Ten ways Fortnite is like a social network
Social media has incorporated many aspects of gamification. Now games are taking on aspects of social media.
I’ve been playing a lot of Fortnite over the Holiday with my son. The game has taken the world by storm. With 45 million players in less than a year and on pace to reach $3.5 billion in estimated revenue this year — the only recent comparable in the West is Pokémon Go.
I don’t think that there has been another piece of social software that has entered pop culture so quickly. Not Facebook, not Instagram, not Snapchat, not Twitter, and certainly not Reddit. Why? Fortnite is a game, but it is designed like social software. Here are ten ways that Fortnite is like a social network:
1. It’s super fun. Pop culture is supposed to be entertainment, not work. In their early days, all the social networks felt that way. Facebook has lost some of that since then, but Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Snap and Reddit are all fun for users to get lost in.
2. It spreads through word of mouth. Both genuine word of mouth (it’s impossible to play and not want to tell all your friends about it!) and through cross posting to other media channels (YouTube, twitch etc).
3. Single player mode works well. It’s easy to dive in and play even if you don’t have friends. Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram are the same way. Celebrities and influencers create high quality content on a lot of social media platforms that make it easy to start out even before you have friends on the network.
4. Multiplayer mode works better. Fortnite is better with friends. Winning a 100 person Battle Royale is hard. If you’ve got some squad mates to work with, it gets easier. And even watching your friends play is fun simply because they are your friends, the same way that seeing posts from your friends in your feed is fun, even if they don’t live the glamorous lives of an influencer.
5. Creation + consumption are seamlessly merged. Fortnite is the first game to integrate eSports into the player experience. You start off playing the game (creating content) and when you die you default into watching the rest of the battle royale play out (consuming content). The best social platforms find a good balance of content creation and content consumption.
6. User culture is self propagating. By watching others play you learn how to play. Both the tutorial aspects (how to be good at Fortnite) and the cultural aspects (how to be cool in Fortnite), e.g. victory dances. These spread the same way that filters spread on Snapchat in the beginning; when you saw one for the first time you became obsessed with findings out how to do it too.
7. The best content algorithmically bubbles to the top. In Fortnite, when you die you watch the rest of the game from the point of view of the person who killed you (and who killed them and so on up the chain). This automatically means that you’re watching better players play and culminates in an exciting head to head finale watched by the 98 other players. High quality content by definition!
8. It’s popular with young women. Most social networks start with young women. Fortnite is about 50:50 which is remarkably high for a FPS game. The decision to randomly assign avatars of both genders makes the game far more welcoming to female players.
9. Fortnite creates community outside of the game. The narrative arc of the seasons, the mysteries and the Easter eggs in the map all drive players to discuss the game extensively in forums and drives media companies to publisher explainers, all driving increased excitement and interest in the game.
10. It’s video first. Just as Facebook, IG, Snap and Twitter are all now trying to be
No wonder Fortnite has had such a meteoric rise to pop culture. It was designed that way! Let me know if there are other ways that Fortnite draws from the best practices of social media in comments.