The first time a player noticed a comet hurdling toward the Fortnite island, the occurrence became a big news item. The hottest game in the world seemed to be teasing something big, and nobody could initially figure out what it meant, or what it was leading to.
Fast-forward to 2019, and most of Fortnite’s events have failed to capture that sense of magic, which seemed to suggest that anything could happen. That’s partially because something is always happening in Fortnite now, but leaks have also become a much bigger deal within the hardcore community.
Any time Epic Games updates Fortnite, data miners are there to tell us about future skins. More than that, Fortnite leakers have been able to tell players about assets before they’re live in-game, or before they’ve been used in-context. I first heard about everything from the destruction of Tilted Towers, to the vote to bring a vaulted weapon back from leakers who had gone through the game’s files. There was no such thing as a Fortnite surprise for awhile — but data miners say that’s changing.
Data miners tell Polygon that Epic has begun encrypting some information relating to things like cosmetics to prevent leaks, and the number of encrypted files per update is only going up. Data miners say they can no longer see all cosmetics, emotes, buildings, and most recently, entire event files.
Some things still filter through, but Epic seems to have the bigger stuff under wraps for now. This is why, unlike the last major event, you haven’t heard what’s going to happen with Polar Peak’s eye/ocean monster. Nobody knows, not even the most prolific leakers.
As far as leaker Lucas7yoshi is concerned, leaks might ruin the surprise for some players, but there’s also a huge benefit to having them, at least when it comes to cosmetics.
“People like to know about what’s coming up so that they know if they should save up their V-Bucks,” Lucas7yoshi tells Polygon. He does, however, recognize that a mysterious storefront allows Epic to make more money. Players might forego buying something if they know something better is coming down the line. Without a schedule, players worry that a high-value item may not return to the store anytime soon, which incentivizes immediate purchases. It’s not consumer-friendly, but Epic Games relies on the sales of in-game items to turn a profit from the free-to-play game.
Sometimes, though, fans like Lucas7yoshi feel that leaks actually help players interpret what’s going on, as the game is prone to updating with small features that nobody can understand, at least initially.
“For example the Ice King event,” Lucas7yoshi recalls. “Barely ANYONE knew that was happening except for those who saw leakers posting about it.”
Those leaks, Lucas7yoshi claims, helped word of mouth spread, and got more players interested in figuring out how to participate in the eventual reveal. It’s also worth noting, however, that leakers sometimes have creator codes that players can use to direct some of their in-game purchase money toward their source of information. Beyond fame, some leakers profit from their ability to tell others what’s coming down the pipeline.
Leaks have been a topic of concern for Epic in the past — last year, a quality assurance contractor got sued by the battle royale developer for allegedly revealing secrets regarding where a meteor would hit in-game. Another leaker, who was more prolific, was also legally shut down last year following accusations from Epic that the fan “promoted and advertised the sale of game modification tools which violate our terms of service.”
What’s special about this turn of events, however, isn’t just that it highlights how much leaks have influenced Fortnite’s culture. For the first time in a long time, Fortnite players are flying mostly blind. There’s a real chance Fortnite’s “anything could happen” magic might be recaptured, at least if leakers don’t figure out another way to look into the future.
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