Fortnite’s Item Shop Won’t Stop Being Weird

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Fortnite has long been that rare game where the microtransactions are actually part of the appeal, and so fans have been pretty baffled lately by the messy state of the game’s Item Shop. The selection of skins, emotes and other cosmetics has been pretty poor recently, and also the shop seems quite buggy. Combined with

Epic also didn’t release any new Winterfest-themed cosmetics in the item shop until after Winterfest ended, and this week’s patch added a Winterfest Wish emote and a 2023-specific New Year’s emote to the game files for unknown reasons–even if they’d somehow been forgotten during the previous updates, why add them back in now?

This is the messiest week I’ve seen for the Fortnite Item Shop, but it’s been showing cracks in the veneer for a while now. There’s been a lot of griping just about the selection of items themselves since the start of OG season, which only offered a handful of items a day for most of that month. But even since then the selections have been erratic, with items rotating in and out more often than usual–the Rick & Morty set, for example, was available in the shop in December for four days, and then it left for four days, then it returned for three, left for six more and then came back for another four days before the cycle ended on New Year’s Eve–a bizarre and unprecedented pattern.

That’s an extreme example, but a more normal one is Brite Bomber, which appeared in the shop in early December and has popped up every two weeks since then–a newly common phenomenon. Things returning frequently isn’t itself an issue. People are frustrated because that pool of skins in that fast rotation is small and mostly made up of already common skins. Brite Bomber, for example, has been sold monthly for more than six years running. Are these new patterns intentional? We would have thought so, but the Skull Trooper appearing twice in the same shop might indicate otherwise.

We’ve also observed an ongoing timing issue. Fortnite has added new Festival songs on four different occasions so far–and at least one song dropped early three of those times. The opposite has also happened–the Lewis Hamilton skin didn’t go live when Epic had announced, and they had to manually force it about an hour after the shop had reset. Likewise, when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles collab launched in mid-December, the accompanying Festival instruments were invisible in the shop for five days.

When items do successfully manage to rotate in, they’ve frequently been missing their bundles. Star Wars items appeared in the shop a lot in December, but Luke Skywalker, Padme and Anakin were all missing their cost-saving bundles even though all their accompanying items were available, making their sets of cosmetics a lot more expensive overall. That kind of thing has been very common, both with collaborations and with the Fortnite-original sets of cosmetics–the previously mentioned Brite Bomber skin has been sold in the shop on nine different days since the start of Chapter 5, but its accompanying bundle has not shown up at all since September.

We haven’t exhausted the list of Item Shop anomalies, but surely you get the picture at this point. There are a lot of places we could try to lay the blame for all this stuff, and realistically they probably all deserve some of the credit. Part of it has to be the UI redesign overall, which has tons of issues all over. Epic actually experimented with the design of the shop in particular a lot last year, trying out new types of tabs like ones that would scroll sideways and save on vertical space during packed shops. The current shop design goes hard in the other direction, though, putting a hard limit of five columns of width for each tab–past tabs didn’t have that limit, and so a lot of existing shop tabs needed to be redesigned to fit that layout. Some mistakes are bound to be made during that sort of transition.

Beyond that, guessing what combination of human error and software bugs is responsible for this entire situation is a fool’s errand because there are too many factors we aren’t privy to. But historically, Fortnite has been a much more polished live-service game than its competitors, each of which has long tried (and usually failed) to knock Fortnite off its pedestal. So it’s been pretty interesting to watch Epic’s game fumble about in public display. It’s a new look for the game, one where the team doesn’t have it all together as an exemplar of live-service updates done well.

And while we can’t say for sure why all this is happening, some of these issues pre-date the UI re-design and Epic’s major round of layoffs last fall, with these sorts of anomolies going all the way back to December 2022, when there were two days in a row when Epic had to remove shop tabs that had been live for less than two hours for including the old, believed-to-be-blacklisted emotes Rambunctious and the Snoop Dogg-inspired Tidy. The shop has gradually grown more unstable since then, and the Chapter 5 re-design did nothing that we can tell to stabilize the situation. Hopefully that will change before too much longer, because it’s getting kinda awkward.