It’s that time again. Parents across the world are doling out $15 to Epic Games after the developer released Season 9, the latest update for its hit game Fortnite that’s particularly popular among kids and young adults.
Fortnite is estimated to have more than 250 million players, and it has proven to be a major money-spinner for Epic thanks to sales of seasonal Battle Passes, skins and virtual items for avatars. That’s very much the focus for Season 9, which dropped today and is really about the cosmetics, with the latest Battle Pass unlocking more than 100 rewards, including a range of new skins and characters.
Season 9 is an upgrade that’ll keep existing gamers locked into Fortnite through evolution — there are no radical changes to excite new or less-active players.
In terms of gameplay, Fortnite has added at least three new locations. Neo Tilted replaces Tilted Towers, which was destroyed by a volcano eruption last week, then there’s Mega Mall, which is an upgrade on Retail Row, and Pressure Plant which is where the volcano used to be. Epic has added “Slipstreams,” which are turbines that power a wind-based transport system for getting across the map quickly, and potentially adding an interesting new combat angle.
There’s also a new “Fortbytes,” which is essentially a hidden item challenge. Gamers who bought a Battle Pass can collect a series of 100 collectible computer chips that are scattered across the map. There are an initial 18 released, with a new arrival each day — those who collect them all can unlock rewards and “secrets.”
There’s just one new gun on offer, the combat shotgun, which doesn’t seem particularly impressive, while grenades have returned. A large number of weapons have been removed — or “vaulted” in Epic parlance — and they include clingers, pump shotgun, poison dart trap, scoped revolver, suppressed assault rifle, thermal assault rifle and balloons.
That’s about the sum of the new update, although Fortnite does now include three new limited time games: three-person squad “trios,” a “solid gold” mode that uses legendary weapons and “one shot,” a sniper-only battle set in a low-gravity environment.
Note: The original version of this article has been updated to correct that Pressure Plant is another new location added in Season 9