Fortnite- Online Game or Marketing Machine?

Anyone part of the online gaming world (or anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the last two years) will know in simple terms what Fortnite is. The word itself conjures up images of poorly animated cartoonish characters wielding over the top weapons and wearing far too many clashing colours. Ringing any bells?

KL1

Last Tuesday night, a meteor hit the imaginary island and catapulted users into a black hole of nothingness for 48hours straight. Twitter went commando with a bare page cleared from all tweets and Instagram followed a similar theme. Players were left with nothing for two days. No game, no explanation, no light at the end of tunnel. And of course, the coverage followed.

The whole affair was exciting, and something never done before by Publisher Epic Games, but going off the map certainly isn’t a new PR tactic. 2016 seen Kendall Jenner delete her Instagram for a small window of time and Taylor Swift went down a similar road by unfollowing everyone and deleting all her posts to create a cloud of mystery in lieu of her upcoming album release. So what made Fortnite’s brief hiatus so special? Their stunt last week got me thinking, what makes Fortnite a standout brand without following the usual pattern of declination after a games initial peak period?

 

Everyone’s Welcome

One of the reasons Fortnite really made it to the big leagues is owing to the fact that the game was released on multiple platforms and all versions were playable to eachother, a big deal in the gaming universe. This meant that someone gaming on PC could team up with their friends on Xbox and play together, creating a much more widespread gaming experience that easily went viral. Accessibility was key to Fortnite’s success and means anyone with any gaming device is welcome to don a weird outfit and fight some strangers online with the virtual company of their friends.

 

They never stop upping their game

Fortnite was originally released without much pomp and circumstance in July 2017 and since then has regularly brought out new ‘skins’ (outfits for sale), modified their maps and changed the rules depending on when are when you are within the game. The map/set is constantly evolving in order to keep the users on their toes. Nobody is getting bored and the playerbase is growing in numbers as long as the game is alive and breathing. Two years later fans are still drooling for the constant Easter-eggs hidden within the maps.

 

Relevancy above all

Truth be told I had never even heard of Fortnite until Thanos was introduced as a limited time character. Game producers took advantage of the fact that Avengers: Infinity War was doing so well at the box office and used the information that the writers of the blockbuster were such big Fortnite fans to utilise the world’s biggest current villain as a prop in their game. Arguably, the dances done by the characters are more contagious than the games itself. Playgrounds around the world have been taken over by ‘flossing’ and ‘Electro Shuffles’ and videos of these weirdly difficult to master dance moves were constant hits online. Teacher and parents were annoyed and many schools throughout the world banned the dances. But in a world where coverage is deemed important- all press is good press. Right? The crossovers never end with regular appearances from whatever/whoever is relevant that week. These include Marshmello, The MCU, John Wick and Fifa and can come in the form of new skins, limited edition soundtracks or even a quick change in the map. The inclusion of hyped up happenings in the real world makes Fortnite a pro when in comes to effective brand promotion.

People love free stuff

Let’s be honest, we all want the goods and we want to pay a good price. Ideally nothing. As it stands Fortnite is free and has no upfront costs whatsoever meaning getting started is quick and easy. This means that the younger generation don’t have to beg for credit card details from unwilling parents and the game stands at an all time high in terms of accessibility. Now as always there is a catch. While playing, gamers can purchase virtual items via ‘V-Bucks,’ an online currency unique to the world of Fortnite and by doing so make their character more unique in style. This doesn’t necessarily give any advantage when playing but the more outrageous a character’s outfit, the more noticeable a player is, and to some gamers that means as much as winning.

 

Ga-Ga for Gaming

Not immune to this epic multiverse are celebrities. A-listers such as Finn Wolfhard, Joe Jonas and Drake can’t stay away it seems with the latter breaking a Twitch record for ‘Most viewers of all time,’ partly owing to the rapper advertising the stream on Twitter to his 36.9million followers. Even celebrities that aren’t interested are getting involved. Lady Gaga recently tweeted, ‘What’s Fortnight?’ racking up 200,000 retweets and 900,000 likes. Honestly who knows if any of these stars are #spon but even if there aren’t any pockets being lined, the celebrity involvement is definitely working.

 

Kate Lagan is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter- @PredisposedtoPR and Instagram- @klagan19