User Experience Design in a Virtual World

Fortnite and Apex Legends are no doubt juggernauts in the game world. The difference many in the game community are calling out between these two game ecosystems is fascinating. 

Full disclosure: I haven’t been a gamer since the Atari 2600.

For context, Fortnite is a massively popular “battle royale” game. By massively popular, I mean it grew to over 125 million players in less than a year and is currently earning hundreds of millions of dollars per month. By contrast, Apex Legends gained 25 million players in seven days shortly after launch and is well on its way to being one of the highest revenue generating games ever. Clearly this is a big audience.

Back to the UX thing. As the Verge article says, Apex Legends is the better game, but Fortnite is the better experience. Why is this? Don’t people play games for the gaming experience? As it turns out, there’s more to it.

“As a pure action game, Apex is the superior experience…You can run and slide around the map with ease, and the guns all have a specific weight and force to them that just feels right. Even better, while Apex is focused entirely on team play, there are features in place that make it fun even if you’re playing with strangers.”

“Compared to Fortnite, all of these elements — the gunplay, the movement, the social features — are improved in Apex. But that’s only a fraction of the reason why people actually play Fortnite. Epic’s game isn’t just a battle royale, it’s a social network and, increasingly, it’s a virtual place where massive hangouts happen and where people want to explore with their friends almost as much as they want to compete.”

Andrew Webster – The Verge

You see, even in a virtual world people are seeking connection. They want to do more than push buttons and win battles. They want to chat with their friends, to just “hang out”. This has been happening for a while. My son used to log-on to his X-Box just to talk with his friends in the gaming world, often for hours at a time, and never actually play a game. Fortnite famously just held a Marshmello concert in its virtual world, and 10,000,000 people showed up. Clearly, as the kids say, is a thing.

It’s still a little too early to know exactly what this means for society and how to design experiences for people in the future. My guess is something like Ready Player One isn’t that far away and today’s designers need to get up to speed on what that means for their craft. Time will tell.