Epic announced this morning that its new and controversial Infinity Blade “mythic” item has been removed from Fortnite, following widespread criticism over the item’s overpowered nature and game-breaking position as a pinnacle, late-game weapon. The reversal, while not the first time Epic has changed course on an unpopular design decision rather quickly, is notable for the language the developer used to announce it, as well as how much Epic hyped up the item in marketing and promos for the recently released season 7.
“We messed up and rolled out the Infinity Blade overpowered / without good counters, especially in the end game,” reads the company’s tweet publicizing the change. “The Infinity Blade has been Vaulted and we are re-evaluating our approach to Mythic items. Thanks for calling us out on this!” Rarely has the company said in such plain terms that it made a really bad mistake. But the Infinity Blade was clearly not well thought out.
For one, the item gave players unprecedented mobility, the ability to nearly one-hit any other opponent, and the ability to break down any player-built structure, all while restoring a significant chunk of the player’s health back with each kill. Epic toned down the health regeneration aspect of the item earlier in the week in response to feedback about how the item was being used in the Winter Royale competitive tournament circuit. It also announced that it would remove the ability to harvest resources while wielding the blade.
But overall, players, including pros who used the sword to handily win games, were furious that such a powerful item had been dropped into a highly competitive game — one with grand e-sports ambitions, no less — with little to no foresight as to how it might drastically alter the game and its e-sports landscape. Now, that backlash appears to have prompted a more definitive action.
The Infinity Blade is just another example, albeit a high-profile one, of Epic’s broader struggle to balance the casual and constantly changing nature of Fortnite with a competitive scene that attracts top e-sports teams and athletes, and keeps it in the number one spot on Twitch. Whether it’s adding the ability to re-deploy your glider or making explosives deal damage through structures, Epic is always tinkering with ways to make Fortnite’s skill gap — or the delta between the best players and the average ones — smaller.
There’s a reason for this. Casual players won’t keep coming back to Fortnite every day (and spending money on emotes and skins) if they can never win a game or constantly get out-skilled by seasoned players, or if there’s not something fresh to check out to keep the experience interesting.
Epic tends to listen to player feedback intently, and makes changes to the game faster than pretty much any developer out there. And through its limited-time game modes and quick iteration, it’s managed to maintain Fortnite’s immense popularity for both everyday players and pros and streamers by giving the widest amount of people at least one or two good reasons to log in regularly. (The community seems to universally agree the sword would have made more sense in a limited-time game mode.) But every once in a while, it seems to go too far, and the Infinity Blade appears to have lived up to its name a little too effectively.