Epic Chief, Fortnite Loremaster Leaving Company After 7 Years

A screenshot shows Fortnite players waving goodbye to a floating bus.

Image: Epic Games

Donald Mustard is leaving Epic Games. Mustard was a driving force behind Fortnite’s success and the chief creative officer at Epic Games for the last seven years.

On September 8, via a post on Twitter, Mustard announced the surprising news, explaining that after an “incredible adventure” he was retiring from his role as CCO at Epic later this month.

“I am humbled to have been a part of the team that every day tries to bring ‘joy and delight’ to the Fortnite community,” said Mustard.

“I can’t wait to now share in the future of Fortnite as a player alongside all of you! The teams are in the best hands and they are working on huge, jaw-dropping, amazing things!!!”

Mustard’s history with Epic Games

The departing CCO joined Epic in 2008 after the large company purchased Chair Entertainment, a Salt Lake City-based video game studio founded by Mustard in 2005. The studio’s first game was Undertow, and it later found success with 2009’s Shadow Complex. It also developed the Infinity Blade series of mobile RPGs.

“I have enjoyed nearly 25 years in the game industry collaborating with some of the most talented people ever and I am so proud of what we have made together,” tweeted Mustard. “I am especially proud of the opportunity I’ve had to help create and shape Fortnite.”

“Thanks for amazing times and accomplishments at Epic,” replied Epic CEO Tim Sweeney.

While with Epic Games, Mustard oversaw Fortnite’s massive explosion into a pop-culture juggernaut. He was also well known for interacting with the game’s large community of players, often teasing future updates or crossovers ahead of their official announcements.

Mustard hasn’t publicly announced what his next job or career move is, though we do know what the outgoing CCO plans to do next. In his statement announcing his departure, Mustard said he was “excited to spend time” with his wife and family.

Here’s Who’s Eligible For The Fortnite FTC Settlement Refunds

A Fortnite character gestures to a bunch of money.

Image: New Africa / Epic Games / Kotaku (Shutterstock)

Good news, everyone: now Fortnite can pay you. After a spat with the FTC wherein Epic Games settled for $245 million dollars, the Federal Trade Commission has launched a webpage for eligible Fortnite players to get some money back.

In December of 2022, Fortnite developers Epic Games and the FTC settled over allegations that the video game company ran afoul of the Children’s Online Privacy Act. Signed into law in 2000, the act seeks to protect children under 13, specifically where it concerns marketing tactics and privacy. The FTC accused Epic Games of using “design tricks, known as dark patterns, to dupe millions of players into making unintentional purchases.” The $245 million payout marks the FTC’s “largest refund amount in a gaming case, and its largest administrative order in history.”

The FTC also required Epic Games to “adopt strong privacy default settings for children and teens, ensuring that voice and text communications are turned off by default.”

Who’s eligible and how much cash can you get from the Fortnite settlement?

The FTC laid out three broad categories for folks eligible to receive some money from the Fortnite settlement:

• You were charged in-game currency for items you didn’t want between January 2017 and September 2022

• Your child made charges to your credit card without your knowledge between January 2017 and November 2018

• Your account was locked between January 2017 and September 2022 after you complained to your credit card company about wrongful charges

As stated on the FTC’s website, the specific dollar amount of each payout is yet to be determined as it “will depend on several factors, including how many people file a claim.”

Additionally, the FTC doesn’t have a set date for when payments are likely to be issued, though it promises an update to the claims page. All claims must be filed by January 17, 2024, and you’ll need to be at least 18 years old (or have a parent or guardian complete the form for you) and must have a valid Epic Account ID (in addition to meeting the criteria listed above).

Fortnite Sells ‘Share The Wealth’ Emote After Mass Layoffs

The video game industry is still reeling from Epic Games’ September 28 announcement that it will lay off nearly 900 employees. If developers at the Fortnite money-printing factory aren’t safe, nobody is. In perhaps the worst-timed microtransaction ever, Fortnite’s “Share The Wealth” emote went back up for sale on the battle royale’s in-game shop later that day.

It didn’t take Fortnite news accounts like Guille_GAG long to discover the emote had returned to cap off the a day full of grim news. “Epic has brought back the Share the Wealth Emote just after firing 900 of their employees…,” they tweeted. “Epic Games is under fire for selling the ‘Share the Wealth’ Emote in today’s Item Shop rotation – just hours after 830 employees were laid off,” the FortniteBR Instagram account posted.

It appears the emote, which was added to the game earlier this year in Chapter 4: Season 3, was only on sale for a brief period before being removed. According to FortniteBR and others, the emote was removed when Epic took down the entire Daily Rotation tab from the store shortly after the emote went live.

A company spokesperson told Kotaku in an email that the “Share The Wealth” emote was pre-scheduled. “The emote was taken down when we realized the mistake roughly one hour after going live,” they wrote. Epic Games acknowledged the missing feature on Twitter and said it would return during the next item shop refresh.

“We’ve been spending way more money than we earn,” Epic CEO Tim Sweeney wrote in an email to staff announcing the layoffs. It was a peculiar invocation of of the royal “we,” considering the executive then proceeded to list acquisitions, expansions, and other business initiatives, like growing Fortnite as a metaverse-inspired ecosystem for creators, that most of the people laid off probably had no say in.

It’s unclear what sort of salary Sweeney and other executives at the company draw. Epic remains a privately owned company, so it doesn’t have to disclose any of that information. Sweeney has pushed back again the concept of a wealth tax in the past, claiming that it would penalize people like him by forcing them to sell equity in their companies anytime they become more valuable. While the larger company remains a black box, we do know that Fortnite made $9 billion in its first two years, and Epic continues to rake in “billions of dollars a year in revenue from player purchases.”

The news around Epic’s layoffs renewed questions about how companies handle cost-cutting, and who feels the pain first when economic gambles don’t pay off. People often recall the late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata’s symbolic pay cuts when his companies’ products would underperform, like the 3DS and Wii U. Some other gaming CEOs have undergone similar compensation cuts in recent years, including Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, and Activision. Relative to the millions earned in company stock, however, the salary haircuts often seem like a pittance in comparison.

“The reality of being laid off by Epic while being treated for skin cancer has hit me and woken me from a not sound sleep and I don’t think there are words for how furious I am at the company, the leadership, their greed…all of it.” one former Epic employee tweeted overnight. In the meantime, Epic is still burning money on things like Epic Games Store, its Steam competitor, showering players with free games. The latest freebie is the action RPG Soulstice, which is normally listed at $40.

“Saying goodbye to people who have helped build Epic is a terrible experience for all,” Sweeney wrote in his email to staff. “The consolation is that we’re adequately funded to support laid off employees: we’re offering a severance package that includes six months base pay and in the US/Canada/Brazil six months of Epic-paid healthcare.”


Big Oil Using Fortnite And TikTok To Get Kids Into Fossil Fuel

Kids today only care about online free-to-play shooter Fortnite. They don’t even talk about how great gasoline is! Luckily for us, one large oil company wants to change that using Fortnite, TikTok stars, and Twitch streamers. Welcome to Hell.

Climate change is bad. I think we can all agree on that. But for kids, who have long lives and futures ahead of them, the prospect of the planet turning into a nightmare sphere of extreme weather and chaos is particularly scary. But don’t worry about all that, kids. Instead, Shell—a massive oil company and one of the many entities directly responsible for destroying our planet—wants you all to know just how rad its fossil fuel products are, and even made a whole Fortnite world for you to enjoy! But to truly enjoy it, you’ll need to use Shell’s V-Power® NiTRO+ Premium Gasoline, of course.

As reported by Media Matters earlier this week, Shell has partnered with map creators to develop “Shell Ultimate Road Trips”, a Fortnite world featuring six different areas to explore in the car of your choice. In the middle of these worlds, players will find a lonely, sad-looking Shell gas station acting as the map’s hub.

The campaign—part of Shell’s pivot back to focusing on gasoline over cleaner energy sources— is designed to promote the company’s “new and improved” premium gasoline. The idea is that in the map, players will need to occasionally fill up at the central Shell gas station and use its new V-Power NiTRO+ fuel to successfully navigate obstacles and courses.

Content creators are being enlisted to create big oil propaganda

To help promote this terrible collaboration, Shell has enlisted various TikTok creators and Twitch streamers in an effort to connect with their large audiences made up of mostly younger individuals.

Media Matters reportedly identified at least a half dozen streamers—including folks like Punisher, NateHill, Chica, and brookeab—with a combined Twitch following of over 5.5 million subscribers—who helped promote Shell’s Fortnite map and fossil fuel products during sponsored streams that racked up over a million views. Some of these creators also promoted the sponsored streams on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok to their millions of followers. Media Matters also identified three content creators who advertised the ShellxFortnite map in several videos posted on the gas company’s official YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram accounts.

The creators directly promoting Shell’s gasoline propaganda have a combined audience of 8.5 million TikTok followers, 1.5 million Instagram followers, and over 11 million YouTube subscribers.

In August, Shell even paid out for a sponsored post on IGN as well as a three-part series featuring IGN staff playing Fortnite and exploring the Shell-sponsored map. The videos are covered in Shell logos and featured on a fancy IGN-hosted website dedicated to the oil company’s Fortnite map.

Kids aren’t buying this crap

So how’s all this money and effort paying off? As far as I can tell, not great. For example, looking at that IGN article, it’s got only two comments and both are negative. On YouTube, the IGN videos have mostly received negative comments from viewers, with many calling out the outlet for sponsoring an oil company. Elsewhere, the official trailers put out by Shell for their Fortnite creation are similarly receiving negative comments.

“Drop in this season and complete the objective: ‘Do irreparable damage to the environment with Shell!” is the top-rated comment on this trailer for the map.

This is all part of an ongoing campaign by big oil companies, like Shell, to connect with younger people via online influencers and content creators. In 2021, Earther reported that Shell and Phillips 66 had started campaigns with Instagram influencers. These sponsored deals and ads aren’t just about promoting oil companies and their products. These large corporations know that as climate change gets worse, it’s getting harder to convince young people to keep buying gas-powered cars and supporting the fossil fuel industry.

As Media Matters pointed out, in a 2021 survey of young people between the ages of 16-25, about 75% said the future is frightening because of climate change. It’s hard to sell gasoline and diesel to teens who know it’s destroying the planet and their futures. And it doesn’t look like some Instagram models and Fortnite videos on IGN promoting Shell are going to be enough to change their minds.


Jack Skellington And Michael Myers Coming To Fortnite

Fortnite’s annual Halloween-themed “Fortnitemares” event is here, bringing all sorts of spooky characters and cosmetics to the popular online battle royale shooter, including slasher Michael Myers and Disney character Jack Skellington.

It’s the best time of the year. The leaves are changing colors. The air is getting cooler. Even better, online video games are starting up all their Halloween events, bringing ghoulish characters, spooky colors, and creepy items to multiple games across all platforms. And of course, Fortnite is getting in on all the spooky action with the return of a popular horde mode, as well as creepy new skins, including everyone’s favorite fictional writer, Alan Wake.

As announced today by Epic, Fortnite’s big Halloween event is now live as part of the v26.30 update. The patch adds Halloween candy that players can collect and eat to gain different traits, like temporary low gravity, as well as new and returning spooky weapons, including the Pumpkin Launcher and Wood Stake Shotgun. There’s also a new Witch Broom item that can send players flying off into the sky.

The big stars of the update are three new characters coming to Fortnite: Michael Myers aka The Shape from the Halloween films, Jack Skellington from Disney’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, and finally, Alan Wake from…well the video game Alan Wake and its upcoming sequel, Alan Wake II.

Oddly, the three big new skins coming to the game this time around aren’t actually available just yet and will be added some time later during Fortnitemares. And as with past Fortnitemare events, this year will feature new quests that players can complete for additional, spooky rewards. Similarly, the returning Horde Rush mode—featuring teams of players taking on waves of monsters—will have its own quests and rewards, too.

Meanwhile, it’s hard to get too excited about this new Halloween Fortnite event when Epic—the company behind the game—just laid off nearly 900 employees after its CEO, Tim Sweeney, admitted that the company had been “spending way more money than we earn.” As usual, the scariest thing of all is unfettered capitalism.


New Fortnite Map Is An Official, Playable Alan Wake Recap

A screenshot shows a Fortnite character pointing a flashlight at a diner.

Screenshot: Epic / Remedy / Kotaku

Remedy’s action-horror cult hit Alan Wake was first released back in 2010. Later this month, after 13 years, Alan Wake 2 is finally launching. And to help folks remember what happened in the first game over a decade ago, Remedy and Epic have partnered up to create a short, playable recap inside Fortnite.

The original Alan Wake might not have been a sales juggernaut when it first hit shelves in 2010, but it quickly developed a cult following and gained heaps of praise from critics. While we did end up getting a side-story/spin-off thing in 2012—a smaller digital-only game known as Alan Wake’s American Nightmare—a true sequel seemed unlikely. In 2013, Alan Wake creator Sam Lake even apologized to fans for the fact that a sequel wasn’t happening. But things change, and on October 27 fans will get the long-awaited sequel. And in case you need a quick recap on what happened, Alan Wake 2 publisher Epic has a Fortnite map for you.

Epic / Remedy

Alan Wake: Flashback, out now, is a short Fortnite world that condenses the events of the first game into a level that will take most players about 20 to 25 minutes to complete. This isn’t a full remake of the original 2010 classic or a complete retelling of that first game’s events. Instead, it’s an elaborate “Previously On” type of experience.

Here’s the island code to play Alan Wake: Flashback in Fortnite: 3426-5561-3374

A cool idea, but you should still play Alan Wake

I played through Flashback earlier today as Leon S. Kennedy from Resident Evil 4, which made the whole experience a bit weird. The map was built by Epic with help from developers Spiral House and Zen Creative. In Flashback you explore moments from the game and use your flashlight to clear dark areas and obstacles.

The Alan Wake: Flashback map ports over assets from the first game into Fortnite to re-tell the most important moments from the 2010 original. Oddly, this new Fortnite experience doesn’t seem to contain the events of Alan Wake’s DLC episodes or the American Nightmare spin-off, though it does reference them slightly.

While I think the idea of a playable recap of a game is neat and I enjoyed this short, creepy trip down memory lane, I’d still recommend folks just play Alan Wake before the sequel. And play American Nightmare, too. It’s cool. But if you can’t do that for whatever reason, this is a solid way to get caught up on Alan Wake lore before Alan Wake 2 launches (digitally only) on October 27 on PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and Windows PC.


Fortnite Hikes V-Bucks Price As Inflation Hits Epic’s Reboot

Fortnite avatars dance in the clouds of rising costs.

Image: Epic Games

Everything’s getting more expensive, even inside Fortnite. Epic Games’ free-to-play battle royale is raising the price of V-Bucks today by roughly 12.5 percent. Being the last one standing just got a little more expensive, at least if you want to look stylish and rank up the season battle pass while doing it.

Players spend billions every year on the in-game currency to buy virtual costumes, dances, and other cosmetics for their characters. Announced last month, the October 27 price increase means players will be paying a few dollars more for each new piece of virtual gear. As just one example, the Fortnite shop’s new Alan Wake 2-themed skins cost 2,600 V-Bucks for the whole set. Previously, that would have cost about $20. Now it will be $23. Epic blames “economic factors such as inflation and currency fluctuations.” Bidenomics strikes again.

Here’s the full breakdown:

  • 1,000 V-bucks: $9 (originally $8)
  • 2,800 V-bucks: $23 (originally $20)
  • 5,000 V-bucks: $37 (originally $32)
  • 13,500 V-bucks: $90 (originally $80)

The price hike comes as almost everything in gaming is getting more expensive, from battle passes and subscription services to new games and consoles. At the same time, companies across the video game industry are slowing hiring or engaging in large layoffs, including Epic Games. The Fortnite maker announced it would cut more than 800 staff last month after CEO Tim Sweeney appeared to realize only three months ago that the company was “spending way more money than we earn.”

The resulting scramble led to layoffs at recently acquired studios like Mediatonic and a rushed sale of music platform Bandcamp to Songtradr. That messy transition ended with half Bandcamp’s employees getting canned and Epic refusing to recognize their union. Those laid off will still qualify for six months of severance from Epic, but the chaos has drawn criticism from those who see little accountability at the top for the apparent strategic blunders.

Now Epic Games is teasing a return to Fornite’s very first battle royale mode map from back in 2017’s chapter 1. The update seems designed to bring back players who may have bounced off the game in the years since it first became a mega hit, while also raising questions about what new creative ideas are still left for the battle royale to explore. Epic’s chief creative officer, Donald Mustard, retired after 25 years in the video game industry last month.

If there’s one silver lining at the moment, it’s Alan Wake 2. The Epic Games-published survival horror game launched today to rave reviews and is already on many people’s shortlist for Game of The Year. It could be the biggest hit the company has funded in years, or at least the most critically acclaimed. Even if those pesky Epic Games Store achievements are still a major drag.