Fortnite set a new record for simultaneous Twitch streams at its Device event on Monday, but developer Epic Games’ decision to limit the number of players who could experience the event in-game may be what people remember most.
In a tweet on Monday, Epic Games said it capped the number of people who could participate in-game during its Device event to 12 million. Another 8.4 million people watched live on Twitch and YouTube. Out of that group, the 2.3 million people who watched on Twitch set a new streaming record. The previous record-holder, League of Legends, notched 1.7 million simultaneous views during its 2019 World Championship.
The Device was Epic’s send-off to Season 2, which will give way to Fortnite Season 3 on Wednesday. Device viewers watched as The Agency, the main building on the island, was destroyed and the map’s electrical storm turned to water.
Those who experienced The Device quickly took to Twitter and Reddit to speculate on what the changes mean. Several videos have surfaced on YouTube showing The Device events, complete with players sharing theories. Exactly what awaits players in Season 3, however, is still unknown.
But while many players discussed the event, others complained that they were locked out of the game. Once The Device’s users reached the 12 million user mark, those who tried to log in were kept out.
“Today’s event has reached capacity,” Epic Games tweeted just minutes before The Device was set to begin. “If you’re not already in game, we recommend catching the event via livestream.”
It didn’t take long for users to hit back, with many people saying they had logged in over 30 minutes in advance of the event, only to be locked out.
“I have been on this screen for so long,” one person tweeted, along with a picture of an in-game waiting screen that read “checking for Epic services queue” below the Fortnite logo. “Fortnite better do something better or else.”
While Epic Games did not respond to a Digital Trends request for comment on the outcry, the company tweeted late Monday that it had been “overwhelmed by the response to The Device.” It also promised to do better next time around.
“As we push the edge of what live events can be, we’re improving systems so more of you can experience them in-game,” Epic tweeted.
It’s no secret that Fortnite is built on the rabid support of its players. With each new season, Fortnite continues to attract more players. Researcher Statista now estimates it has 350 million players worldwide.
But a developer that relies on an engaged community runs the risk of putting its business in a bad spot if opinion turns. And that’s why something like The Device limitation could negatively impact the title if concerns are not addressed.
Corey Barrett, a senior gaming analyst at research and analytics firm M Science, says an isolated incident probably isn’t enough to cause any tangible impact on Fortnite‘s popularity.
“I don’t suspect that the implementation of a limit to participants with the Device event will materially impact Fortnite’s standing with its player community,” Barrett told Digital Trends. “I think if this became a recurring issue, it could disincentivize participation, but I wouldn’t expect that effect from this singular event.”
Barrett added that Epic’s decision to limit in-game participation is more so “a testament to how incredibly popular the franchise and its events remain.” He called Fortnite‘s popularity “extremely rare, if not entirely unique,” in the gaming industry.
NPD analyst Michael Pachter called such high demand for The Device “a high-class problem” for Epic Games and Fortnite, and said players should understand what it means to have millions of people vying for access to a video game event.
“I’m not sure that people should expect the event to be unlimited,” he told Digital Trends.
Still, Pachter said Epic Games will need to learn from this and address such problems in the future. He suggested the developer “phase the celebration across time zones and repeat it every few hours so more people can participate.” Such a move, he said, could ultimately help Epic Games “control the flow” without annoying players.
And now is not the time for Epic Games to annoy players. The company is trying to raise $750 million on a $17 billion valuation, Bloomberg reported on Monday. It’ll need happy players to do it.
Ultimately, it’s unlikely The Device event will cause a problem for Fortnite going forward. But Pachter cautioned that if Epic Games doesn’t learn from this mistake, it may not beso lucky next time around.
“[It’s] always bad to alienate the customer,” he said. “They should learn from this.”