Friday ‘Nite is a weekly Fortnite column in which Mark Delaney takes a closer look at current events in the wide world of Fortnite, with a special emphasis on the game’s plot, characters, and lore.
Fortnite is often credited with revolutionizing the free-to-play gaming world. After randomized lootboxes in other games were trounced by players and investigated by government bodies, creators quickly pivoted, sensing a need to monetize their games that was fairer to players. Led by Fortnite, they landed on the battle pass, a system that, while not everyone’s favorite, is still much preferred by seemingly everyone as compared to the lottery-like lootboxes of a few years ago. Personally, I think Fortnite’s battle pass is the best in the medium: eight character each season, tons of other cosmetics, plus you can earn back all your V-Bucks just by playing the game you probably already intend to play anyway.
However, the Fortnite battle pass still suffers from one major flaw: Some of the game’s most important heroes and villains in its years-long story have been made unavailable forever for a great number of players. While they’re active, the Fortnite battle passes are a reasonable and fun tool to keep players engaged in a season. But for players who came to Fortnite late, or perhaps haven’t even come to the game at all yet, keeping super-important characters locked forever behind arbitrary walls sure does sting.
I started playing Fortnite regularly with Chapter 2, Season 2. Before that, I had dabbled in it, but it didn’t really catch my attention until 2020 when my son and I played in the early days of the pandemic. As I played, I started to uncover the story that was being told beneath the surface of a game that, to an outsider, seems to be nothing more than a battle royale with some licensed music and ridiculous emotes. But the story of the mysterious island, the Imagined Order, and The Seven has come more and more into the limelight over the past two years, to the point where now it’s almost impossible to play the game without having at least a vague understanding of what’s going on in its world. Even if you don’t know who Doctor Slone or The Origin is, you can tell they’re at war with each other through a combination of environmental storytelling and in-game challenges that play out like weekly chapters in the saga.
To a seasoned player who likes some narrative in their battle royale, this is awesome. But to a fairly new player, like me, the realization that I can never collect every member of the all-important Seven really sucks. The aptly named band of quasi-metahumans is comprised of The Origin, The Foundation, The Scientist, The Visitor, The Paradigm, The Imagined, and–though we only know this from leaks right now–The Order. Sadly, almost all of these skins were included in past battle passes, meaning they’ll likely never be offered to players again.
Fortnite skins aren’t Pokemon–there’s well over 1,000 of them now, and it’d be quite costly to catch ’em all–but as a lore-chasing Fortnite fan, I wish I could at least add all of these specific heroes to my in-game locker. Players who didn’t play the game back during Chapter 1, Season 4 missed out on The Visitor, while two more of the heroes, The Scientist and The Paradigm, were first made available in Season X (10) back in 2019. Since Chapter 2, every single one of these heroes who has come to the game has done so via a limited-time battle pass–including two of them in the current battle pass. That means anyone who jumps into the game after Fortnite Chapter 3, Season 3 begins will have no better than one Seven member to add to their collection, and that assumes The Order’s eventual arrival isn’t made to be a short stint in the Item Shop before she’s never seen again, which is oddly how The Paradigm has been treated. The issue goes beyond just The Seven, too, and includes other major characters like Agent Jones, Doctor Slone, and more–and it’s happening more often as Fortnite leans harder into storytelling.
This decision–to not resell battle pass characters, and especially to not sell Item Shop characters like The Paradigm–is entirely arbitrary. I understand Epic wanting to incentivize playing while these characters are available in a limited capacity, but Fortnite has so often blazed live-service trails that I wish Epic would reconsider this exclusivity issue, even if only on a case-by-case basis. It feels like things happen this way simply because they always have, but nearly five years into the great live-service experiment that is Fortnite, I’d argue a new approach is in favor so that newer players can enjoy playing the game as its main characters. It’d be better than the system we have in place right now and it would serve to extinguish the game’s reverse-FOMO–a lament of having already missed out.
Ultimately, I wish Fortnite would take a page out of Halo Infinite’s playbook and offer old battle passes to players to chase like new. Just because the Halo Infinite Season 2 battle pass has arrived doesn’t mean those players can’t keep chasing the Season One battle pass. Fortnite could–and really should–work the same way. Heck, I’d even settle for just putting The Seven back in the Item Shop. I’ll pay a fair price. But if a live-service game such as Fortnite has growth plans that include existing for years to come while building out its story universe with every new season, Epic would be wise not to punish new players by keeping out of their reach some of the game’s main characters for purely arbitrary reasons.