Fortnite. There was a time before Fortnite, and now we live in the time after Fortnite. It changed the gaming industry entirely. What do I mean by this? It was the right product, at the right time. It's also a product of successful modern marketing strategies and so called consumerist populism, in other words successful market appeal.
What are the reasons for the popularity and the unprecedented success of Fortnite? Let me elaborate.
First, let’s find out the...
Ten Reasons Why Fortnite Is So Popular:
It offers interesting and varying content
It’s easy to learn, but difficult to master
It’s created by Epic Games who definitely know how to create a good gaming experience
It adopts many familiar features from various other games (Overwatch, Diablo, Minecraft, other battle royales etc.)
It’s one of the first true cross-platform games
It runs on almost any setup. PC, consoles, even mobile
It’s promoted by a massively successful, modern marketing strategy
It appeals to an unprecedentedly large audience, and just like social media it feeds your dopamine receptors with audio and visual feedback
At its best, it’s a fun, creative, and social experience especially with friends and even family members
I visited my old elementary school recently and some of the places looked exactly like they did on the day that I first entered the school, 22 years ago. There was one small change: There was a Fortnite poster on the wall of my former home class. I came to the following conclusions: If I was a kid now, I would’ve been the one doing the poster. More importantly: Fortnite is truly something that has a profound effect on our popular culture. It is the crossroads of an unexpected but in hindsight quite natural development in mainstream gaming. It's the first of its kind, the first truly multi-platform game. It's the largest game phenomenon and the most profitable game ever. The game is free so how is this possible?
Let me try to be as understandable as possible. Fortnite is like the Google of gaming. Their product is free, but all personalization costs you, and there are a lot of people willing to pay. When you enter the game for the first time, it becomes obvious. You are a noskin. I entered the game for the first time and was called out for being a noskin in the first five minutes. Imagine being 7-15 years old and hearing that? The peer pressure starts from the first moments and it is also apparent in many visual details. You are among the boring default characters using the template glider. Meanwhile there’s someone who looks like a dragon lord in shiny armor and they literally glide with a dragon. It’s not pay to win, but it’s quite apparent that bling, and division of haves and have-nots is now part of mainstream gaming.
Streamers and content creators for YouTube and Twitch are at the forefront of both promoting Fortnite as a game, and promoting new skins and items for the masses. It seems to be quite normal for kids these days to ask for Fortnite skins as a birthday present. And hey, I would’ve maybe done the same if Fortnite existed when I was a kid. Digital commodities should also be encouraged because of their environmental factor: When people spend more on digital goods, they have less to spend on concrete items. Mother nature thanks gamers!
So far we've covered the reasons for the monetary popularity of Fortnite, but such a popular product has to have a lot of innate appeal too. Otherwise, consumers wouldn't be using the product, let alone keep using it. Well, I briefly summarized the main reasons in the Top 10 list above, but let's delve deeper into these reasons. The first three reasons are quite self-explanatory so I'll go deeper into the remaining seven reasons.
First, let's take a look at Epic Games. If you are familiar with the history of the gaming industry, you should recognize the impressive CV of Epic Games. They haven't done a lot but they've struck gold before. Jazz Jackrabbit is a childhood favorite of mine and a definite classic. Gears of War is a widely popular and acclaimed shooter series. When it comes to online gaming, the Unreal franchise is arguably on par with Quake and Counter-Strike among the most influential series to increase the popularity of online "arena" shooters. These shooters can be seen as the predecessors of modern battle royale games. Fortnite feels like a complete package, and it's no wonder. The people at Epic Games have had almost 30 years of experience in games.
Moving on to reason number five. The locations featured in Fortnite cover almost every corner of the world: There are desert areas, forests, a viking village, a drive-in cinema, and even Fortnite's own version of the Trump Tower, in the form of Tilted Towers. This same concept of global locations has been used by, for example Overwatch. Another clever concept is the item rarity, and color system adopted from RPG games, such as Diablo. This screenshot demonstrates the categories:
When you stumble across orange and golden items, it really gives you a sense of acquiring something special. However, even purple items like the newly added quad launcher can be quite decent. It's currently the best weapon to destroy enemy structures in a very short time. Building and farming for construction material is also quite clearly adopted from the previous hype based game, Minecraft.
Moving on to reasons number six and seven. These two are linked together since the simple explanation for the popularity of Fortnite can, partially be explained by the wide availability of the game. A product has to reach a lot of people to sell a lot. And indeed, that is Fortnite does. As we already discussed earlier, the sales are not traditional since they are like digital add-ons that only add cosmetic value. However, since at the time of the writing of this article Fortnite is bringing over 300 million dollars in earnings every month, and thus it's quite clear that the strategy works. The game is available on Windows, macOS, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS, Android and thus it is quite clear that it marks the new generation of truly multi-platform online games.
The reasons 8, 9, and 10 explain the continuing success of the game. Often games come and go, but the reign of Fortnite has now lasted for over a year. At the time of this article Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has just been released. Still, Fortnite dominates the numbers and streaming services. The hype is strong, and it seems it isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Modern markets alternate fast, but as for now Epic Games seems to be making all the right moves. They have/had a very successful collaboration with Ninja and many other streamers who have contributed to the popularity of the game.
In summary, the success story of Fortnite can be explained by the wide customer base, the intense and rewarding gameplay, cartoonish and saturated graphics, low hardware requirements, successful appeal to large audiences, and its role as the First True Multi-platform Battle Royale. The game also appeals to our primitive senses: you get to destroy, build, and loot stuff, and you are rewarded with nice sound patterns (like the do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do) while going at it. What could be better? The game is undeniably fun, offers a great time, is suitable for casual gamers, but also has a high skill ceiling because of the versatile building mechanics. The game also raises many concerns, and hopefully starts the process or at least discussion of regulating some aspects of the gaming industry when it comes to the young audiences of these products.
Disclaimer: I haven't spent any money on Fortnite and neither should you unless you are 100% certain that it's your own money, and that you can actually afford such a digital luxury commodity.
+ Fortnite is a complete package for the new era of gaming
+ Fortnite is truly great fun and can even bring generations together. It also teaches good manners (See image above)
+ It's free and you don't have to spend money to play it
- However, keep in mind that social pressure might push kids to spend money. Always remember to feel free not to do it! Naturally there's nothing wrong with supporting a good game, but do spend money responsibly.Fortnite is a logical continuation to the monetization of gaming but the ethical side of this is questionable since the audience is quite young
- Fortnite is a perfect example of the subtle ways in which the gambling industry and increasingly the gaming industry use and abuse basic human sensory systems and reactions to encourage the player to continue playing. Of course they aren't the first to use these methods, but the amplitude is quite unprecedented, and target audience younger than perhaps ever.
- Responsible gaming is a concept that was not really around before Fortnite, but as the Fortnite addiction cases are increasingly prevalent, it's important to acknowledge the risks of excessive gaming. Play responsibly, and if your children play Fortnite, please have a talk about these issues.