How Fortnite became more than just a ‘stupid game’

As one of the fourty-five million players around the world addicted to Fortnite, I can easily say it has had a large impact on my daily schedule. Fortnite, a video game on PC, consoles, and iOS, is a “mass online brawl where 100 players leap out of a plane on to a small island and then fight each other until only one is left” (The Guardian). Although the game officially released in July 2017, it did not really pick up until around the second week of January 2018, as reaffirmed by this graph of trends on Google search.

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Data from Google Trends (csv file)

While a lot of people are just excited to open up to the Battle Royale screen, I am astonished by the game’s rate of growth. As of February 2018, Epic Games reported a monthly revenue of $126M, which quickly grew to $223M in March 2018. In a broader sense, this is equivalent to $2.7B+ yearly revenue (conservatively). Considering that this game is free-to-play, these numbers are bewildering, so I want to dedicate the rest of this story to how these numbers changed from a dream to a reality for Epic Games.

Although I am sure Epic Games has published some advertisements regarding Fortnite, I personally have not seen a single one. The only marketing I have encountered about this topic is the phenomenon known as word of mouth.

Entrepreneur defines word of mouth as “An unpaid form of promotion in which satisfied customers tell other people how much they like a business, product or service.”

Word-of-mouth advertising is important for every business, as each happy customer can steer dozens of new ones your way. And it’s one of the most credible forms of advertising because a person puts their reputation on the line every time they make a recommendation and that person has nothing to gain but the appreciation of those who are listening.

Clearly, there is truly a craft to understanding and being proficient at word of mouth marketing, and the idea of reputation is very important. Epic Games understands this and solves this issue by doing the following:

1. Listening to their customers
2. Inspiring their customers to be their biggest promoters
3. Engaging with their customers
4. Offering experiences that tell a story
5. Identifying their influentials
6. Giving loyal customers special perks

The list above highlights some of the essentials that Epic Games has targeted. They constantly roll out updates with features their customers requested, creating a very tight-knit community, with Twitch and Youtube streamers as the voices. At the same time, they have created specific features that lead to word of mouth marketing, such as shareable replays, which allow gamers to go back and see their in-game kills and boast to their friends. Thousands of Twitter accounts tweet videos of insane kills and wins, attracting more and more users to the game. The popular game of streamer, Ninja, and artist, Drake, currently holds the highest viewer count on Twitch, and a stream by another streamer, elrubiusOMG, holds the highest viewer count for Youtube Gaming streams.

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On the left is a graph which shows the growth of Youtube viewership of several different popular games. Minecraft used to be the most streamed game, but Fortnite quickly rose to beat that title. We can see a clear connection between this graph and the graph near the beginning of the story. Although the interest on Google and Youtube viewership started growing around the same time, we can see that the top graph on the left is actually shifted left, showing that the growth of Youtube streaming about Fortnite led a lot of users to download the game and try for themselves.

While difficult to master, word of mouth is the most valuable form of marketing.

According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. WOMMA and the American Marketing Association (AMA) decided to find out exactly what brands were doing about that fact. In a recent study, 64% of marketing executives indicated that they believe word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing. However, only 6% say they have mastered it. — Forbes

As more and more social networks are created, the ways for communication also increase. In our day and age, word of mouth is increasingly successful and effective because of the large amount of social interactions people have on a daily basis, whether it be through an email, phone call, or Facebook conversation. While marketers are working on perfecting this craft, the people at Epic Games have shown its true potential through the example of Fortnite.

If you’d like to learn more about WOM, here is a helpful infographic regarding strategies.

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