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Lego Fortnite is propelling Fortnite to a new level of popularity

New survival mode draws as many players as all Battle Royale variants combined

A lineup of classic Fortnite characters in Lego minifig form, looking off to the right Image: Epic Games, The Lego Group
Oli Welsh is senior editor, U.K., providing news, analysis, and criticism of film, TV, and games. He has been covering the business & culture of video games for two decades.

Lego Fortnite, the new survival game spinoff of the Fortnite phenomenon that Epic Games launched on Dec. 7, is off to a flying start. According to Epic’s official player tracking, as recorded by Fortnite.gg, Lego Fortnite peaked at an astonishing 2.45 million concurrent players on Saturday.

To put that number in context, it’s considerably higher than the all-time high for any game on Steam save PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which peaked at over 3 million simultaneous players in January 2018. It’s more than twice as many players as Steam’s current most popular game, Counter-Strike 2, had at the same point on Saturday.

Lego Fortnite is also the dominant game mode within Fortnite itself right now. It’s drawing roughly twice as many players as the main Battle Royale mode, and a comparable number to the Battle Royale, Zero Build, and Ranked modes combined.

Epic launched two other new games within Fortnite last week: arcade racer Rocket Racing, and rhythm game Fortnite Festival. These are not nearly as popular as Lego Fortnite, although their peak player counts are deep into six figures and would still be the envy of all but the top three or four games on Steam.

Together, the three new modes — which launched alongside Fortnite’s Chapter 5 and in the wake of its Big Bang event on Dec. 2 — represent a new era for Fortnite as it continues its evolution from a hugely popular battle royale shooter into a multifaceted, metaverse-style online gaming platform.

In an expert piece of stage management from Epic, this new era was ushered in by the monthlong Fortnite OG retro event, which allowed players to revisit the original game map and speed through several seasons from the game’s first Chapter. OG itself drew record numbers of players, while Big Bang and the Lego Fortnite launch have enabled Epic to keep the momentum going.

The peak number of concurrent players for all Fortnite modes and maps rolled together on Saturday was 7.6 million — beating 6.2 million for OG, and far in excess of the 1-3 million simultaneous players Fortnite was drawing earlier in 2023, prior to OG’s launch. (Fortnite’s all-time concurrent players record is 12.3 million for the Astronomical event in 2020, while Big Bang brought together 11.6 million at one time.) For comparison, the whole of Steam had just over 10.1 million players in-game at the same time on Saturday.

Unlike Fortnite’s original, hasty evolution from a sandbox zombie survival game into a battle royale shooter, it seems that this latest phase in its development was carefully planned in advance. On Saturday, Donald Mustard, who left his post as Epic’s chief creative officer in September, posted a sketched vision for Fortnite as a hub that included “PVP,” “cart,” “music”, and “survival” offshoots. The sketch is dated Dec. 13, 2017.

“It was such a HUGE, audacious, vision,” Mustard wrote. “We knew it would take YEARS and SO much work on so many fronts. We (can’t believe how close we were) guessed it would take about 6 years. The plan changed and evolved a million times, but today you are playing the TRUE vision of the dream of FORTNITE.”

It remains to be seen whether the popularity of Lego Fortnite will be sustained — but as it stands, Epic appears to have pulled off one of the most notable comebacks in online gaming history.

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