Fortnite has stunned fans by signalling an early end to its third map at the conclusion of its current season, via a live event named Fracture set to take place at 9pm UK time on 3rd December.
Fracture was teased tonight by developer Epic Games at the conclusion of Fortnite Champion Series, its first major in-person Fortnite competition for several years. A title card for Fracture appeared after the tournament's trophy presentation, simply listing the upcoming live event's date, time, and description as the "Chapter 3 Finale event".
Each in-game "Chapter" of Fortnite has so far concluded with a complete reboot of the battle royale's beloved Island. After two years and 10 seasons, the game's original Island got sucked into a black hole in October 2019. After another two years, this time divided into eight seasons, the game's second Island was flipped over to reveal the current map lying underneath in December 2021.
Each new Chapter has also typically been a staging ground for Epic to introduce major new gameplay mechanics, such as Chapter 2's addition of swimming, boats and other vehicles. Chapter 3, meanwhile, added the game's sprinting, mantling and No Build mechanics.
Tonight, Fortnite fans have many questions - as is no doubt Epic Games' intent. Why is Fortnite seemingly moving on from its third map so soon - after just four seasons, lasting only one year? What does "Fracture" mean - and is there more to this supposed change than meets the eye? And what new additions will Chapter 4 bring?
On that last question, we do at least have some idea. Fortnite leakers are confident this December will see the long-awaited arrival of the game's Unreal Editor - which Epic boss Tim Sweeney previously promised would arrive at some point in 2022. [UPDATE: Sweeney has now said this has slipped slightly, to late January.]
Dubbed "Creative 2.0" by fans, the tool is expected to provide content creators with the tools to make Fortnite experiences that are far more advanced than its current Creative mode can allow. Sweeney has also previously discussed the idea of content creators being able to monetise their work - something currently not possible within Fortnite itself. The addition of all this to Fortnite would likely land well alongside a brand new Island map to attract attention.
Perhaps the title of this event, Fracture, is a nod to all this - to Epic handing more of Fortnite's reins over to content creators, and further lessening the importance of its own core Battle Royale modes. Earlier this year, Sweeney stated that 50 percent of Fortnite playtime was taken up by creator-made experiences.
But that's not to suggest Fortnite's own story is over - far from it. Chapter 3 saw the end of the game's villainous Imagined Order organisation, but its overall leader Geno is still at large, and seemingly waiting in the wings for a full and proper introduction. There's also the matter of the current season's all-gobbling Chrome goo, and the apocalyptic civilisaton behind it; currently led on the Island by a character named The Herald, it is ominously referred to as "The Nothing".
The timing of all this is also interesting, with Fortnite's Fracture event timed to take place just over a fortnight after the launch of Call of Duty: Warzone 2.0. It doesn't feel like a coincidence - especially the announcement of this news now, just a couple of days before Activision's revamped battle royale launches. It reminds me of when Epic offered a free Fortnite battle pass to fans around the time Apex Legends first dropped.
Speculation time! Perhaps Fracture may also hint at another big change? I have grown to love the current Chapter 3 map and all the development which has taken place on it over the past 12 months and four seasons. For me, it's now a best-of for all of Fortnite so far, with fan-favourite areas, remixed classics and tons of Easter eggs. I'd like it to have stayed longer... and maybe it will? Perhaps Chapter 3 is ending so soon because this map will stay as one of two to choose from - an idea Fortnite is yet to try, but one which its competitors have long played around with. Fortnite's Island is now established as having two sides - could the current Chapter 3 map remain, with a refurbished Chapter 2 map as a fresh option for Chapter 4?
One thing's for sure: less than three weeks of Fortnite Chapter 3 remain. And as the days count down - and as the newness of Warzone 2.0 wears off - Epic Games will no doubt tease more.