Is Fortnite Pay to Win?

Gamers hate playing games that are pay to win as that allows for the most invested player to win. As Fortnite continues to blow up in popularity, the question arises if Fortnite is a pay to win game.

Is Fortnite a pay to win game? No, Fortnite is not a pay to win game. All payments made in Fortnite go towards in-game cosmetics that have no impact on gameplay. For a game to be pay to win, the purchases must provide players with a competitive advantage.

There are things to be aware of, but in this article we will thoroughly break down why Fortnite by no means is a pay to win game. We will define what pay to win is, how Fortnite players spend money and how players may be able to build a very time competitive advantage by paying money.

Fortnite’s Microtransactions

Before we proceed, we have to be clear on exactly what is a pay to win game before we can dissect how Fortnite is exactly not a pay to win game.

I created a full article outlining exactly what it is (click here to read a full breakdown on pay to win games). To summarize, a pay to win game is any game where players can make purchases using a real-life currency in exchange for unobtainable items or abilities that provide the recipient with a competitive advantage.

After reading that definition, you may think Fortnite has some pay to win elements in it as there are certain items and abilities that players can purchase that aren’t otherwise obtainable.

If you think that, you would be wrong. The biggest determining factor is if those purchases provide some form of competitive advantage.

With other games, there are gray lines in terms of if certain purchases could potentially provide a slight competitive advantage, such as League of Legends.

However, with Fortnite, the argument is clear-cut. No purchasable items within Fortnite provide players with a competitive advantage, therefore Fortnite is not a pay to win game.

Let’s dive into what items exactly can players purchase and we will dissect item by item exactly why none of them actually provide players with any competitive advantages, despite being exclusive to paying players.

Skins

To certain players, looking at various Fortnite skins make players feel like the players who buy them get a slight competitive advantage.

Take for example the video below by popular Fortnite streamer SypherPK who created a video called “Fortnite is now PAY TO WIN…” (obviously meant to be a joke and clickbait).

Games like League of Legends struggle with balancing skins, as certain skins are even banned from their professional tournaments, run by the publishers, due to some of the unfair elements to them.

Take for example characters like Lux in League of Legends. In her base skin (image below), but it specifically is meant to show the visual differences between the two animations.

On certain lux skins, such as Steel Legion Lux, have been allegedly banned from LCS at certain points due to the inability to tell the difference between her Q and E.

Another problematic skin in League of Legends is iBlizCrank. In this skin, BlitzCrank’s Q hitbox has been shown in many gameplay videos to be unsynced between the character’s skin and hitbox.

Basically, that game’s skins bring with them difficult to differentiate animations and mismatched hitboxes to their corresponding skin.

Fortnite, however, doesn’t struggle with either of those two elements due to fundamental differences in-game mechanics and how the game’s skins operate.

In Fortnite, there is only one hitbox model for characters. As such, it’s exceptionally easy for Epic Games to use the base hitbox and become very experienced at building balanced skins around the core body.

Fortnite also doesn’t have abilities being skinned such as in League of Legends, which takes away the massive complexity and removes a massive error factor from skins being misaligned from the skin.

As per being able to tell a player by their skin, it is exceptionally difficult to have your skin make you more hidden within the game.

There are cases where skins can actually be slightly a problem in terms of what some players would deem “unfair” and we will discuss those skins in more depth.

However, none of the skins are actually problematic enough of the time to be deemed pay to win. And when the skins are being a problem, the issues are so minisqual and typically come with a range of problems for the perpetrator of the competitive advantage as we will go more into below.

When playing normally, however, skins are completely noticeable by their opponents and provide no competitive advantage whatsoever.

Gliders

I’m not sure why Fortnite players even buy gliders considering you can only see them at the start of the game and most players won’t even see your glider.

Alas, this is something that could be purchased. And these gliders all have different overall shapes, but the gliders have absolutely no hitboxes for collisions or bullets.

You could only make an argument that the shape varies resulting in a competitive advantage if the item had any hitbox whatsoever. That said, you could try to argue that a different size could provide some form of competitive advantage.

I would say you aren’t wrong, as I do touch on it more below, but in essence those kinds of differences are exceptionally tiny that it wouldn’t qualify Fortnite as even partly pay to win.

Not to mention that gliders are only used as you drop, so if they even provided a competitive advantage it would be during the period of the game where competitive advantage is almost useless as no players are fighting.

Emotes

The only ability you can really purchase in Fortnite are emotes and I’m sure I don’t need to explain how these aren’t much of an ability to worry about in a competitive environment.

Screenshot of some emotes from progameguides.com

Just like dances (as I will quickly touch on below), these are just animations your player that perform that, if anything, leave you vulnerable and should be used only after combat.

In Fortnite, there is a term for players who use emotes during combat, a noob.

There is no argument to the fact that emotes don’t provide a competitive advantage.

Dances

Dances are the same as emotes in the way they basically work, but arguably less impactful.

No player that I know would argue that dances cause Fortnite to be seen as a pay to win game.

In case that argument does come up upon reading the article, we need to go back to the meaning of pay to win.

Just because dances can be purchased with money doesn’t make the game pay to win as the dances themselves don’t cause the players to gain any competitive advantage.

A player with the top dances will be at the same combative position as someone with no good dances.

In What Ways is Fortnite a Pay to Win Game?

As we broke down all the main elements that be can be purchased using real-life currencies, we now fully understand why Fortnite is not a pay to win game.

But you may wonder if paying players can get any advantages whatsoever.

We did break this down a bit above, but it’s worth diving into still here.

Environment With Skins

In the example video linked above, SypherPK used the new Christmas tree skin to camouflage into the Christmas tree.

As you can tell, it’s making him much harder to notice from the angle we are looking at him (not that we aren’t looking at what another player would see, which would be much more noticeable).

Although it does make him harder to be noticed, this is an exceptionally cheese play that leaves him very vulnerable to attacks from behind or the side.

In this instance, SypherPK managed to not be caught and set up an ambush but the surprise attack wasn’t even very good as the opponent quickly noticed him upon initial movement.

Even if this managed to work, this is really no different than camping in the bush as a free-to-play player.

Not to mention that the Christmas theme is a limited-time theme that just happens to have a Christmas tree and a Christmas tree skin. Most limited-time environments won’t have such matching parallels to be drawn from.

Glider Sizes and Colors

Okay, this is one argument I heard several times by the Fortnite players that is important to dispel here.

Sure some are bigger than others and are therefore more noticeable than the smaller ones, but most players notice players through their character model instead of the glider itself.

Not to mention that regardless of the glider’s size, the gliders themselves don’t have a hitbox for incoming fire or terrain collision. Truly the gliders themselves aren’t really putting you at a disadvantage in combat.

Now if they actually had some form of a hitbox, then I’d be fully on board with the idea that having a smaller glider would actually provide some real competitive advantage for players. But thankfully Epic Games isn’t that dumb!

You could also say that you lose more screen vision than others based on their size. But if that’s your argument, you can’t be serious. They barely take up any space and getting a smaller glider won’t result in really any competitive advantage.

Therefore, regardless of the shape, glides don’t really provide any major competitive advantage, although some can gain very minimal benefit (that would be so small that they really won’t provide real benefits worth worrying about).

Colors on the other hand maybe something you worry about.

Obviously, you’d think more colorful, bright gliders would expose players more. That’s completely incorrect when considering gliders are only used when players are in the sky and the sky has nothing you can hide within.

As a result, whenever you spot a player in the sky, regardless of how noticeable their glider (or the color) is, you’ll know it’s a player in the normally bright blue sky.

What Would Make Fortnite a Pay to Win Game?

Okay, at this point you should really have an understanding that Fortnite is not a pay to win game.

But, you may wonder what would make Fortnite a pay to win game. How could Epic Games turn this game, which we objectively explained how it’s free-to-play, into a game where the richest players can start to dominate.

There are a few ways that this could happen, basically by providing special weapon upgrades to players, modified hitbox skins, special paid-for abilities or adding hitboxes to gliders.

This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means. Regardless, let’s dive a bit deeper into each of these.

Special Weapon Upgrades for Paying Players

If we try to stay organic to the battle royale theme, Epic Games could release special upgrades for weapons you can equip pre-game.

This would allow players to pre-determine which guns they want to acquire and allow each player to get similar weapons but have different experiences.

But, the catch is these upgrades cost real money. Free-to-play players can get more of the basic upgrades, but if it would cost money for the top upgrades, that’s a very easy way to make Fortnite a definitive pay to win game.

What would matter is how this element is a game-changer, but regardless of how impactful it becomes, as long as it has some impact and free-to-play players cannot (or barely can manage) to get it, Fortnite would officially be a pay to win game.

Modified Hitboxes on Skins

All the skins are just added to their base model for the hitboxes. But imagine if Fortnite had different character shapes, like Overwatch (a game that has made larger characters very unappealing to play due to their massive hitboxes).

Well, if skins are cosmetics with varying sizes, you want to go for the smallest always! 

Above is a photo about a meme but is true and still supports the argument of this article.

This competitive advantage is actually extremely massive in an FPS game, much more than you’d ever think.

By making this change, the game would arguably be a pay to win game, although the inclusion of multiple elements would push it further on the spectrum.

Pre-Game Purchasable Abilities

This isn’t something building off of something present in the game currently like the other suggestions, but this could also be a good way to turn their play to win game into a pay to win one.

Basically, pre-game players can buy special abilities that can be used during the game and will be consumed after the game.

Obviously, certain abilities will be better than others and most must be paid for.

This will cause players to have to spend money if they want any chance to be competitive and they must continue to spend money over and over again.

Incorporation of an element like this into a game like Fortnite would likely cripple its base and slowly decline the number of players itself.

Again, Epic Games isn’t that dumb to go down this route, but if they wanted to kill their game, this would be a great route to go down.

Hitboxes on Gliders

A very simple way as we broke out earlier in the article is that the various glider shapes don’t matter as gliders don’t have hitboxes.

If they had hitboxes, that would change it where gliders would actually be worth spending money picking the smallest option.

That said, this factor alone may not qualify Fortnite as a pay to win game, but it will move the ball forward as would all these other suggestions.

Conclusion

Fortnite is not a pay to win game. Certain elements could be disputed as providing a slight benefit, but unlike other games, the benefits are so minuscule that that’s a hard argument to make.

All purchasables are for fun cosmetic additions. If you disagree with anything, feel free to shoot me an email at uzair.hasan@esporthow.com and I’d be happy to hear your thoughts.