Forget Sony and Xbox: Fortnite Is the Real Winner of E3

LOS ANGELES - Fortnite has been out for the better part of a year, but if you saw its E3 2018 booth, you wouldn’t be wrong for mistaking it for a brand new game.

The battle royale playground that Epic constructed for its wildly popular shooter drew in massive crowds all week, which, coupled with a handful of big events and announcements, made Fortnite just as big a deal at E3 as the dozens of unreleased games on the floor.

Even at an expo where fans could play hot titles like Spider-Man, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, there were hordes of Fortnite fanatics that waited in line to buy merch, imitate their favorite in-game dances in front of a green screen and blast each other away in live matches. The booth was a miniature Fortnite theme park, with a massive, real-life Battle Bus up front, free popcorn stands, and a rideable llama that whipped fans around like a mechanical bull.

“It’s pretty magnificent,” said Jared from Houston, TX, who plays the game on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and was getting a taste for the PC version here at E3. “I actually rode the llama yesterday for a solid minute (laughs)”

“The Battle Bus is definitely my favorite part of it,” added Jared’s friend David, who plays on all three platforms. “It’s just so cool how they took something from the game and made it so lifelike.”

But Fortnite’s E3 booth didn’t just dazzle existing fans of the game. It also won over some new ones.

“Honestly, my first time playing was right here,” said Marlow, a Call of Duty fan from Queens, NY. “I have a Nintendo Switch and I didn’t know they were gonna release Fortnite on it. So now that I’m kinda getting into it, as soon as I get home that’s the first thing I’ll do – download Fortnite on my Switch.”

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Fortnite’s surprise Switch release was one of the biggest announcements of E3, and despite some fan unrest over the lack of PS4 cross-play, was downloaded 2 million times in its first day on the Nintendo eShop alone. Marlow is just one of a boatload of fans being won over by the prospect of playing the hottest game in the world on Nintendo’s massively popular portable console.

But a huge expo presence and a big Switch announcement weren’t all Epic had to offer at E3. The developer also hosted the first-ever Fortnite Pro Am, a live, raucously entertaining charity tournament in which 50 pro gamers and 50 celebrities duked it out in a massive outdoor soccer field in Los Angeles.

It was here that Epic announced the game’s2018-2019 competitive season, which will consist of a variety of both online and in-person events and ultimately culminate in the 2019 Fortnite World Cup. While a grand total of $100,000,000 will be on the line throughout the season, Epic promises that it won’t be selling teams or franchises – which means all players are welcome to earn their way in through pure skill.

At this point, we all know just how massive Fortnite is. But in the context of E3 2018, where huge new games like Cyberpunk 2077 and Resident Evil 2 made their debut, the fact that an existing title like Fortnite made such a splash speaks to both the game’s popularity as well as just how great a job Epic did celebrating it for the fans.

It’s been a big week for the biggest game in the world, and we’re eager to see where the Fortnite phenomenon goes next.

Michael Andronico

Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.