What is ‘Fortnite’ and why are you suddenly hearing about it everywhere?

Right now, Fortnite is having a moment. Made by Cary-based Epic Games, Fortnite is the mobile version of Fortnite Battle Royale

And after last week's release of the IOS version, it has emerged as the latest gaming sensation. If it's not quite up to the level of 2016's Pokémon Go craze, it's getting there. 

Here are five things to know about it. 

What is it? 

It all began with Fortnite Battle Royale, the computer videogame that launched last fall and has reportedly been downloaded more than 40 million times. Fortnite is a zombie survival game in which players can either team up or play solo, to try and be the last contestant standing a la The Hunger Games

It's all about surviving a zombie apocalypse, which is triggered by an extinction-level-event storm. The game begins with contestants parachuting onto an island as storm clouds gather. Armed only with a pickaxe, players commence to rounding up weapons and supplies to build fortifications, to try and fend off the coming undead horde. 

Rated “T” for Teen, Fortnite has abundant violence. But the cartoon graphics don't have too much in the way of splattering blood or gore. 

Who plays it? 

Millions upon millions of game enthusiasts, some of them rather famous. The rapper Drake is a big fan and attracted an online audience of more than one 600,000 viewers when he recently played a game with the well-known streamer Ninja. 

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is also a Fortnite fan, describing himself as “addicted” to the game. 

And after their shocking upset of top-ranked Virginia in the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament on Friday, the University of Maryland Baltimore County Retrievers jokingly credited Fortnite for the win. Said one player, “The UMBC team is very big on Fortnite.” 

How popular is it? 

Remarkably so, even though it (a) requires an invite to play; and (b) is not yet available for Android devices, only Apple operating systems. 

The analytics platform Sensor Tower calls it “a bonafide sensation,” citing its No. 1 placement on iPhone download charts in 40-plus countries. 

And even though it's a free download, Fortnite still generated more than US$1mil (RM3.91mil) in in-game spending the first 72 hours it was available. 

The game is so hot right now that the pornography site Pornhub even released a list of “Top Fortnite Related Searches” on its site, including “fortnite porn,” “fortnite sex” and other phrases not suitable for a family newspaper. 

It all started here 

Epic Games of Cary. Founded in 1991, the company's previous best-known games include Gears of War and Infinity Blade

But Fortnite is probably going to be its calling card for the foreseeable future. 

It's a property the company is determined to protect. Last fall, Epic made headlines by suing players who were using cheat codes in Fortnite Battle Royale for copyright infringement and breach of contract. 

“Nobody likes a cheater,” the suit read. “And nobody likes playing with cheaters. Those axioms are particularly true in this case.” The suits were settled. 

How to play 

You have to apply online for an invitation email, available from epicgames.com. If you have an iPhone, you can do that now. 

If you're an Android user, however, it's not ready yet and probably won't be for a while yet. 

“There's a very wide range of Android devices that we want to support,” Epic spokesman Nick Chester told Forbes magazine. “We want to make sure Android players have a great experience, so we're taking more time to get it right.” — The News & Observer/Tribune News Service

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