Rod Fergusson has had many and varied roles in the games industry, and a long-term association with Epic Games. He’s no longer working directly at Epic, having become the studio head for the Coalition (the studio now in charge of Gears of War), but was still there a few years ago when a certain cartoony shooter was in development.
At the time Fergusson was director of production at Epic, and jokingly suggests gamers should be “kissing his feet” for leaving: because he wanted to cancel Fortnite.
In the below interview with Game Informer, Fergusson expands and says Fortnite was a project that had issues. It’s worth remembering that, at launch, Fortnite was not the game we know now but focused entirely around the ‘Save the World’ component: the post-launch addition of a battle royale mode is what would see it become a phenomenon.
When asked about game’s success, Fergusson says “I don’t lose sleep over it, I think it’s great, I’m super-happy for [Epic’s] success […] You guys should all just be kissing my feet, if I’d stayed at Epic I would’ve cancelled Fortnite [laughs].
Before I left I tried to cancel Fortnite… when it was Save The World, that was a project that just had some challenges and as director of production at the time that game would not have passed my bar for something we should continue to keep going.”
“That game you love that is a worldwide sensation would not exist had I stayed at Epic.”
This is obviously one of those anecdotes that, with hindsight, becomes much more amusing thanks to the game’s subsequent success. But it is also an insight into the razor-thin margins that can separate wild success from a cancelled project.
I played Fortnite at release and considered it more or less an evolution of Orcs Must Die: a friend and I spent a couple evenings on the game then left it behind. And had Epic not decided to add a battle royale mode, Fortnite probably wouldn’t be remembered now.
It brings to mind Paragon, another Epic title roughly contemporaneous with Fortnite that, thanks to the latter game’s success, was unceremoniously abandoned.
I thought Paragon was pretty good! But Epic left it behind and released all of the game’s assets for free. It all brings home how remarkable Fortnite‘s success has been: a project that achieved massive success by, several months after launch, changing the game entirely.
We should all laugh with Fergusson: no-one could have seen that coming.
This post originally appeared on Kotaku UK, bringing you original reporting, game culture and humour from the British isles.