Last week ushered in Fortnite’s highly-anticipated Chapter 2 Season 3. The update brought with it some significant changes to the battle royale's ever-evolving map.
With most of the map submerged in the waters from a biblical-scale flood, Fortnite has taken on a distinctly Waterworld feel as players now hop about a makeshift floating village known as the Fortilla, latch fishing hooks onto to sharks, and grind to pick up a Jason Momoa look-alike Aquaman skin.
Among other notable changes spotted by players was the removal of all police cars. While most vehicles are unavailable due to the flood, some still pepper the map, but despite the best efforts of players, there's not a police car in sight. This appears to be the case in all of Fortnite's modes, including the sandbox-like Creative mode where players have free rein to build and create using all the game's assets.
The move prompted speculation that it was politically motivated - Epic Games making a stand in the wake of the anti-racism protests sweeping the globe following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police last month. Reddit is awash with takes on why Epic opted to remove the cars, with many pointing to the less than ideal optics of seeing players down others from the seat of a police card once vehicles return to the battle royale in earnest.
Yet, from Epic's position, the move isn't political. A source at Epic explained to the WSJ, 'I wouldn't say it's a political statement. I think it's just us being sensitive about the issues many people in our audience are dealing with.'
This cautious strategy aligns with Epic's distanced approach to the worldwide protests so far. Other than a carefully worded tweet, Epic has remained tight-lipped. It reads, 'Recent events are a heavy reminder of ongoing injustices in society, from the denial of basic human rights to the impact of racism both overt and subtle against people of color. We're acutely aware of the pain our friends, families, team members, players, and communities are experiencing.'
Epic’s response stands in stark contrast to a large portion of companies within the gaming industry that have mounted active responses, pledging support and donations to the cause, and even delaying events to allow space for comparatively more pressing discussions. Sony pushed back its long-awaited PS5 showcase by a week.
While the notion of removing a potentially politically incendiary element of a game is arguably very much a political move, Epic doesn't think that's the case.