On Sunday, Fortnite players received a shock. At 2 p.m. ET, the popular battle royale multiplayer game seemed to crash. Everything disappeared—maps, menus, characters … everything. All that remained was a black screen with a black hole.
It was still there Sunday night. And Monday. And though there was nothing to watch, tens of thousands of people tuned into Twitch to stare at it. The game’s Instagram account uploaded a 5 minute video of the nothingness, garnering thousands of views.
It was, of course, a PR stunt. But it was one that did exactly what it was supposed to do: It put Fortnite—and its new release Fortnite Chapter 2— firmly back into the collective gaming conversation just as the game was beginning to lose a bit of its coolness factor.
Players knew the game’s 10th season would end Sunday. That usually means a brief period of server downtime as new features are uploaded. It’s a chance for dedicated players to run to the store or stretch their legs. The black hole kept them glued to their screens—and ensured they talked about it on social media.
That built up the audience for Chapter 2, the latest version of the ever-changing game. (New features include 13 new locations, the ability to carry a fallen teammate to safety and a “bandage bazooka” to heal friends.) Players can also swim or drive motorboats in Fortnite Chapter 2.
And now that the game’s available, Epic Games is hoping the lapsed players who were talking about Fortnite‘s black hole and watching the Twitch feed will jump back in.
Fortnite, of course, is still outrageously popular. But it has lost a bit of its luster as it has aged, as any game does. It was the most streamed game on Twitch in August, but just barely (League of Legends had just 2,000 fewer average viewers). And its year-over-year average viewers were down 37%. So a big stunt for a big remake could bring those numbers back up.
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