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(Pocket-lint) - Epic Games has used Fortnite to start a revolution. It's no accident that the company is using one of the biggest - and highest earning - games out there, knowing that Fortnite is going to get everyone's attention. It's also going to carry with it popularist support, which is key to any revolution.

The biggest single part of the move is undoubtedly Epic's epic Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite video. This isn't the sort of thing that you just pluck out of thin air, it's part of a carefully planned campaign, while also resonating with current anti-trust investigations into big technology companies.


The Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite video is pretty much a frame-by-frame reinvention of Apple's own 1984 commercial for the Macintosh. Apple's original video ran during the Super Bowl in 1984 and was designed to challenge a vision where big technology companies controlled the future.

Epic's video carries the exact same message, candidly using Fortnite-style characters, recreating that Apple video - it even goes as far as using the old 4:3 aspect for added authenticity.   

Although it was never originally intended, many took Apple's commercial to be about IBM. According to one of the advert's creators Lee Clow it was designed to be part of an ongoing campaign for the Macintosh, but the Apple board didn't want to continue because it didn't show the new PC and it wasn't actually available to buy either, so it only ever aired during the 1984 Super Bowl. 

The April 1984 cease and desist letter from the estate of George Orwell, claiming that it was an infringement of copyright, can't have helped either. But all these things did make it an infamous advert, perfect for parody by Epic Games. Will the estate of George Orwell challenge Epic Games over this video? Probably.

What does the 1984 reference mean anyway?

Behind these adverts sits the seminal literary work Nineteen Eight-Four, by George Orwell. It's one of the most significant, if not the defining novel, of the dystopian genre. Written in 1949, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a warning about what might happen in society with a totalitarian government that wants total control of everything, a society of oppression and mass surveillance, of constant war and propaganda.

It's one of many novels of the dystopian genre that still resonates with readers, because those fictionalised events are widely reflected in modern life - dictorships, extreme ideologies, state manipulation and the balance of truth and lies. Indeed, that it is being used with Fortnite characters demonstrates just how important Nineteen Eighty-Four as a work still is.

Why is this relevant to tech? Apple was the underdog in 1984, it was a disruptor wanting to bring its own technologies to market and convince people that there was another way outside of existing market domination. Epic is now inviting its followers to "join the fight" against what it calls the "App Store Monopoly"; it's hard to deny that it's a beautiful twist of irony, whichever side of the argument you sit on.

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Epic Games doesn't believe that it should be making millions for Apple through the 30 per cent levy charged through App Store purchases. Apple on the other hand doesn't believe that Epic Games should be making millions through Apple's platform without there being a fee. It's a stand-off that's been raised many times before, but it's perhaps now a bigger fight, with Epic putting it on everyone's radar thanks to Fortnite.

You can expect a lot of drama, suits and countersuits, but it's George Orwell that lies at the heart of this reference. So while these tech giants battle it out for moral, legal and ethical superiority, maybe you want to grab yourself a good book to read. I can't think of anything more fitting that George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.


Writing by Chris Hall.