In today’s fast-moving world of video games, it’s rare for a single title to become so successful that it fully breaks into the public consciousness. In the early days of video gaming, innovators like Pong, Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Tetris and a handful of others arguably gained a lasting fame, but in the last 20 years it’s been tougher to find games that reach the level of awareness. Even the most successful franchises, such as EA Sports’ FIFA and Madden NFL series were built up over a couple decades and hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising. Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto have made news headlines but usually in a negative way, often as a scapegoat for certain types of anti-social behaviour.
That’s why Fortnite is so remarkable. Launched last summer with relatively little fanfare or marketing beyond its hardcore gamer bubble (we didn’t hear anything about it), it has become the biggest hit of the last twenty years and perhaps the most lucrative ever.
Ironically, it didn’t start out that way. Epic Games, best known for their underlying Unreal gaming “engine” licensed by countless other game publishers to build out their own titles, had been long developing a zombie-killing third-person shooter, Fortnite. It was finally released in July 2017 in early access mode for $40, but wasn’t particularly successful out of the gate.
Epic was aware of another game, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, also in early release since March, that had quickly become the hottest game heading into the summer. Affectionately known as PUBG, the game was based on the “battle royale” concept popularized by The Hunger Games and a Japanese film Battle Royale, where multiple competitors battle each other until just one remains. Epic Games decided to create a “battle royale” mode to drum up more excitement for the “Fortnite: Save The World” (vs the zombies) original game. It was released in Sept 2017 as a free-to-play online game and immediately blew up.
Fast forward a year later and one really can’t avoid Fortnite popping up in business, technology, entertainment, culture and even sports news. FIFA World Cup players celebrated goals with dance moves found in Fortnite, hockey teams fret that their hot young prospects are spending too much time playing the video game and not enough time training for the ice.
Fortnite‘s user base is massive, pushing toward 200 million people of all ages and nationalities, and seems set to grow further as the game became available on Android late in the summer.
Financially, the success of Fortnite has been break-taking, and there are few parallels out there in the gaming world, apart from perhaps casino slot games and others in that genre. Despite being completely free to play, players have the option of buying cool (or ridiculously silly) game elements and avatar skins for their characters, as well as special dance moves. The demand for these in-game purchases has been huge, and Fortnite was said to be taking in “hundreds of millions of dollars‘ a month as of May 2018.
There are many options for the casual and hardcore game out there these days, you can stick to ever-improving console-based classics like EA Sports titles or Nintendo’s Mario games, download casino slots machine or Candy Crush Saga to your phone or go at it on your PC with League of Legends orDOTA 2. However, based on its first, incredible year, Fortnite: Battle Royale, which is finally now available across all of those platforms, is set to continue its growth in users and revenue, as general awareness grows thanks to continued media coverage, burgeoning big-money Fortnite competitions and strategic marketing and advertising by Epic.