Epic Games announced this week that Fortnite Battle Royale’s jetpack would be vaulted on June 11, adding that the company may bring it back “at a future date with some improvements and new changes.”
Since its launch, the limited-time item has provoked hotly contested debates between players. It’s been decried by some being overpowered—it can prevent fall damage, make it hard to predict opponents’ movements, and, well, allow people to fly. Others are willing to look past its unfair advantage for the chance to use it and make some meme-worthy plays.
Though the jetpack is an arguably unfair and certainly overpowered item, it is also an example of what sets Fortnite apart from other battle royale games: plentiful opportunities for fun and adventure amidst the stress of difficult competition. It’s a somewhat goofy item that doesn’t tonally mesh with serious competition shooters, and that’s to Fortnite’s advantage as a means of distinguishing itself from PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds or Call of Duty. Epic Games should bring the jetpack back after adjustments. And they should plan on making it a permanent item.
Jetpacks aren’t the first OP item in Fortnite, and they won’t be the last. The game has managed to survive the obvious power imbalance weighted in favor of shotguns, whose damage and load time Epic Games continues to adjust in an effort to balance out gameplay. There is no reason why the jetpack can’t also be adjusted in a similar way.
A jetpack gives players a distinct advantage on the battlefield, but it isn’t impossible to nerf. Its fuel can be reduced, its vertical speed could be curtailed, and its spawn location could be moved from chests to supply drops and vending machines. What matters most is the opportunity for players to continue to evolve gameplay strategies to consider motion and maneuverability instead of pure gun power or accuracy.
The more diverse the opportunities for players to develop individual strategies and tactics, the better the chance that Fortnite will continue to grow its user base and sustain its popularity through the summer and beyond. While removing the jetpack permanently may appease some of the game’s most vocal critics, it could ultimately stymie the creativity and GIF-ability that has turned Fortnite into an international success.