By now you’ve heard of Fortnite whether from your kids playing, other articles in the news, or maybe even you play it yourself! And If you have played it yourself, or seen others, you realize how the game has a very loyal following.
The point of this post is to take a look at the aspects of the what has made the game incredibly successful and what keeps its users coming back every day, for hours at a time.
How Does Fortnite Work?
Fortnite is a battle-royale game, meaning all usersdrop into an island where they find weapons and the last man standing wins. There is a storm that moves in and if users stay in the storm too long they will be eliminated. Think of it like the Hunger Games, where that ominous cloud rushes the players closer together, so as to end the game quicker. The concept is the same in Fortnite.
There are a few different modes such as playing alone, with a friend, or with up to 3 friends. Occasionally the developers create limited time game modes as well. The game is incredibly addictive, I can attest. So if you want to learn more about how to play the game, see this article from Forbes (opens in a new tab).
Anyways… let’s take a look at what has made Fortnite a gaming sensation that isn’t even a year old. What about the game has made it so successful and how can you apply these same tactics to your business?
Everyone knows someone who is a phenomenal story-teller. Whenever they start speaking, everyone gets quiet and starts listening to what they have to say. They pause in the appropriate places, they add suspense, and have the ability to capture an audience’s attention. This is exactly what the developers at Epic Games have done.
While the goal and concept of the game has remained the same, Epic Games has incorporated a story line into the game that keeps its players listening and trying to predict what’s next.
Since its inception, the game has had numerous seasons and as of writing this in mid-July, they’re getting ready to enter season 5. It’s very similar to a TV series. The initial release date was on July 25, 2017, so they’re getting ready to hit their one-year mark. This makes each season come out to roughly 3 months long.
During these 3 months updates for the game appear throughout the map as to what might happen next. For example, in season 3, there was a clue in the sky – something that appeared to be a shooting star. Furthermore, telescopes on top of mountains began to appear throughout the game.
During this time, there was all sorts of chatter on pages devoted to Fortnite on Instagram and Reddit. People created theories as to what each of these micro-updates could be signaling. Would-be Fortnite Conspiracy Theorists even went as far as to overlaying a map of Europe where Poland was struck by the Morasko meteorite and relating that to the in-game area that was supposed to be struck. Below is a screenshot of the Reddit thread.
Spoiler Alert – It wasn’t, but a meteor did strike a different part of the map at the start of the new season. This created a new area where players could get new jump abilities by consuming a crystal that was found in the area.
Long story short, the story keeps getting better and the more buzz it generates online, the more hype that’s going to happen between users offline.
Ask yourself if your business has a story. Is that story part of the brand? What’s behind the brand and is it portrayed in an effective way? For Fortnite, their story is their product and vice versa. While it isn’t like a campaign mode you may have played in other games (there is a separate mode for that though), the story is seamlessly incorporated into the game play to offer something that’s new, exciting and keeps players coming back.
For a real world example, consider you’re a bakery. Maybe your mother or father inspired you or started it themselves. Have you worked to project that story and let your customer base know about it? Make the product part of the story; show how your parent worked diligently to make the best pastries in town while supporting 3 children. Be genuine and try to resonate with your audience.
To take this example a step further, you might consider offering limited time treats during special events. Maybe there’s a slight tweak you make to the recipe during Christmas time for some extra holiday flavor. The possibilities are virtually endless, it just takes a little creativity to get the wheel turning.
People are social creatures. It doesn’t matter who you are, even the stereotypical picture of a gamer in his parents’ basement, yes they like to socialize too – just in a different way. It’s common in games like Call of Duty to play on a team, or a ‘clan’ as some call it.
Fortnite has a similar feature. In the game you have the ability to select ‘squad mode’ where you team up with your friends or other random people. The game play is the same, it’s your 4 vs. every other team of 4, last team standing wins. Players can communicate through online parties with a microphone and headset.
For me, a former college soccer player, this makes the game 10x better and me more likely to play if my friends are. Not long after the release of the game, my 5 roommates and I had 4 tv’s and 4 Xboxes set up in the living room of our house. If the Xbox wasn’t on it’s because either the power was out or the internet was down.
We logged hours upon hours and probably used enough electricity to make local law enforcement question what might be growing in our basement. Don’t worry, just lots of mold that our landlord didn’t want to help prevent.
Apart from just being fun, if you had 1 or 2 guys already playing, it was always incredibly tempting to hop in and play ‘just 1 game’. And after that ‘just 1 game,’ you know you had to play another because, “that last one didn’t count…”
Next thing you know it sounds like Seal Team 6, or Seal Team 4 in this case, running drills in the living room.
“Team of the 3, 15-North.”
“2 guys running uphill at 105 East, engaging in 3…2…1”
“Team rushing south of us, can you drop AR ammo?”
“Need a med kit, does anyone have a med kit?”
All common communication that happened and I could arguably say was better than the communication in real life at practice for soccer.
Not to mention the thrill of winning as a team was equivalent to finding out someone’s Uncle was in town buying us wings and beer.
Point of all this being: Everything is more fun with friends – especially winning.
The big takeaway from this is how can you make your business social? How can you make people feel like they are apart of something bigger than themselves? That’s the whole concept with team sports in general – not just Fortnite.
I grew up playing soccer and ended my career at a D2 school on a team that made an NCAA tournament appearance. Being apart of a team that supports you and you support, creates an atmosphere that’s constructive and makes its members want to further contribute to.
For example, there’s a pizza restaurant around me called Azzip Pizza. They make good pizzas at a decent price and every month or so they feature an employee creation. An employee gets to come up with the topping combination for the month and then give it a wacky name.
For this month, July 2018, is “Mama’s Lil Goat,” a pizza with garlic butter, chicken, goat cheese, spinach, goat horn peppers, and a balsamic drizzle.
While this incorporates the employees, they could always open the submissions to customers. Imagine how cool it would be, as a customer, to see your recipe submission come up as the Pizza of the Month at your favorite restaurant.
To take this a step further, make it social. Utilize hashtags and encourage guests to post their pizzas on Instagram. You know how much people love posting pictures of their food online.
I remember the first time I started playing Fortnite and the game had come down to the last two people. One other player and myself in a circle that consisted really of only a few hills and a storm that was closing in.
As Eminem might have described me – “…knees weak, arms are heavy…he’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready to drop bombs…”
Okay maybe not that serious, but to be honest my hands were shaking from excitement and, for some reason, adrenaline. The other player came out from behind a bush and we both started shooting, where I had gotten lucky with a headshot and drained him of his health. There it was as it flashed on the screen, “#1 Victory Royale.”
I almost threw my controller through the ceiling.
I immediately took a Snapchat and sent it to all my roommates (this was before we had the 4 tv setup). Who knew I would get that excited over winning a video game! I don’t think I have ever seen anyone get THAT excited after winning big at the casino! It really feels like you’re draining a game winning shot and I know what that feels like too (Thanks UMSL for the video quality…).
For some businesses, it’s easy to bring excitement. Why do a lot of people love riding roller coasters so much? Rollercoasters bring the feeling of excitement, they get your adrenaline going, and the blood rushing through your veins.
However, for other businesses it may not be so easy. One of the most boring things I can think of is office supplies. I don’t care what you say, office supplies are boring, but how can we add some excitement to it?
Let’s look at it from a business perspective. There’s several different places you can buy office supplies and they all generally offer the same stuff. Office Max, Office Depot, Staples, etc. But if you’re Joe Schmoe’s hometown office supply store, how can you compete AND bring excitement?
First thing you have to focus on is bringing in a regular stream of customers. What better way to do that than getting their contact information and doing giveaways? It could be as simple as leaving a fish bowl out with a weekly $25 gift card giveaway. Customers drop their business card in and you draw one at the end of each week. Not super exciting, but it might get some people coming back.
Again, let’s take this a step further.
The most important thing is now you have their business card with their….
*sounds at the opening gates of heaven*
Play the video for full effect!
Yes! With their contact information you can now start to build an email list. In this email list, you can not only contact the winner and let them know they have an extra $25 credit at your store, but you can send promotions to people who didn’t win this week. Better yet, send them a 15% coupon just as a ‘Thanks!’ for stopping in.
Over time, this list will grow and it might be a good idea to up the ante to continue to attract new contacts. Combine this with a well-run digital marketing campaign and you’ll have regular customers coming in every day of the week.
In the game there are these costumes called ‘skins’. They offer no competitive advantage, but they do have a certain ‘coolness’ factor with players. Apart from being a revenue generator for Epic Games, the skins range anywhere from a few dollars to $20. These offer players the ability to have a personality in the game.
Additionally, players can purchase pre-programmed dances that allow them to either gloat after eliminating a player, winning a game, or just for fun whenever they want. Again, these dances also cost money, but what’s more satisfying than dancing on top of an opponent after beating them?
These features are particularly popular amongst the top players in the game, like Twitch streamer Tyler Belvins, better known by his online alias, Ninja. He is essentially considered the top player in Fortnite and reportedly brings in over $500,000 a month from the game and player donations.
Ninja always has the latest skins, accessories, and dances. Players watch him through the online streaming service Twitch, much like you might find people watching Lebron or Messi on TV. Referring back to my soccer background, I always wanted to have the latest cleats the pros were wearing. The same is with a lot of gamers young and old. They want to have the latest skins like Ninja has. Whether it makes them feel cooler, a more confident player, or whatever – it sells.
I remember the first thing I would do after I got a new pair, wear them and break them in. While you don’t have to break a new skin in, having it does encourage you to play the game more.
If you want to start selling pastry or pizza costumes, too late…someone else already beat you to it.
There’s a couple different things going on here with these Fornite features. For one, it gives players a personality. Two, it creates a hierarchy in the game, separating newbies from the veterans. Three, it helps players feel cooler and/or more confident in their game.
If you think about it, these are some of the same factors Nike uses to help promote Air Jordan Basketball Shoes.
Guys, or girls, who wear these shoes often wear them as a way to describe their personality. They’re either sneakerheads or follow the “Ball is Life” motto. Having a rarer, or in-demand pair puts you above someone else who wasn’t able to get one. Lastly, who wouldn’t feel more confident and cool when they have something that’s scarce and few others have?
So how can you apply this to your businesses? It’s tough to make limited edition pastries, but you can offer some customization options, although custom food orders are already common.
Yeti Coolers are a good example. Apart from having a great product and an even better story, they offer customization options now too. You can put everything from the ever-so-popular monograms, to company logos, and more on their coolers, tumblers, and other products.
These customization offers give buyers a sense of personality in their products. It isn’t just a Yeti Cooler anymore, it’s MY Yeti Cooler.
Even if you can’t offer full customization on your products, you can personalize the experience. Going back to the pastry example, say you receive a request for a large order for Jack and Jill’s wedding. A nice touch that is likely to leave a good impression and create brand awareness is to invest in high quality custom packaging with their names designed into the box.
With 100 people in each game doing their own thing, you never know what’s going to happen. Sometimes you might get lucky, sometimes not so much.
After dropping onto the island, you start out with nothing and have to find everything. There are chests throughout the game which you can open and contain various items from building materials to weapons.
Imagine the first chest you open contains a legendary SCAR, the best weapon in the game. Your odds of winning have increased dramatically. On the other hand, what if you find a common pea shooter (not the official name, but pretty much the equivalent), odds aren’t as good as the first scenario.
As the game goes on you can find more chests and more weapons laying around, but there’s no guarantee of finding good weapons. Sometimes you might not run into any opponents until the last 10 remain and will have played scavenger, finding weapons and ammo. Other times you will find a legendary weapon in the beginning, but get eliminated early.
It’s all random but searching through all these chests until you’ve found a good weapon is a little like playing a couple scratch off tickets until you win a little bit of money. There’s no guarantee you will win, but you’ll probably win a couple bucks here and there.
I like to think this plays on human psychology a little bit, but in a not-so-harmful way like gambling can. If you want to get technical with it, I’m referring to B.F. Skinner’s research with a variable ratio schedule. What this means is if you want to reinforce a new behavior, you reward someone whenever that behavior is performed. However, once that behavior is established you variate that reward schedule.
This drives people crazy.
In Skinner’s experiment a mouse would press a lever and get a reward. Sometimes it would be a small treat, other times a large treat, and sometimes nothing at all. Compared to the control group, the mice that received the variated reward pressed the lever compulsively.
Animals, including humans, crave predictability and will always look for a pattern even if one doesn’t exist. Think of a gambler playing $500 hands at the blackjack table and swearing that because he has the pretty girl sitting next to him and his cigarette halfway gone, he’s going to win.
This is one of the pitfalls of a variable schedule. Our brain might start to make us believe that just because we did ‘x’ action last time and saw a positive result, that doing the same thing will produce another positive result.
This variable schedule of rewards is part of the reason most people develop gambling addictions. A slot machine is a lot like the human version of the lab mouse pressing the lever.
Taking this back to video games, this is essentially what the loot chest is, to a lesser degree. You open the chest and sometimes you get a small reward and sometimes you get a big reward. It keeps players hopping from chest to chest and searching for a good weapon, until they’re forced to move on.
Some video games, unrelated to Fortnite, have faced lawsuits from these types of ‘loot boxes,’ since they have shown gambling-like characteristics. Star Wars BattleFront II was one of the names in this outcry. Players could unlock high-level characters after spending so much real-life money on loot boxes and randomly being rewarded them.
State’s began seeking legislation against these randomly rewarded loot boxes since, apart from being unfair and following a paying-to-win model, a huge video game demographic consists of children (and their parents’ credit cards). More on that can be read in this NY Times article.
This tactic is a bit more difficult to apply, since if done too well, can create some ethical dilemmas, like the loot box scenario above.
If I recall correctly, Kohl’s does an excellent job of implementing this tactic without raising any ethical concerns. Often times, they provided a ‘mystery coupon’ or ‘Kohl’s Cash’ to shoppers after they had left the store. The discount amount of the mystery coupon was completely random, and the Kohl’s Cash amount is usually around $10 for every $50 spent.
This helps to bring customers back into the store and has little value outside of the store. It’s essentially a reward for shopping at Kohl’s and they know customers will come back to spend more than just the $10 or try and maximize the mystery discount.
Fortnite has done some phenomenal things and in less than a year has brought in more than $1 billion in revenue and amassed over 125 million players. Furthermore, they have announced a $100,000,000 prize pool for players of different levels across the globe. They’ve dubbed it the Fortnite World Cup, akin to the real life FIFA World Cup.
Their growth continues to climb and it doesn’t look like they’re slowing down anytime soon. Their marketing strategy is arguably one of the best in the video game industry. It’s a free-to-play model and you can win regardless of whether you’ve spent $5 or $500 in the game.
To summarize, here are the key takeaways from this article.
Keep your customers engaged and give them a reason to keep coming back. Whether it’s for a new chapter in the never-ending story or for the quality of products that have come from another’s success story.
People enjoy interacting with one another and being apart of something bigger than themselves. Encourage social interaction where appropriate and offer the ability for people to work as a team towards a common goal.
Make it fun! Learn your audience and figure out what gets them excited. What gets their blood pumping and how can you incorporate that into your business model?
People want to show how unique they are. Let their creativity shine through your products or let them make it their own. There’s a huge difference between a Yeti Cooler and MY Yeti Cooler.
Try mystery coupons like Kohl’s has done in the past. This will encourage people to make another purchase and adds a little bit of excitement to the process.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the article. Do you agree/disagree? Do you have better ideas for the tactics mentioned or know of other tactics video games use? I want to hear from you! Email me at brian (AT) fischerwebsolutions.com or leave a comment on my blog on this article!
By the way, if you play Fortnite, feel free to add me: @CleanClam