If my lame father know's Fortnite, then you had better know it too.
If you have been living under a rock for the last year, Fortnite is the most popular and played video game in the world right now.
A cultural phenomenon, the game is distributed in two versions: Save the World and Battle Royale. We're going to focus on the Battle Royale version as it has pulled roughly 125 million players onto the platform in under a year.
The mechanics are simple - 100 players are air dropped from a "Battle Bus" into a dystopian world with a pick axe. As soon as you hit the ground you begin collecting weapons and scavenging for resources to avoid being killed and to kill other players. Last person standing wins. Aside from the simple game mechanics it has features such as "emotes" that allow you to celebrate a victory inside the game.
The game is free to play. But in May of this year, it took in a reported $318 million dollars.
It's number one player, Ninja, now boasts one of the largest social footprints in all of sport, and he did it by primarily through Twitch.
Why Should I Care?
So, why is it so important to understand Fortnite if you work in "real" sports entertainment? Well here are a few things that should grab your attention:
It's the most popular game within key segments for traditional sports: Youth and Casual Gamers
It's mobile, computer and traditional game console all at once - truly cross platform
It happily pokes fun at the genre it is now leading
It is played by athletes more popular than Ronaldo
It blatantly rips off IP and gets into zero trouble
Literally every kid in college, high school and grade school either players or has played
They give it away free but make an estimated $1 to 2 million per day on it.
Important Trends to Consider
Have Fun with Community
Emotes and the dancing in the game is basically poking fun at the seriousness and overtop nature of most FPOV shooter games like PUBG. The use of female characters as hero's versus objects is also important. So is the lack of ultra-realistic graphics and landscapes. These two elements alone show that Epic Games essentially thumbs its nose at a core demographic for shooter games.
For once, a creator didn't listen to its "core fanbase" but rather built something that many gamers who love Call of Duty or PUBG flat out hate. But casual gamers looking to have fun love it. They stopped being so serious and caught a cultural wave by making the game accessible, silly, and fun.
Virtual Goods and Cross-Platform Revenue Channel
Most of the focus groups we conduct indicate that kids under-18 years old play not only because it's fun, but also because their friends are on the platform. The game doesn't kill their data plan (super important), and it's up to them if they want to spend money buying new skins (avatars) or emotes (dances). Most young players buy the $10 upgrade for skins and emotes as soon as they sign up because without it, they stand out as being too "noobish".
And while Fortnite stacks money for skins and emotes, other partner channels and players can monetize on platforms like Twitch and YouTube. Fans of Ninja (the most popular player) who follow him on his Twitch channel are able to pay him for shoutouts, callouts, or can buy exclusive skins and emotes from him. These "merchandise" and retail channels have created an enormous companion economy alongside the game.
Emotes have even crossed over into the physical world with people having dance offs versus virtual characters. Watch this dance challenge on YouTube, viewed over 1.2 million times, and tell me this isn't fascinating.
Parents are even shelling out $25 per hour to Fortnite tutors so their kids don't suck at the game!
Tell me there isn't a business model there!?
Access to Youths
Generation Remix is a different breed, and understanding their sports consumption is important for everyone in the industry right now. Simply studying Fortnite will give anyone a better window into what resonates and what falls flat for the under-18 crowd.
However, traditional sports teams and brands are beginning to align with Fortnite and the results have been amazing to date. Epic Games held a Pro-Am tournament in Los Angeles in July during the E3 Expo. Held at Banc of California Stadium (home to LAFC) the event was a cultural mashup that featured Ninja, NBA player Paul George, and rapper Vince Staples.
Your Stars Care About Gaming/eSports
In a lot of ways this is as much about eSports and Gaming as anything else. Go into any locker room and battles over Fortnite are as prevalent as dominoes. Younger players are gamers and leveraging their stardom to attract new fanbases through games is just smart.
And if you don't, then they're going to do it themselves. Pique and Ozil are just two of the global football stars to launch their own eSports teams. Not in Fortnite, but that's coming....
What Can You Do?
The things we're urging people to consider today are:
a) experiment with free content and virtual goods models
b) study the gaming world and consider partnering with channels like Twitch to experiment with your content
c) protect your brand, but think about ways to make it silly and fun - don't take it so seriously and you may just tap into a youth or casual fan base that takes your platform to the next level.