Welcome back to GGAL!
Now I think I’ve been avoiding the Llama in the room for far too long. Sit down kids, we need to talk… about Fortnite. That’s right, the overnight success that no one saw coming, a game that inspired dance celebrations and lawsuits in equal measure. The game that took the battle royale from most unknown genre and turned it into the most annoying one.
So where on earth do I start? Naturally lets begin with something totally unrelated, let’s GO back to the summer of 2016, a time when the world seemed slightly less bizarre and for the first time, being glued to our phones and going outside were not considered mutually exclusive. I’m sure you all remember Pokemon GO right? So what happened? At first the hype was yuge! Crowds gathered around Poke Stops like Uruk-Hai around Saruman, the game was everywhere from rural villages to Greenwich Village. Nothing could stop people from getting their fix of Eevees, not even those pesky little car crashes. But as 2016 entered it’s twilight, so did Pokemon GO. Fingers have been pointed at many issues from the laughably bad servers, the abandonment of the three footprint triangulation system, the fact that Niantic basically checked out as soon as the game was released or, and this is my favourite, the absolute Garbodor that was Pokemon GO Fest. The likelihood is that all the above contributed, but on top of that, the game was a fad… and fads dies. So Pokemon GO then resigned itself to Pokemon GONE and the story mostly ends there. But Fortnite isn’t Pokemon GO, it hasn’t died, it isn’t a fad. So let’s talk about why this is.
Guess I should have stayed for the new Pokemon Go update
Much like Pokemon GO, Fortnite Battle Royale costs nothing. For your garden variety phone app this is nothing special, I mean you probably have at least one free to play app on your phone right now. But for a console/PC first person shooter, it’s a little more impressive. Being free to play enabled everyone to get their hands on the game from the casual, plays games for fun (loser) fans, the kids whose parents wouldn’t buy them Call of Duty to the genuine hardcore shooter. Everyone got a chance to play, but more importantly, everyone got a chance to learn the game. Unlike PUBG, no one was forced to pay upfront and therefore people were able to pay (for cosmetics) once they felt their money was earned. These new fans had skin in the game.
No Need for these!
Speaking of PUBG, let’s talk about Fortnite’s less popular older sibling. As of now, the two titans of the Battle Royale genre are going at it in a very different battlefield; the courtroom. Now I’ll be honest, they are kind similar aren’t they. But that really doesn’t matter, as the game theorists eloquently explained in this video, PUBG cannot copyright an entire genre. But in all this noise about Fortnite copying PUBG, the ironic thing is much of Fortnite’s success comes from what they didn’t copy. Epic games took a very different approach to Bluehole at almost every turn. They focused on the casual gamer rather than the competitive, they made regular, smaller updates and of course the free to play factor. The decision making at Epic just proved to be far better, they learned from Bluehole’s failures and they exploited this aggressively. The lawsuit too, just came across as juvenile with PUBG even trying to copyright frying pans! The publicity of the lawsuit almost certainly helped Fortnite, and speaking of publicity…
PUBG would claim this as a weapon
Let’s not kid ourselves, this game was marketed well. Crazy well, every move Epic has made has done amazingly to generate buzz and they’ve found a knack of always being relevant. Even when the game has come under criticism for things like the game leading to violent children (just lol), or loot boxes leading to gambling. This game is always in the public eye, right where it wants to be. In terms of generating buzz, nothing was more impressive than the whole “will they, won’t they” business with Tilted Towers. As many of you loyal llamas probably remember, the whole asteroid drama at the end of season 3 caused a lot of commotion. Fan theory after fan theory was speculated and even I’ll admit that my roommates and I had a few discussions over it.
But then we had the main event, the Fortnite/ Infinity War crossover. This was an incredible coup from Epic Games which successful merged the most popular game with the most successful ever movie, this is a power couple done right.
We are in a very different gaming environment. The world we used to live in (you know, the one where we played games) is gone. This new world is about something way better, watching people play video games! Now I will probably talk about this some day in a full post, but in short, games have become sports. Watching a game of Football (either type before you guys argue) has become no different to watching a few games of Fortnite. You can become part of a community of fans and get to watch the stars perform. And Fortnite definitely has a star. Ninja has completely taken video game streaming by storm (hehe). Not only is he good (and he’s really darn good), but he’s got celebrity pull bringing the likes of Drake and members of the Tottenham Football team (oops did I say celebrity pull).
I feel this is the wrong kind of stream
Now I imagine these are’nt the only factors that have lead to Fortnite’s sustained success but I think you get the picture. However, is this success really sustainable? That’s the question I’d like to leave you with for now because next time I’ve got an interesting theory to share with y’all. That’s it for today but if you have anything you’d like to add, or if you feel you have a decent answer to this question I’d love to hear it. But if not then I guess I will see you next time because “GGAL played themselves”
[Feature Image owned by GGAL]