‘Fortnite’ will launch on disk before entering its early-access period

fortnite physical release early access

Update: Added comment from Epic Games.

Earlier in June, Epic Games confirmed Fortnite was due to launch this summer, putting an end to speculation that the project had been quietly shelved. Now, retailer listings have offered some more information about the title’s retail release, which is being brought about in conjunction with Gearbox Software and Koch Media.

The retail version of Fortnite is due to release on July 21 in Europe, four days ahead of its digital debut, according to a report from Gamespot. A listing on the Gamestop online store suggests that the same scheduling will be in effect for its launch in North America.

This is quite unusual, as Fortnite is part of Epic Games’ ongoing free-to-play initiative. This means that if players are willing to wait a while, they would be able to try out the game without parting with their cash — although, of course, they would be subject to some of the standard limitations that are associated with this business model.

The retail version of Fortnite gives players access to the Founder’s Pack, which grants access to the game on July 21, as well as some other in-game bonuses. Digital copies of the game grant entry to what is being billed as a paid early-access period, which begins on July 25, but anyone who pre-orders digitally can also start playing on July 21. Epic Games previously confirmed that the game will go free-to-play sometime in 2018.

“We are offering our Deluxe Edition Founder’s Pack, which costs $60, at both digital and retail stores because we know some people like to purchase their games physically,” executive producer Zak Phelps told Digital Trends. “They both get the same benefits and exclusive items only available in Founder’s Packs. Aside from Early Access to Fortnite and special in-game events this year, we’ve jammed tons of items, Heroes and loot pinatas (our loot crates) into every Founder’s Pack.”

Early access can be a thorny issue among gaming circles and as a result, Fortnite looks set to cause some controversy. The base edition of the game is priced at $40, while the physical version costs $60, which is not exactly cheap for an unproven early-access title that will go free-to-play within the next 18 months.

Of course, it is likely that Epic Games will give early adopters some kind of reward once the game transitions to a free-to-play format. However, it is easy to look at this move as a cash-grab intended to fund the final stages of the long-gestating project’s development, given that it was first unveiled in 2011.

Fortnite could still turn out to be an engrossing multiplayer experience but there are some major questions lingering about its early-access release.