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What was Fortnite marketing strategy that brought 350M gamers and billions in revenue (13 min read)

Fortnite – an online battle royale game that stands out with cross-platform play and huge fanbase. A global phenomenon.

?Strategy & Tools

Fortnite History timeline


  • Dec 12, 2011 – Fortnite is teased for the first time during Video Game Awards 2011. They had nothing at that time as Donald Mustard, Epic’s creative lead said later that it was „three weeks after we came up with the idea, before we even made the game”
  • 2015 – the game is pretty much ready but Epic wants to be able to develop ongoing content to players that will keep them interested for longer–these are timed events, unique rewards, skins, and more. Fortnite gets delayed but to remind the title to the audience, a few journalists get an opportunity to play an 1-hour long demo.
  • Jun 8, 2017 – After years of delays, Fortnite goes on pre-order sale.
  • Jul 21, 2017 – Those who preordered the game with Founder’s Packs get early access. Epic doesn’t want to further delay the game. It doesn’t have full content but the decision is made on the basis of collecting active feedback from the players.
  • Jul 25, 2017 – The rest of pre-order buyers get early access to Fortnite: Save the World – the first version with three game modes.
  • Jul 26, 2017 – Fortnite reaches 500,000 digital pre-orders
  • Aug 18, 2017 – Epic confirmed surpassing 1 million players
  • Sep 25, 2017 – The iconic Battle Royale game mode is released.
  • Nov, 2017 – 10 million players
  • Dec, 2017 – 30 million players
  • Early 2018 – Battle Royale gets a significant number of players. Epic puts a dedicated team on developing and improving this mode.
  • Mar 2018 – Ninja, one of the biggest Fortnite influencers, streams together with Drake, Travis Scott, and JuJu Smith-Schuster, an NFL rookie. It breaks viewer count record on Twitch. It was trending on Twitter and hit 628,000 watchers.
  • Sept 2018 - 125 million players. Fortnite is added to Xbox One S bundle in partnership with Microsoft. $1.2 Billion in revenue.
  • 2018 - 2.4 billion USD in revenue
  • 2019 - 1.8 billion in revenue and 250 million users. A live concert of Marshmello is held in-game.
  • 2019 - 250 million Users
  • Apr 13, 2020 – Fortnite World Cup is held for 10 weeks, with a $1M prize.
  • Mid-2020 - 350 million Users. Epic gets a $17 billion valuation by Bloomberg

How does Fortnite advertise – Pre-order - building demand

Releasing the game as a pre-order was a good decision from the feedback standpoint. Epic kept listening to the players and added more content and fixed bugs, leading to visibly improving the game. Joining the exclusive pre-order and getting early access also built demand for Fortnite.

Early Access

Even though the game was said to be released as a free-to-play, players had a FOMO and paid $39 for pre-orders just to access the game about a year before the planned release.

Pre-release events

Before the game release, journalists were invited to play Fortnite. Their reviews built the initial interest in the title and kept it live.

Copying others’ success

At the time when Fortnite got its Battle Royale mode, the biggest game of this type was PUBG–but it was not free to play. Building that feature into Epic’s game allowed them to catch waves of players that were interested in battle royale titles but didn’t want to spend money on them. 

How was Fortnite created?

Originally, Fortnite was officially released by Epic Games in 2017 only with a PvE “Save the World” mode. However, the company soon realized the Battle Royal games potential and added this mode to Fortnite, too (September 2017).

Who created Fortnite – Fortnite creator net worth

Fortnite was created by Epic Games, whose CEO is Tim Sweeney, quite a mind in the gaming industry. His net worth is estimated to be $7.4 billion.

Fortnite Battle Royale business model – Free to play

Fortnite’s most popular form, the Battle Royale, is free to play. That proves to be an effective model as the gamers can try the game and since there’s much to love–they stay and start paying for premium content once they get hooked.

Fortnite Battle Royale marketing strategy – Cross-play

Epic wanted to release Fortnite only on PCs as on consoles, it would have to go a set of reviews before being published. However, they eventually decided to go as broad as they could - adding PS4 and Xbox One opened a market of over 115 million consoles sold only in March 2018. They also added iOS and Android versions to even further expand the potential reach. However, the iOS version has been eventually banned by Apple for payments outside the App Store. The court fight between Apple and Epic over App Store monopoly is still on.

Partnerships

Fortnite was also added as a bundle to Xbox One S, PS4 Pro, and Nintendo Switch, giving players the game by default, along with additional DLCs and V-Bucks, the in-game currency.

Fortnite Battle Royale marketing strategy – Twitch

Fortnite grew together with Twitch, which was the platform of choice for many streamers to share their Fortnite matches. One of the streamers, Ninja, picked the game in 2017 and grew his account with it, making him a Twitch star. He was a known streamer since 2011 and played in some esport events. There were other streamers who became popular and made serious money on Fortnite, which in turn brought more and more less-successful platform users to try their luck.

How does Fortnite advertise – Stars playing

Ninja rose to fame with Fortnite on Twitch, but he could play a major role in promoting the title when he streamed playing and chatting with Drake and Travis Scott. That event brought many people from Twitter to Twitch and Fortnite. It went viral in minutes.During the stream, Drake admitted that he played Fortnite with his crew for about a month or two when taking breaks from recording. 

Fortnite Battle Royale marketing strategy – Exclusive events

Fortnite players get surprised from time to time with epic content. One of the best examples is Marshmello’s concert held in the game in 2019. It was impressively designed, with custom graphics and effects that artists can’t go beyond in real world – like launching the players into the sky or floating in place. All that did was heavily boost engagement, as it proved Fortnite has a really vibrant world. Another is Fortnite World Cup or releasing Travis Scott’s single – it’s been watched by over 10 million players.

How does Fortnite advertise – Word of Mouth

A part of Fortnite Battle Royale marketing strategy success is in the word of mouth. Players shared their experiences on social and reeled more people in. In fact, they could all play together, so that could also be a simple invite to a free to play game. You could also read many stories on Reddit of people, who were brought in by their friends to play.

How does Fortnite advertise – Paid ads

Some players have downloaded the game after seeing ads. It seems that for some, it was enough to see the game in action to try it. And the barrier was low–the game was free.

Adding content

Players would lose engagement if they would play over and over the same game. Epic keeps releasing new stuff for the players, which makes them stay for longer. That doesn’t limit to DLCs but live events, Easter eggs, seasonal events, and more. 

Network effect

The game requires players and allows for many friends to join a map of up to 100. That means that the more it was popular, the more people wanted to play with their friends and made the game even more popular.

Battle Royale

The most popular Fortnite’s game mode is not unique, but it’s done pretty well–players just love it. It’s 100 players on one map, building their defense and fighting till only one is left. Knowing that there are real players on the other side makes the experience much more exciting. This is the case for most multiplayer games, but only a few allow for a gathering of over 100.

Launching into a franchise

After its huge success, Fortnite done well on finding new revenue streams for the title. There are toys and action figures, partnerships with FMCG brands, and many other actions taken to engage the community outside the game and keep the title alive.

How many people play Fortnite?

In 2019, the total number of Fortnite players was more than 200 million, and in January 2022, Fortnite had more than 80 million active users monthly. According to various ranking lists, Fortnite is the most popular Battle Royal game on the market.

?Psychology

Default Effect

Adding game codes to new consoles works as a default effect–people are likely to go with the default choice and since the game is already there and they received some exclusive content, they’re likely to try it. That’s all Epic needs from the acquisition standpoint.

Social proof

Word of Mouth usually links to social proof. The community around Fortnite acts as evangelists, and if the message lands on their friends, they’ll be more willing to try it out.

Zero price effect

Fortnite is free to play that gives its users a high perceived value for their product. Since the free version has zero price, users tend to have a positive reaction towards the product.

Surprise effect

Surprises are more remembered and stay with us for longer. Releasing unexpected content makes players more engaged, but also keep thinking about the game. Thanks to that, they’re also more likely to share their experience.

Reciprocity

69% of Fortnite players made an in-game purchase except it’s free to play. It’s because the value provided is very high for a free game and gamers could feel the need to give back.

FOMO

Even though the game was said to be released as free to play, over 1 million bought it for $39, just to play it earlier than others will.

Scarcity

The early access could work as an exclusivity–this made it to be perceived more valuable and in-demand.

?Window of Opportunity

Such success might be one of a kind, but there are few takeaways here. Never stop improving your product to make it extraordinary. Look what the competition does and do it better. Think out of the box about promoting your idea to drive engagement, because who would’ve thought you can organize concerts in games?

A set of worthy partnerships in and out of your space can also do you much good. A good product almost markets itself but with clever strategies, you can boost the revenue through the roof. This is what Epic did.

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