October 31, 2018

Fortnite: The Billion Dollar Game

Over the last year, an increasing amount of my friends have become obsessed with Epic Games’ widely popular game, Fortnite. My 11-year-old brother plays it almost nightly, and when he’s not playing, it seems like he’s watching other people play on YouTube and other streaming platforms, such as Twitch. But, with other arguably better games on the market, how has this free game garnered so much attention, bringing in $1.2 Billion?

One could easily make the argument that other video games have better graphics, more interesting story lines, more immersive gameplay, etc. and yet, Fortnite is still more popular. Instead, they’ve achieved their success through strategically using their accessibility to generate an extensive, grassroots following which turned into viral social influencer advertising.

Accessibility

One of the most effective ways to generate an extensive audience is to allow your product to be as accessible as possible. We’ve seen the success other freemium mobile games like Candy Crush and Clash of Clans have had allowing their game to be free to play. Fortnite has followed in the footsteps of these other games and utilized this approach very well. Fortnite’s most popular game mode has been free to play since its launch. However, making a free game does no good if no one knows about the game, so how has Fortnite gained so many active users? Fortnite has taken full advantage of utilizing social media influencers, through the use of Twitch Streamers. The game has catered itself to Streamers because it’s easy to play, readily available (free), and interesting to watch.

Generating Buzz

A lot of Fortnite’s targeting has been generational, primarily with Gen Z and Millennials. Knowing who their userbase is, allowed them to cater their marketing tactics to methods proven to work with these demographics such as creating buzz through social media and influencers as previously mentioned. This buzz was the tipping point which took Fortnite’s popularity from the gaming community to mainstream media attention, leading to it becoming a household name. After watching others play on Twitch, people would tell their friends about this new free online game, initiating word of mouth marketing. With this rise in popularity, Instagram and Twitter were flooded with memes about the game. Even my friends’ Snapchat Stories were full of nonstop pictures and videos of their “Victory Royales.”

Growing the Consumer Base

Mobile gaming has been on the rise in popularity as a reliable gaming medium. While PC and Console have remained at the forefront for more serious gamers, mobile gaming has become a favorite amongst casual gamers because almost everyone has access to some sort of smart phone or tablet. So, once their game became well established on Console and PC, it was rational that they expanded into mobile gaming. This allowed them to broaden their audience even further to those who knew of the game but didn’t have access to a means of playing. Expanding into this market has given them access to over 2.1 billion users worldwide. According to Statista, as of August 2018 Fortnite is the top grossing mobile gaming app in the U.S.

Commercial Success

How does a free game generate 1.2 billion dollars? Once they established their userbase, it was a matter of turning that into revenue. Like other freemium games, Fortnite allows their users to buy an in-game, currency called, “V-Bucks” which can be used to purchase different in-game addons, such Skins, Emotes, Pickaxes, Gliders, etc. These addons have zero impact on gameplay and are purely aesthetic. So, why does anyone buy them? Despite not having any direct effect on the actual gameplay, Fortnite has created an avid culture among its users. For example, skins (the appearance of a player) exhibit a player’s seniority and how good they are at the game. In addition, the term “No Skin” (players that use the free default skin) has been equated to the more common gaming term of “Noob” causing players feel that they need to have a skin in order to be good at the game.

A year ago, no one knew anything about Fortnite. Now, they have become a household name and chances are someone you know is playing it – not to mention that it’s bringing in over a billion dollars. This is not because it’s a super elaborate, complex game. It’s a result of their excellent understanding of how to build a loyal, extensive userbase.