The main gameplay for Fortnite follows the battle royale genre's standard format: up to 100 players skydive then deploy a glider from floating buses ("Battle Bus") onto a consistent map, which includes random distribution of weapons, shield, and other combat support features. The goal is to be the last player (or team, if playing in small squads) alive by killing or avoiding other players. Over time, the game's safe zone (representing the eye of a storm that is ravaging the world), decreases in size, and players caught outside the zone will take damage, potentially dying. This directs the surviving players into tighter spaces, forcing player encounters. Players can loot defeated enemies for equipment. Random supply drops will occur during a match, providing random weapons and items.
Fortnite's primary distinction from other battle royale games is the building system. Nearly all objects in the environment can be broken down into materials (wood, stone, and metal), which can then be used to build fortifications of limited durability, such as walls, ramps, floors, and roofs. These objects may be used to help traverse the map, protect the player from gunfire, or slow down progression of other players.
The game is free-to-play, supported by microtransactions that allow players to buy "Vinderbucks", the game's internal currency. Fortnite offers players the opportunity to earn V-Bucks by completing missions or daily quests. V-Bucks can then be used to buy cosmetic improvements to the player (heroes, character and weapon skins, and emotes). V-Bucks can also be used to buy Battle Passes which accelerate the rate that a player increases their Tier within the game's "seasons" (each season lasting a few months). By raising their tier, they gain automatic rewards of cosmetic items typically around a theme. Players can still increase tiers without a Battle Pass, albeit at a slower rate.