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

Fortnite, In Real Life

If I asked you to name a company that are estimated to be valued at over 8.5 billion dollars in January 2019, Epic Games probably wouldn’t be one of the first names on your list. Epic Games, Inc. formerly Potomac Computer Systems, is an American video game developer based in Cary, North Carolina. The company was founded by Tim Sweeney as Potomac Computer Systems in 1991, originally located in his parents’ house in Potomac, Maryland.

This might not mean a lot to most people reading the opening paragraph, however one word will likely change that.

Fortnite (this does not mean 2 weeks).

To provide some context in case you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know what Fortnite is. It is a survival game where 100 players from all over the world parachute from a big blue “Battle Bus” onto the Fortnite map and the last player alive wins. Players can also select game mode options to play as part of a team where the last team standing wins. This may seem a bit gruesome if you haven’t seen a game of Fortnite, the characters are all cartoon based and there are no blood or guts so can parents of young children please chill out.

The game has attracted massive attention, with over 40 million logins each month. Pretty good for a “free” game isn’t it? Yes that’s right, it costs absolutely nothing to download and play Fortnite yet it generated over 645 million dollars in three months. This is mostly from in-game cosmetics and the games internal currency called “V-Bucks” (which you can buy with real money) which are used to buy new characters, accessories and even dances.

Public Relations

Epic games specifically with Fortnite use very clever Public Relation strategies, which in some cases has even gained attention from the mainstream media. To add some more context, within the game there is the possibility of finding a “llama” which contains useful materials for players to use to their advantage.

E6

It is quite a good thing if a players finds a llama which are scattered all over the map and can be found anywhere. For the official launch of the much anticipated Fortnite Season 5, Epic Games organised for these in-game llamas to appear in different locations all over the world (yes real life).

This was a very unusual way to raise anticipation for the season 5 update but it got a very positive response from social media. It encouraged people who had no idea what Fortnite was to download the free game and gave Epic Games the potential to make even more money.

Durr Burger

Another example of Epic games PR stunts was “Durr Burger”. To add some context, there is a location within Fortnite called “Greasy Grove”. This place is centred on a fast food burger restaurant, whose mascot is called “Durr Burger”.

E1

Within the game at the beginning of season 5 mysterious things started happening, items were disappearing from the map and appearing elsewhere. Epic games organised this to happen with “Durr Burger”. It had disappeared from its home on the top of the restaurant and players were wondering where it was, then this happened.

“Durr Burger” was spotted in real life, like the llamas. In a Californian dessert a real life “Durr Burger” showed up, this gained a huge amount of attention on social media. Members of the public were visiting “Durr Burger”, taking photos and was a very popular topic on local radio in California.

E2

Epic Games spend a lot of time on developing Fortnite, creating new content within the game with weekly and seasonal updates to keep it fresh and attract new players. Season 7 came out with a widely-predicted Christmas themed update, but Epic Games will certainly have future surprises for us.

Eoin Crossan is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/eoin-crossan-848a30171/