Fortnite's new update brings back a retro gaming mechanic, and that could herald a massive shift in multiplayer gaming.
Fortnite is more than just a popular video game. It’s a cultural touchstone, one that’s arguably responsible for the rise and dominance of the battle royale genre. When Epic Games introduces a new gameplay mechanic to Fortnite, you can expect that feature to enter the mainstream quickly.
The latest Fortnite update heralds the long-awaited arrival of split-screen gaming. Beginning with version 11.30, players will be able to compete in duo and squad matches with their friends on a single PlayStation 4 or Xbox One console.
The feature was incredibly common back in the 1990s. Before online play, most games relied on split-screen for their multiplayer. Many gamers have fond memories of games like GoldenEye and Sonic 3, both of which featured competitive split-screen modes.
But as graphics improved, and online gaming became more common, split-screen modes fell by the wayside in many top-tier franchises.
The signs have been on the horizon that split-screen was making a comeback. In 2019, several high-profile games prominently featured the mechanic. Borderlands 3 was probably the biggest. The game’s co-op focus meant that playing split-screen was a big draw for many players, even if it was a little buggy when it came out.
But it’s an even bigger deal now that Fortnite – a battle royale – has taken the split-screen plunge. It’s a generally accepted fact that many games try to copy elements from popular titles. Since Fortnite is one of the biggest games out there right now, it’s not unreasonable to expect that games will copy the idea for split-screen features.
Split-screen is an important feature, and it’s been neglected by mainstream gaming. The reason it’s important to many people is that it allows friends to play together in the same room as one another. Over the past few years, most of the games that did feature couch co-op or split-screen were party games. Great fun, but not exactly what I’d call “proper” games.
Thanks to big games like Fortnite and Borderlands 3, we now have something to play with our friends that doesn’t look like its target demographic attends pre-school.
If we’re really lucky, maybe LAN parties will even see a mainstream revival. It’s not completely likely, as consoles seem to be on their way out. Either way, while gaming machines are still around, it’s nice to know my friends are within punching distance if they lose me the match.
This article was edited by Josiah Wilmoth.