael “The Fierce Diva” Reynolds, a Facebook Gaming streamer, told me in an interview. “Since I play the game so much, the way people rate my skills is due to the way I build and edit and things of that nature. But my movement and stuff, I’m not very good at it.
Reynolds wasn’t the only one. “I initially thought I was going to hate it,” Twitch streamer Ali “SypherPK” Hassan told me. “I thought maybe I’d do a few videos about it and then go back to normal build mode.”
But the two have since returned. “Once I got used to how you would move around the map without the constructions, I had a lot of respect and appreciation for that,” Reynolds said. “I had such a great time playing this game,” Hassan said. It’s not just these two; I saw a lot of streamers who hadn’t played much fortnitelike DrLupo, TimTheTatman, Nickmercs and Tfue, jumping into the game again.
Removing the building also makes the game more accessible, Hassan explained. “fortnite was slowly becoming inaccessible to new players,” he said. “Anyone interested in playing semi-seriously was just destroyed by people with years of building and editing experience.” Just look a little from Fortnite official competitive matches to see how well top players can build, and in my experience, getting built instantly by experts can be deflating.
Both Reynolds and Hassan have generated a lot of interest in Zero Build mode. Reynolds told me that at one time he was playing from Fortnite Arena mode, which made do not losing the build, “people were so excited to see no builds and see streamers creating content around it that I took a hit that day.” Now that building is back in non-competitive battle royale, Reynolds says he spends about three-quarters of a stream in build mode, then goes to Zero Build. “I really like to mix it all up.”
Hassan’s team shared some stats demonstrating how the new mode led to more viewers, and he apparently saw a 30.3% increase in average viewers in the first week of this season compared to the first week of Chapter 2 Season 8. (His team didn’t share stats comparing the most recent season, Chapter 3 Season 1, as it brought a massive, island-changing overhaul that meant the numbers were more inflated than they typically would be.) Twitch also told me that the first week of the new season had roughly 23 million hours watched – the highest fortnite watch time on Twitch in over a year.
While Zero Build mode has been popular, it’s unclear if Epic plans to keep it in-game after this season. I asked the two streamers if they thought Zero Build would stay. “I mean yes because I think I want to,” Reynolds said. “As long as people continue to [enjoy it], I don’t see why he wouldn’t stay. And I hope it will stay, personally.
Hassan said that if Epic leaves the mode as is and as a separate mode that doesn’t get updated, “I think people will eventually get bored of it and want more. I don’t think it could last more than a season in its current state. But he also spoke to me about the intriguing potential of a hybrid of the build and non-build modes. “I think so fortnite is smart, they’ll be willing to experiment even more and potentially have some kind of limited or ability-based building where you just press a button and it builds a box or a bridge and you can still have those building mechanics,” he said.
I also asked the two streamers what makes fortnite stand out now that construction is no longer a requirement.
“fortnite has an amazing base compared to other traditional battle royale games on the market,” Reynolds said in an email. He mentioned how easy it is to move around the map and pick up weapons, which has been improved by adding mechanics like sliding and sprinting. “I think fortnite shows the industry that it doesn’t need to be built to be as exciting as it once was. And on our call, he talked about fortniteimpressive cadence of weekly updates, which occasionally add new mechanics and locations.
Hassan argued that construction was key to the initial success of fortnite“but what people have to understand is that fortnite has come a long way since. He talked about the many collaborations with franchises like Marvel and DC and the addition of Creative Mode which allows people to do their own experiments. He also mentioned regular updates: “A normal situation fortnite any given Tuesday’s update could potentially be comparable to an entire new season [for] another battle royale.
In an email after the interview, Hassan said the hearing remained in place. “My cat is really enjoying Zero Build and our audience is even surpassing our recent peaks,” he said. “fortnite with Zero Build may not be at its previous peak, but it definitely feels like we’re getting there.