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Take the L: Fortnite's Pop Culture Breakthrough and what it could mean for eSports

CMS Digitalbytes

10 September 2018

Bouncer pads, launch pads and super-fast vertical-building skills - these aren't words you would typically expect to see in an article from one of Britain's most prominent papers. For the uninitiated (or those of us without teenaged family members), these terms are staples of the Fortnite lexicon, a hugely popular online video game developed by Epic Games. Fortnite is particularly known for its Battle Royale mode, a real-time fight for survival between 100 players as the map slowly shrinks, mercilessly forcing players into lethal encounters (think Hunger Games meets Rambo).

Permeating western pop culture

If you've heard of Fortnite, and if journalists feel compelled to write about it, it's because the game has permeated almost every aspect of western pop culture in just over a year since its release. If you happened to watch the Football World Cup this summer, you may have seen french superstar Antoine Greizmann celebrate his goals with a (frankly ridiculous) dance routine often used by Fortnite players when mocking the elimination of another player. Even late-night talk shows aren't immune to the craze as Jimmy Fallon and Korean boy band BTS dedicated an entire segment of last week's Late Night Show to mimicking characters and dances from the game as part of the "Fortnite Dance Challenge”.

A good omen for Epic Games

All of this cultural cachet is likely a good omen for Epic Games as Fortnite's popularity has continued to grow in a business often characterised by short-lived fads (see Disney Infinity, Lego Dimensions and the long list of Toys-to-life games that were quickly discontinued). The numbers certainly seem to back this up. According to statistics provided by Epic Games in June 2017, over 125 million individual players had registered to play the game (roughly the population equivalent of Mexico, the 10th largest nation in the world). At its peak, Fortnite has hosted around 3.4 million players on its servers at the same time. Interestingly enough, although the game is free-to-play, a recent survey of a thousand players revealed that 68.8% of those polled had made at least one in-game purchase and that the average spend per player was $84.67 (£64). It was therefore not so surprising when Epic reported that Fornite had generated a record $318 million (£242 million) in revenue in May 2018 only.

Shedding stigmas and engaging brands

A month later, Epic Games announced a Fortnite World Cup for late 2019. The event will serve as the company's first foray into organised eSports. In this sense, Fortnite's popularity is also very promising for the eSports industry as a whole. It's further evidence that competitive gaming have finally shed the stigmas previously associated with video games and is now seen as (somewhat) cool. Some of the more famous eSports players even have sizeable fan-followings similar to traditional athletes. "Ninja", a Fornite player, has around 3.48 million followers on Twitter and was recently the first professional gamer to feature on the cover of one of the USA's leading sports magazines, for example. This is particularly attractive to brands and marketers and has led to a perfect storm where eSports, and the cultural movement around them, are now seen as a legitimate source of investment for companies in all industries (e.g. Logistics company DHL is sponsoring eSports organizer, Electronic Sports League in the hope of reaching younger consumers).

With the global eSports market revenue expected to reach $1.65 billion (£1.25 billion) by 2020, the rise of games such as Fortnite in the cultural zeitgeist will only serve to highlight the long-term financial potential of eSports.

"The end of bouncing.  One surprising removal is the bouncer pad, which allowed players to eject high into the air and then parachute safely to Earth. Easier to find and more adaptable than the launch pad, these were a common feature of end-game strategies, helping you to get safely down from tall constructions, or to swoop into safe zones at the last second. This may cut down on the number of finales that are dominated by players with super-fast vertical-building skills."

The content above was originally posted on CMS Digitalbytes - CMS lawyers sharing comment and commentary on all things tech.


Alexandre Naud