Video games have come a long way since the days of avoiding 8-bit multi-coloured ghosts in a neon maze. Now you can explore entire gaming worlds with people across the globe from the comfort of your living room.
But what is the Fortnite phenomenon? And why has the Hunger Games-esque fight-to-the-death game captured players’ imaginations in particular?
What is the Fortnite phenomenon?
The game is set in a dystopian world which sees 98% of Earth’s population replaced with zombie-like creatures. Players are among the remaining 2% trying to survive and attempting to restore the world to its former state. The free-for-all ‘Battle Royale’ mode, released in September 2017, sent the gaming world into overdrive. In each game, 100 online players drop into a battlefield and fight to become the Last One Standing.
Now in its fifth ‘Season’ (a new Season begins every 70 days and players must start over at Tier 1 as the game is updated with new features such as skins, biomes and now vehicles), Fortnite has become the biggest game of 2018. Celebrities including Drake, Joe Jonas and countless vloggers have jumped on the craze, using platforms like Twitch to share their gameplay with fans.
So what makes Fortnite so special?
Impermanence is here to stay
With the rise of Snapchat, Tinder and deleted Tweets, impermanence is the digital trend of a generation. And Fortnite utilises this trend perfectly. Although other video games like Call of Duty and Minecraft also release regular updates to improve gaming experience and keep things fresh, Fortnite has built on this foundation and adeptly fixed on the mainstay of many brands’ continued success: engagement.
Players get hooked on the game due to the limited timespan for completing challenges and ‘tiering up’ before the end of each Season. But that’s not all that keeps them coming back.
Fortnite provides interactive cross-platform gaming and includes entertaining design features like the emote wheel, which allows players to do the celebratory ‘Fortnite Floss’ dance (one of many ‘emotes’) after defeating enemies.
Video games enter the pop culture space
On top of that, Fortnite’s developer Epic Games listens to players’ feedback on new features. In April, Epic removed the ‘invincible’ guided missile from gameplay following widespread complaints and has now introduced a tweaked, ‘tuned-down’ version. The developers have also added many fan-suggested ideas to the game including map-zooming and new emotes.
The Fortnite phenomenon has aided the entry of video games into mainstream pop culture. No longer are these games exclusively for reclusive ‘nerds’ who spend day and night playing on consoles in their bedrooms. With opportunities to watch and play along with football icons, famous rappers and your favourite Stranger Things star, the game has attracted players of all ages, genders and backgrounds.
After gaining over 125 million players within a year of its initial launch, it is clear that Fortnite taps into a massive gap in the gaming market. Not only do game developers engage with the Fortnite community to develop new content, they also manage to maintain a buzz around the game using the power of impermanence. Every 70 days, gamers anxiously wait for new features to be revealed for the new Season.
The fact that developers with a limited market have created a worldwide Fortnite phenomenon provides necessary lessons for brands. It is not enough to employ top-down marketing approaches to generate consumer buzz. Brands also need to encourage audiences to engage with each other to maximise their advertising potential. But, as Fortnite proves, this goes far beyond traditional word-of-mouth advertising. For brands in 2018, digital marketing, and more specifically word-of-mouse advertising, are the key to success.
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