Things are getting weird on the Fortnite island. Today’s much-anticipated event, called simply “The Device,” was a confusing yet thrilling ride, and one that hints at some big changes for the game’s future. It also raises some interesting questions about just what the Fortnite island even is. In the immediate aftermath, The Agency, a central building on the island, has been destroyed, while the ever-present electrical storm is now made of water.
The event was slated to begin at 2:05PM ET, and as soon as the countdown timer finished, players could hear blaring sirens and the grunts of nearby guards. Eventually, several recently opened vents in the water that surrounds The Agency sprouted giant metallic towers. That was followed by a mysterious orb-like object erupting out of the building. What came next felt like something out of a Ghostbusters movie: an elaborate scene that involved electrical power shooting from the towers to the device, powering it up for some mysterious purpose, later revealed to be some kind of anti-storm mechanism.
Layered into this was some meta-storytelling that suggests deeper Fortnite lore. A number of flashbacks shifted players to a first-person perspective in a nondescript office environment. There were top secret files on a table, and at one point Jonesy — one of the more iconic characters in Fortnite — appeared in a suit talking on a cellphone. At the end, as players were sent back into the game, a flyover visual showed that the island appeared to be inside some kind of underwater bubble.
It was an elaborate and exciting event, and it didn’t leave the island unchanged. The Agency is now a smoldering ruin, with most of the structure destroyed. Meanwhile, the purple storm, which has remained one of the few constants in the game, is now a wall of water. You can even swim in it — though it appears to push players out with a subtle force.
While we don’t have numbers yet, the device event appears to have been very popular. As always, developer Epic asked players to show up 30 minutes early to ensure they could participate. But it didn’t take long to fill up: at 1:31PM ET Epic tweeted that the event had reached capacity.
Today’s event was the first major narrative-focused moment in Fortnite since the apocalyptic black hole event that kicked off the game’s second chapter. Past events have included things like the original rocket launch in 2018, the rolling cube Kevin, and last summer’s wild mecha vs. kaiju battle.
But that’s not to say that the battle royale game hasn’t been busy. Outside of the major story moments, Epic has focused on experiences like trailer premieres and live music including, most notably, a Travis Scott virtual concert tour which attracted millions of players. The developer even introduced a new violence-free social space explicitly for these events.