Fortnite, Final Fantasy, and the end of the world
All the craziness of Fortnite’s black hole last weekend got me thinking. Epic took the most popular game in the world offline for roughly 36 hours because they could. But what if they had to?
First, a little background on what exactly happened to Fortnite:
The season  culminated when the Visitor, a mysterious being that arrived with the meteor, launched a rocket that created numerous rifts, from which came smaller rockets which were controlled by “The Seven” that struck all across the island, creating a black hole and consuming the entire game itself. Subsequent to this event, the game was unplayable for about 36 hours with the game’s screens only showing the black hole.
To have so much confidence in your game that you can literally take it down for an extended period of time is pretty incredible. It reminds me — for the complete opposite reason — of what happened with Square Enix and the original Final Fantasy XIV before they released Realm Reborn back in 2013:
The game, known as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, is a replacement for the 2010 version of Final Fantasy XIV, which was shut down after negative reception at its launch. Final Fantasy XIV takes place in the fictional land of Eorzea, five years after the events of the original release. At the conclusion of the original game, the primal dragon Bahamut escapes from its lunar prison to initiate the Seventh Umbral Calamity, an apocalyptic event which destroys much of Eorzea. Through the gods’ blessing, the player character escapes the devastation by time traveling five years into the future.
On a side note, in some ways, the success Realm Reborn has seen since relaunching mirrors what creator Hironobu Sakaguchi dealt with during the release of the original Final Fantasy. The game was essentially his “hail mary” play during a period of uncertainty around his future. It was literally intended to be his final game until it because wildly successful and evolved over the years into one of the most popular, financially successful series of all-time.
In the case of Realm Reborn, they took a terrible situation and did what few studios would be able to do: shut the failing game down, rebuild it from the ground up, and make that process part of the lore. As a result, the game exploded in popularity and remains a fixture in the MMO space to this day. In a similar way — but under a completely different circumstances — Epic did the same thing during their update from version 10 to 11 not because they felt they had to but because they could.