Is this the end of Fortnite? Gamers left staring at 'black hole'

Is this the end?
Is this the end?  Photo: Epic Games

If you have an inconsolable gamer in your life, here's why: Fortnite has gone quiet.

Since Sunday afternoon (US time), players eager to enter the game's virtual world to fight one another have instead been confronted by a blank screen with a black hole at its centre, prompting widespread speculation that the game is amid a major transition after the end of its 10th season, and first chapter.

For the uninitiated, here's a brief breakdown of what's happening with the game, which is enjoyed by millions of people worldwide.

So what is Fortnite again?

The video game is a battle royale.

Players enter the game by hang gliding into an island unarmed. Once there, the goal is to survive. Weapons are strewn about and 100 players fight it out, alone or by teaming up with friends.

The game, which is popular among teenagers, has features that encourage players to remain on the move and to confront one another. When they aren't themselves playing, some fans liked to watch others fight it out, often with commentary, on streaming services like Twitch.

What's this about a black hole?

Around 2pm EST Sunday, glowing rifts emerged in the game's darkened sky, an alarm began to sound and a rocket launched from the island, according to videos posted online. More rifts emerged and rockets began pelting the island, wreaking havoc.

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The rockets converged at a point on land, and a meteor that had been hovering overhead crashed down. The island sustained further damage and, eventually, players' avatars were sent skyward, where they could view the destruction as dramatic music played.

A final explosion sparked the formation of a black hole, pulling all light, objects and players into a swirling central point on-screen, which went black before a dark, wispy blue ring materialised. That image is what players and visitors to the game's website now see.

What does it all mean?

Before Sunday's dramatic event, the game's official Twitter account had cryptically tweeted an image accompanied by the words "This is The End." Its creator, Epic Games, hasn't said much else and, as of late yesterday, the official Fortnite Twitter account's history had been wiped clean, save for a single tweet linking to a livestream of the black hole.

However spoiler clips of what Chapter two will look like, when it arrives, have begun surfacing on Twitter.

Die-hard fans were likely not caught completely off guard, because Epic Games had previously announced that its 10th season would end Sunday. But what wasn't clear was what would come next and when. 

While many fans were at a loss at what to do with the spare time on their hands, others got creative with humorous takes on the situation on social media.

Historically, changes to the island's map marked the transition between Fortnite's seasons, but speculation has been swirling that a more substantial update might be coming, and that it could include a new setting altogether. Rumours emerged that the game's next chapter could begin in China as soon as today.

When chapter two does arrive fans, no doubt, will be hoping it does not look like this.

This is an edited version of a story which appeared on the the New York Times.