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Fortnite’s Oblivion: How Epic Marketed a Platform to the Most Popular Game On The Planet

Chris Malby-Tynan
Oct 14, 2019, 3:00:00 PM

When people say that something will end up seeping into a black hole and never heard from again – they didn’t expect that thing to be Fortnite. The most popular game on the planet has ended it’s tenth season, Season X, in style by destroying the entire map with a meteor shower before a black hole swallowed the entire map.

Fortnite, first announced in 2011 prior to launching onto early access in 2017, had a rocky launch but was quickly followed by exponential growth. The game struggled for users initially with closed alpha sessions from 2014-2017 before Epic introduced it’s battle royale mode was launched from which the game started to see significant increases in user numbers, retention, and engagement.

Since the game’s release, Epic has planned and released a number of sequential updates to the game via seasons. Each of these seasons has been centred around specific themes, introducing new unlockables, in-game items, and microtransaction opportunities. These perfectly-timed updates have seen the likes of John Wick and Marvel’s The Avengers cross over into the world driving higher-levels of player engagement as they try to attain these rare items and skins.

Specifically from a cloud computing standpoint, there is also something to be marvelled at when it comes to the compatibility and approach made by Epic. Specifically, Fortnite has seen a huge success since porting to mobile and has been the torchbearer for AAA, large-scale cross-platforming, offering players to play together regardless of whether they’re PC, Mac, Mobile, or Console.

Epic, in fact, have had to adapt and optimise their engine – Unreal Engine – for Fortnite to seamlessly operate across these different devices. There is a fantastic talk from GDC 2018 which talks about how they overcame the plethora of challenges from character animation through level streaming and server performance to ensure their players had the best experience.

 

The game is a showcase in marketing and will be a staple piece case study for many years to come. The video game has placed host to a variety of unusual and quite incredible in-game events including a concert hosted by Marshmello, which more than 10 million people logged in to watch live, and others including an epic Mech vs Sea Monster fight.

However, their best marketing effort has to be the black hole to mark the end of Season X. At the end of the day, the developers could have introduced Season 11 without the fanfare that they’ve provided already but that wouldn’t have caused the same reaction. By stopping fans from playing the game when they are hungriest, they have caused a whirlwind reaction from their community, the industry, the press.

This combined marketing effort which has included all of their channels including the website (they show the Twitch live stream of the black hole), social media (they deleted all of their posts and have linked to the same live stream), and support channels (their Trello board has removed all other issue and simply shows the black hole) means that regardless of what you know about Fortnite right now you know it involves the black hole in some manner or respect.

 

Epic have thrown out the rulebook with Fortnite and proven that video games don’t have to be marketed the same. In fact, your game doesn’t even need to be a game at all. It can be a malleable platform which can be changed quickly depending on what’s happening in the wider world.

Likewise, Epic have also changed how games are made. Having been forced to remove the barriers caused by siloed game development, Fortnite – regardless of your personal feelings about the game itself – is also deserves praise for it’s engineering approach to the task at-hand.

Congratulations, Epic on a fantastic end to Season X. Here’s to Season 11.

PS as a final piece of genius, play the Konami code on the black hole. See what happens.

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