(Credit: Epic Games)

If anyone knows that you must evolve to stay competitive, it's Epic Games. Since its inception in the early 90s, this developer and publisher has gone through side-scrolling platformers to hardcore multiplayer shooters to Fortnite's colossally successful battle royale -- and a freshly launched competitor to Steam.

Epic's rotation of content in Fortnite (Android, iOS) works around "seasons," which are themed batches of updates that last for about ten weeks. Seasons have evolved the huge map that you fight on with up to 99 other players, and they've provided new outfits for your characters to wear, and new gameplay modes.

SEE: How to play Fortnite Mobile and win: A guide for beginners

Lately, Epic has been using seasons to make substantial changes to core gameplay. After all, if it doesn't work out, they can just discard it with the arrival of a new season, or they can carry it over if the players like it. Season 6 brought an interesting new stealth option for the first time in the form of Shadow Stones, and now Season 7 appears to be bringing another surprise: Melee weapons, at least in the form of a familiar sword teased on Twitter (Android, iOS).

Up until this point, the only melee weapon at your disposal was the pickaxe that you normally use to break down the environment to harvest crafting resources. There are many cosmetic variants of it, but it's always the same tool underneath.

We asked Epic if this item is a cosmetic option for the pickaxe, and a representative said, "I can't really say too much about it (I know, I know... we're so secretive). But I'll say that we don't tease harvesting tools. :)."

So with that in mind, one infers that Fortnite could be getting a whole pile of swords, or there could be a quest of sorts to unlock this particular one -- which iOS gamers may recognize from Epic's Infinity Blade role-playing games. The tweet says it's "a weapon fit for a king," indicating a single, specific item. Time will tell if it's intended to stand alone, or if it's the vanguard of a new weapon type.

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Either way, if we're on the right track about the nature of this new item, opening up melee as a legitimate combat option in Fortnite has a variety of implications, unless it's being introduced for a seasonal or focused gameplay mode. Fortnite players are accustomed to fighting solely with firearms, ranging from shotguns (for that up-close-and-personal touch) to sniper rifles that can see for miles.

In this environment, a dude with a sword is liable to get shredded before they get close enough to do anything, so we hope there are other tools at your disposal besides just swinging like crazy and hoping for the best.

One popular option in many Star Wars games is to let the player use their lightsaber to deflect incoming fire (and even reflect it back at the attacker). In other games like World of Warcraft, a player may be able to close the gap by teleporting or temporarily turning invisible, and sometimes you can pull an enemy player towards you instead.

If a sword in Fortnite has no defensive mechanisms, we hope that players who actually manage to use it successfully get some bonus points for their efforts. Either way, we'll keep our eyes peeled for more info on Fortnite's mysterious new item.

Takeaways

  • The makers of Fortnite have teased the inclusion of a sword coming at some point in Season 7. The company indicates to us that it's not an alternative look for the game's resource harvesting tool.
  • Seasons in Fortnite last for about ten weeks. But if this item proves popular, it may stick around. If it's a weapon, it all hinges on how effectively it can used in an environment that's dominated by firearms.

Also see

Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.