Today, Fortnite is nothing short of a household name after carving a firm berth not only at the pinnacle of gaming but as a mainstream cultural phenomenon, the likes of which we aren’t likely to see anytime soon. But how does Fortnite retain its relevance despite slowing growth figures?
The title doesn’t attract the same number of new players as it did during the heady days leading up to the summer of 2018, but over 250 million registered accounts are nothing to scoff at in anyone’s book. It is Epic Games’ ability to retain players that cements Fortnite’s position as a singularity in the usual life cycle of massively popular video games.
Chief among the factors contributing to the game’s ongoing success is a service model heavily focused on a dynamic in-game world that promotes socializing.
Through mass-scale, often cataclysmic, real-time live events that have a direct impact on substantial portions of the map, Epic Games engages in a unique brand of environmental storytelling that reinvigorates gameplay.
Huge audiences numbered in the millions log in to witness these events together, bolstered by a well-oiled rumor machine rife with theories and speculation about the next significant development.
From comets and earthquakes to bizarre rift-spawning cubes and pirates, Fortnite’s story continues forward with ever more outlandish scenarios. Few other titles have adopted a similar model nor tapped into the player’s desire to be part of a shared collective experience.
To boot, Epic excels at marketing these events, the most striking of which was a burger mascot from the game appearing in the Californian desert followed by a cryptic social media campaign worthy of the most complex Alternative Reality Game.
Season-long narratives that link up with appositely themed daily and weekly challenges create intrigue and encourage players to play as do a steady flow of new characters, skins, emotes, weapons, items, and vehicles.
In a similar vein, Epic regularly introduces Limited Time Modes offering up novel, and more importantly, fun new ways to play the game.
Epic systematically bags smart collaborations abreast to current trends with other cultural heavy hitters, most recently “Stranger Things” and “The Avengers: Infinity War” last year. In doing so, the developer taps into a broader cultural net that keeps players interested.
Nods from hallowed icons such as French soccer player Antoine Griezmann and his Fortnite-themed goal celebration at the World Cup 2018, as well as a cluster of NBA superstars like Paul George, continue to place Fortnite under the wide-reaching shine of the pop cultural limelight.
As with any stratospheric rise, Fortnite benefits from a hefty dose of ”fear of missing out.” With a player base firmly anchored in the school-age demographic, missing out means cultural detachment and possible alienation from friend groups. Visit any school in the U.S., and the preponderance of Fortnite references is all too clear, no better exemplified than the popularity of the ”floss” dance move from the game.
The pull of Fortnite means that not getting involved could spell disaster socially. As such, Fortnite continues to attract young players who, if we were dealing with most other titles, would have long since moved on. They remain, using the game world as a virtual hub to interact with friends and classmates.
Finally, Fortnite lacks a worthy competitor – though this is the case through no lack of trying. The likes of EA with Apex Legends, battle royale pioneer PUBG, and a slew of copycat games keen to cash in on the fad fail to attract the same player numbers or garner remotely similar profit margins.
Fortnite’s release was the ideal alignment of timing alongside a uniquely receptive gaming landscape, but it’s Epic Games’ careful fostering of its golden goose that has ensured Fortnite’s ongoing success.
Last modified: July 2, 2020 7:27 PM UTC