Fortnite rockets to the top of Twitch on the back of nostalgia for 5 years ago

Fortnite peaked at around 153,000 Twitch viewers yesterday, well below a number of other categories, such as League of Legends and Counter-Strike. Just a day later, Fortnite is the #1 category on Twitch, with more than 490,000 people watching streamers play the battle royale shooter as I write.

Ninja, who became famous for streaming Fortnite after it launched in 2017, has now been streaming it for over 24 hours—although he took a sensible nap break in the middle of the unbroken broadcast.

The return of the old Ninja/Fortnite news pairing is not coincidental: It’s a fondness for the past, specifically five years ago, that has brought Ninja and others back to Fortnite. Thanks to some time machine shenanigans, Fortnite’s latest season has reset the map to its state in Fortnite Chapter 1 Season 5, which debuted in 2018.

We’re currently in Chapter 4 of the Fortnite saga, in what Epic is calling Season OG. As this nostalgic season progresses, the map and gear pool will leap between snapshots of Fortnite’s past. Right now, players are dropping onto the original map with unvaulted items from the fifth season, such as All Terrain Karts and the Boogie Bomb. On November 9, the game state will jump to Season 6, then on November 16, elements of Season 7 and 8 will be added, and on November 23, Season 9 and X will enter the mix. The details are laid out in an official blog post.

It’s a little funny to think that nostalgia for just five years ago is causing a resurgence in Fortnite’s popularity, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable. Fortnite’s audience skews younger, and five years is an eternity for a kid (and a lot of people, kids or not, would say that these particular past five years have felt very long).

Fortnite has apparently not been bringing in 2018-level dollars recently, though. Epic laid off over 800 employees in September, which CEO Tim Sweeney attributed to the transition from Fortnite’s early popularity to the “lower margin business” of player-made Fortnite content.

“I had long been optimistic that we could power through this transition without layoffs, but in retrospect I see that this was unrealistic,” Sweeney said. (I prefer the word “reckless” over “unrealistic,” personally.)

Fortnite OG is smaller than a regular Fortnite season: It’ll only last through the end of November, just one month rather than the usual three. Given how complicated Fortnite lore has gotten—Optimus Prime is an important character?—I’m a little scared to speculate on what’ll happen after that, but my guess is that we’ll return to a present day Fortnite altered by this month of timeline meddling.

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