(Reuters) – Epic Games’ launched a “Chapter 2” reboot of its battle royale smash hit “Fortnite” on Tuesday, drawing the eyeballs of millions of gamers globally as it bid to halt defections to rivals “Apex Legends” and “Call of Duty”.
Fortnite, which as of earlier this year had 250 million registered players here has been down since Sunday, giving users no option other than staring at a black screen after a season-ending in-game event where its original island was sucked into a black hole.
The new version of the game features 13 new locations, water gameplay where characters can swim, fish and ride motorboats as well as new places to hide and a host of new avatars and guns.
The changes, hashtagged #FirstDrop, were received well by gamers, with ‘Fortnite is back’ trending on U.S. Twitter with 13 thousand tweets.
Nearly 80,000 tuned in to watch the new game being played live by gamer Turner “Tfue” Tenney on video game live-streaming platform Twitch, less than two hours after its launch.
Fortnite and its early rival, Tencent-backed “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” (PUBG), popularized an arena-style battle royale survival concept where 100 gamers are dropped onto an island to fight each other to the death.
The games are free to download and play but users pay for upgrades, like the “skins” displayed on characters. Fortnite raked in $2.4 billion in revenue in 2018, more than any other single title, according to Nielsen data.
The runaway successes of the games prompted Electronic Arts (EA.O) to launch its similarly-themed Apex Legends earlier this year and competition continues to mount.
The mobile version of Activision’s (ATVI.O) long-running “Call of Duty” franchise launched on Oct. 1, and has already racked up 125 million unique downloads and more than $28 million in gross player spending, according to data website SensorTower.
Shares in Activision, EA and Grand Theft Auto-maker Take-Two Interactive Software (TTWO.O) all inched higher in trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Fortnite publisher Epic was worth $15 billion when it last raised capital from investors last year.
Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee and Neha Malara in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham