It’s hard to imagine a world without the sensation that is Fortnite, but for a little while, things weren’t looking great for the game. Initially shipped as a co-op zombie title with a frustrating progression system, Fortnite fell totally flat with players. The developers at Epic saw this unfold, at at least one of the higher-ups had big doubts about the game.
Speaking to Game Informer, Gears 5 developer Rod Fergusson — who used to be a production lead at Epic Games, back when it was still making Gears of War — says that he came close to canceling the game outright. That would be before the game had its battle royale mode, which was added in July 2017.
“If I had stayed at Epic, I would have canceled Fortnite,” Fergusson says. “Before I left, I had tried to cancel Fortnite,” he continues.
“When it was Save the World, that was a project that just had some challenges,” Fergusson says. “And as a director of production at the time, that game would not have passed my bar for something we should continue to keep going.”
Though Battle Royale came to Fortnite in mid-2017, and it took a little more time before the game exploded into the hit it is now. Given the initial reception to the base game, nobody could have predicted what was to come.
Fergusson left Epic in 2012 and eventually ended up as a producer at The Coalition for Microsoft, which might make you think he regrets leaving right before Fortnite took over the world. But actually, he’s very happy to see that Fortnite found the success that it did — especially since that might not have happened if he had stayed with the project.
“That game you love, that worldwide sensation, would not exist had I stayed at Epic,” Fergusson says, with a laugh.
Can you picture that? No flossing kids left and right? No Drake and Ninja? No teens confusing Keanu Reeves for “Fortnite Guy”? Man. That’s wild.
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