Is Fortnite more than a game?
Epic Games’ 2017 free-to-play video game Fortnite took on the nascent battle royale genre and turned it into a phenomenon. So successful has Fortnite been that an argument can be made for it having achieved a status of its own.
The first argument for its unique position would likely rely on the astronomical success of Fortnite as an esport, with the winner of the recent Fortnite World Cup receiving a $3mn prize. There is another argument to be made, however, that the success of Fortnite lies in it having become a social platform, a viewpoint bolstered by today’s announcement of the launch of a so called “Party Hub” for the mobile version of the game.
The Party Hub replicates social features built into the other platforms on which Fortnite is available – namely the ability to voice chat with friends and form parties, allowing groups to join games together. In keeping with the multi-platform nature of the game, which is available on essentially anything one cares to mention, mobile users can join parties with those on any other system, ensuring social circles are not divided along lines of console ownership.
These social features are far from the first of their kind, with communities having grown up around video games since the inception of the medium. From people competing for high scores in arcades to communities of like-minded individuals building up around specific servers in multiplayer games, the social element has always been inseparable from the rest of the experience. What it does represent is an expansion of such features from their typical home on consoles and PCs to the more casual and ubiquitous platform of mobile phones.
It’s not the first time Epic has foregrounded the shared experience the game has to offer. Back in February, a virtual concert by American DJ Marshmello attracted millions to the game. A special mode was specifically created for the occasion wherein the usual objectives of the game were disabled and players were greeted by a stage and a digital representation of the musician. As the event progressed, players were invited to “dance” using emotes, special animations which can be unlocked for real money, and events mirrored the content of the songs.
Epic’s CEO Tim Sweeney said in March that there are 250mn registered players of the game, representing a huge market for the V-Bucks digital currency that is used to purchase cosmetic items such as costumes and the aforementioned emotes. By harnessing the potential of Fortnite as a social experience, as the concert undoubtedly did, that figure only seems likely to keep climbing.
(image: Epic Games)
Dark Wolf: accelerating security for USAF
As a small company whose biggest customers are the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community, Dark Wolf Solutions (Dark Wolf) is a triple-threat, specializing in Cybersecurity, Software and DevOps, and Management Solutions. Dark Wolf secures and tests cloud platforms, develops and deploys applications, and offers consultancy services performing system engineering, system integration, and mission support.
The break for Dark Wolf came when the Department of Defense decided to explore software factories. Rick Tossavainen, Dark Wolf’s CEO, thinks it was an inspired path for the DoD to take. “It was a really great decision,” he says, “Let’s pull our people together as part of this digital transformation and recreate what Silicon Valley startup firms typically have. Let’s get into commercial facilities where we have open windows and big whiteboards and just promote ideation and collaboration. And it creates this collaborative environment where people start creating things much more rapidly than before.”
It has been, Tossavainen says, “amazing to watch” and has energized the Federal Contracting Sector with an influx of new talent and improved working environments that foster creativity and innovative ways of approaching traditional problems.
“We originally started working with the US Air Force about three years ago. The problem was at the time you could develop all the software you wanted but you couldn’t get it into production – you had to go through the traditional assessment and authorization process. I talked to Lauren Knausenberger and she told me about Kessel Run and what eventually came out of this was the DoD’s first continuous ATO [Authority To Operate].”
The secret to Dark Wolf’s success – and its partnerships with USAF and Space Force – lies in a client-first attitude. “We’re not looking to maximise revenue,” Tossavainen explains. “We tell all of our employees, if you’re ever faced with an issue and you don’t know how to resolve it, and one solution is better for the customer and the second is better for Dark Wolf, you always do number one. We’ve just got to take care of our customers, and I look for other partners that want to do that. And let’s work together so that we can bring them the best answer we can.”
Rapid releases and constant evolution of software are common themes among USAF’s partners. Like many firms operating in the commercial and public sector spaces, Dark Wolf leads with a DevSecOps approach.
“Failure is tolerated,” says Tossavainen. “If it’s not going the right way in three months, let’s adjust. Let’s rapidly change course. And you can tell really quickly if something’s going to be successful or not, because they’re doing deployments multiple times a day – to the customer.”