September 22, 2023

Today's Topics

Hello! Rupert Murdoch yesterday announced he’d be stepping down as head of Fox and News Corp., selecting son Lachlan as his replacement. Obviously, that sparked a flurry of Succession memes that left the Chartr office feeling sadly nostalgic. Today we’re exploring:

  • Birthday royale: Hit videogame Fortnite is celebrating a 6th anniversary.
  • Unaffordable housing: The market doesn't look great for new buyers.
  • Park life: More people are visiting US National Parks.
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Birthday royale

The wildly popular videogame Fortnite Battle Royale celebrates its 6th anniversary later this month, ringing in the occasion with birthday bundles, events, and quests for the hundreds of millions of players who devote hours to the ultra-addictive game.

In the real world, however, there isn’t as much to celebrate for the company behind Fortnite. Epic Games, which also developed the successful Gears of War series, is dealing out $245 million from its player refund pot — part of a $520 million settlement it reached with the FTC last December.

Not so epic

The FTC alleged that Epic Games had been swindling Fortniters — and, oftentimes, many of their unwitting parents — out of millions of dollars for in-game purchases, using “dark patterns” to trick players into making unwanted purchases and get children to use their moms' and dads' cash for “skins” and “emotes” they knew nothing about.

While the settlement’s implications won’t deter die-hard Fortnite devotees, it seems that some have been getting bored of the game for a while, at least if Twitch streams are anything to go by. Fortnite fans started flocking to the streaming platform almost immediately after Battle Royale was introduced in September 2017, with concurrent viewership peaking less than a year later when 205,000 fans would tune in to watch people stream Fortnite at any one time. However, as the game-changing game mode turns 6, that figure's a mere ~25% of its peak, with 53,000 simultaneous viewers on average.

First time?

The news on Wednesday that the Fed would leave interest rates unchanged, only the second pause since embarking on a rate-hiking campaign in March 2022, may offer little relief for prospective first-time home buyers reading this newsletter. That’s because the economy has dealt you a pretty rough hand, with the combination of soaring mortgage rates and stubbornly high house prices creating one of the most unaffordable markets in decades.

Indeed, the National Association of Realtors' housing affordability index has dropped to 87.8, the lowest it’s been in nearly four decades. For some perspective, a reading of 100 indicates that a median-income family would have precisely enough to purchase a median-priced home on a 30-year fixed mortgage. At the start of 2021, the same index showed affordability at ~175.

Hoarded up

With mortgage rates through the roof — most quotes are now north of 7% — current homeowners aren’t in a rush to up sticks and move, as those who secured mortgages during the era of ultra-low interest rates are understandably reluctant to re-enter the market. Simultaneously, home builders are increasingly hesitant about new construction projects, with concerns about who can purchase a new home with a 7%+ mortgage, resulting in a monthly drop of 11.3% in housing starts in August.

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Running dry on wholesome activity inspiration for the weekend? Tomorrow is the 30th annual National Public Lands Day, one of 5 days in 2023 when the National Park Service (NPS) offers free admission to its 400+ sites.

Usually, 109 NPS sites charge for admission, including iconic and ever-popular beauty spots like Yosemite and Yellowstone, as well as the Grand Canyon National Park, all of which usually require visitors to hand over $20 per person.


All told, the NPS operates some 425 locations across the US, including 31 memorials, 84 monuments, and 11 historic battlefields. However, the true gems in the NPS collection are its 63 prestigious national parks — “larger, physical areas” that visitors have been making the most of more and more in recent years.

In 2022, more than 88 million people embarked on journeys to these natural wonders, just slightly fewer than the record-breaking 92 million who seized the opportunity to explore their homeland's national parks in 2021, when international travel was still constrained.

More Data

• Delivery giant Uber Eats will accept food stamps and healthcare benefits as payment methods come 2024.

• A Japanese tourist called the police after receiving a $1,000 restaurant bill for almost 8lbs of Alaskan king crab in Singapore.

• Deep breath (or not): we reportedly inhale ~16 bits of microplastic every hour, the equivalent of a credit card's worth of plastic every week.

• A $10,000 bill from the Great Depression just fetched $480,000 at auction.


• Think celebrity deaths are becoming more frequent? A stat deep dive on whether we're losing more famous people than ever.

• Visualizing the apps Americans use most before they log off and go to bed.

Off the charts: On the back of the Murdoch succession news, we thought it fitting to ask which 3 major assets in the mammoth empire we've redacted here? [Answer below].

Answer here.

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