Imagine a world where Fortnite didn't exist: millions of gamers wouldn't have enjoyed millions of hours (or spent millions of V-bucks) battling to survive on the island. Well, that alternate reality came closer to happening than you might think.
Former Epic games production director Rod Fergusson recently told the Game Informer Show podcast that he "tried to cancel Fortnite" before he moved on to his current job at The Coalition (the Gears of War developer).
The game apparently didn't "pass the bar" for quality in its early stages, when it was only available in its original Save the World monster-fighting format, Fergusson says.
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We don't get much in the way of detail about why Fergusson was unhappy with the way Fortnite was shaping up – only that there were "challenges" in the early incarnations of the game, before it went on to be the global smash hit we know today.
Given the huge cultural impact Fortnite has had, its near-cancelation is hard to imagine. It's likely we wouldn't have seen new battle royale games like Apex Legends, which EA launched to huge player numbers earlier this year – or even the Epic Games Store, which was largely bank-rolled by Epic's revenue from Fortnite transactions.
No hard feelings
Despite not being Fortnite's biggest fan while he was at Epic Games, Fergusson says there are no hard feelings: he's "super happy" for the success the game has had since he left his role at the company.
Upgrading the game from Unreal Engine 3 to Unreal Engine 4 slowed down development of Fortnite in its original form, as did switching the graphics from a darker style to the cartoonish form of today.
Following the success of PUBG, Epic then rushed through the Battle Royale mode of Fortnite, releasing it as a free-to-play title alongside the Save the World format.
And the rest, as they say, is history – but Fergusson's admission is a reminder of just how thin the line can be between success and failure in the gaming industry. If he'd stayed at Epic, Fortnite may never have made it.