I’m not what you’d describe as a typical hardcore gamer. Sure, I have a Switch and have been systematically working my way through everything from 8-bit Megaman to AR mobile apps, but I wouldn’t necessarily classify myself as “hardcore”.
But that’s what’s so interesting about Fortnite – a free-to-play game with three modes: “Sandbox” (create something on an island), “Save the world” (more in-line with the story-mode and lore of the Fortnite universe), and the most intriguing “Battle Royale”.
This is the mode that really put Fortnite on the map, with a multi-player all-out, last-one-standing brawl-fest. With the first international championships winner getting a cool $3 million last month.
In fact, esports as a whole are on the rise, with the industry expected to be worth $1 billion by the end of 2019
And I think that’s the interesting thing about Fortnite – it’s universal appeal. This is stuff that has seasonal-updates advertised on station billboards. Even Pokemon Go (downloaded over a billion times) hasn’t got that distinction.
This is a game series with tie-ins to Infinity War, Stranger Things, and even well-known streamers and performers. This isn’t just convergence media, it’s marketing.
Of course, everybody wants to get the Infinity Gauntlet and play as Thanos, but when you really peel it all back – it exists more as a tie-in to the Avengers movies.
As for audience engagement, it covers all bases. Livestreaming, Marketing, and Branding – raking in an amazing $1.2 billion revenue from 125 million players.
If that’s not worthy of attention, I don’t know what is.
I think it’s first important to explain how “freemium gaming” makes money. Firstly, not all games are free to play. For the “Save the World” editions, it costs more – as well as the console editions.
But what is most interesting to me is the downloadable character customisation – this is where the money is, and what really sets this apart from your traditional video game. You buy everything from Island customisation, to character model – you can role play as everything from a zombie to a killer teddy bear.
Of course, this requires the in-game currency: V-Bucks (roughly 100 V-Bucks to the Dollar).
Some have criticised this – especially children could accidentally spend hundreds of dollars.
Sure, it’s free to play, and you can work your way to earn them through daily quests. But if you really want to splurge out on that killer T-Rex costume, you can.
That’s the system and based on their ongoing revenue generation – it seems to really work.
E-SPORTS: “TO BE THE VERY BEST LIKE NO-ONE EVER WAS.”
I think the Pokémon quote above is very apt for describing E-Sports, and the accessibility that comes with it.
E-Sports is something that is increasingly growing in popularity – attracting millions of viewers for the championship spectacle, and with notable YouTubers and Twitch-streamers participating.
It’s a real industry at the moment, not just for Fortnite, but for other notable games like Pokémon and Minecraft have their own niches online and fans engaging and watching other fans play as well.
Younger fans, especially Gen Z (those born from 1995 onwards), are spend countless hours watching their favourite gamers.
I think the appeal of E-Sports really comes with accessibility – anyone can pick up a controller and master the game; it’s inherently fair.
There are communities built around speed-running, competitions, streamers, followers. It truly is the next stage of participatory culture. Just type in Fortnite or Minecraft into YouTube and see how many results you get!
In the past, fans couldn’t really share and engage with these properties the way they do today, and that’s what’s driving this spike.
Originally games were simple, it was all very much about playing that 8-bit NES game, getting to the final boss, and not dying. Sure, you might have a four-player game, or race people online from the mid-2000s onwards. But it wasn’t so much a “community”.
But now, we can now share, upload, and analyse these mediums is ways that we just couldn’t before – and the guys behind Fortnite have recognised this.
THAT FORTNITE DANCE THO!
I think we’re all familiar with the “Fortnite dance” – that thing BTS and Jimmy Fallon did at one point? It amassed over 19M views on YouTube.
I took a while to think if I should even address this. It isn’t really game-related, so what is it?
It’s something to share with friends, to video, and engage with.
When it comes to turning a property into an experience, this is really a great way to go about doing it.
I like to think that somewhere the dances were strategically planned out like this – that they were specifically engineered to be the most ‘memeable.’
At least, that’s my theory.
IF IT’S NOT THE STORY, WHAT IS IT?
You may notice that I haven’t mentioned anything about the story of the game, how 98% of human population has been wiped out and the survivors battle on remote islands?
It’s a cool as Hell backstory, but amazingly it is absolutely not what drives the plot, the fan engagement, or the updates to seasons.
No, it’s all about meme-dancing, Infinity Gauntlets, and well-known personalities.
That’s what it really boils down to – an immersive experience. You can respond to these players in comment sections, live videos, and hashtags, and the technological immediacy of it all.
Back in the 80s and 90s there was a community. There were magazines, ways to write in and put up your high-scores, and a slew of ways to subscribe to a back-then niche fanbase.
But Fortnite is the way forward for video games. It takes full advantage of subs, likes, comments and memes.
Instead of simply buying and playing the game, we see a continuous stream of updates, “Seasons,” and an ever-growing fandom.
With the first video game championships this year with a prize of $3 million – young YouTubers and Streamers have something new to aspire to.
Everything is about gaming, except gaming; that’s about community.