Have you ever had the sad moment when playing video games, or doing anything else unproductive, where you glance at the clock and realize you’ve been playing for hours?
I know this feeling all too well & it led me to sell my PlayStation 4. But before I accept responsibility for wasting so much time, I need to give credit where it is due — it was all Fortnite’s fault. Hear me out.
The way Fortnite weaved its way into my life, my friends lives, and social media was almost criminal. But it would be a dream come true if any brand could replicate what they did. Let’s dive in.
Within a year of its release, Fortnite was hot. Really hot. If you were under 25, you played Fortnite, simple as that. The concept was nothing new either, with battle royale games already on the market, Fortnite still quickly took over and has not looked back since. It was a relatively easy road to the top for Fortnite, using these 5 strategies below.
Strategy #1: Free Still Works
Companies, brands, and games all shy away from free. They don’t want to be taken advantage of or are too greedy. And for the established brands, you have proof of concept and your customers already know it won’t be free. But when starting something new, or looking to can new customers, free can be key. Here’s how.
Fortnite being free allowed for the availability to reach anyone, which let them build brand loyalty and fans. When there is a free video game, kids don’t have to go ask their parents to buy it, which in most cases is a huge barrier. Pairing this that the game is user-friendly and cartoonish, lead to the fact they absolutely dominate the market of teens and kids even younger in gaming.
Jab, Jab, Jab
Fortnite being free and allowing customers to begin to love the game at no expense was huge for their growth. But the monetary success they had was a result of jabs. Gary Vaynerchuck coined the marketing strategy, “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook”, but Fortnite lacks the right hook.
Their first jab was making the game free, and easily accessible on all platforms. Then came jab #2, jab #3, and so-on. By allowing players to buy skins, items, and coins to customize their characters was key. Releasing new skins almost weekly led to a sequence of jabs and a growing fan base.
The key to these jabs was that they were inexpensive. Skins costing anywhere from $10-$15 worth of VBucks (Fornite coins), justified purchasing because the game was free. This quickly added up, and before I knew it, I had already spent more money on coins and skins than double a standard video game’s price.
This success started with the game being free, but Fortnite never would’ve exploded if it weren’t for the way it weaved into every kid's life, creating brand ambassadors with every download.
Strategy #2: The Power of Referrals
If 3 of your best friends, classmates, teammates, or even coworkers told you to play a game, that was free, you wouldn’t even hesitate. Especially when they used phrases like, “It’s the best game ever”, “It’s so hard but so fun”. This is what happened to me, how I got hooked into Fortnite.
Coming home from practice after hearing half of my 40-person college baseball team rave about this game I had never heard of, it was a no brainer to give it a try. I obviously sucked, but the best part was, anyone could win no matter how good you were.
Referrals got me into the game, and it got almost everyone I knew into the game. Everyone talked about it wherever they went, it was taking over. Something that really helped spark the usability and power of the community, was the features that let you play on a team with friends.
Allowing you to play with friends allowed for even more growth through referrals. When you have people talking about working together on something, it sounds way more intriguing than when everyone is just trying to win on their own. The power of community wins, always. Fortnite knew this and created arguably one of the best word-of-mouth marketing strategy recently, without even fully realizing it.
After Fortnite began picking up steam, to get to the next level was an easy strategic step-up. Influencers.
Strategy #3: Influencer Marketing
With influencer marketing growing rapidly for all other industries, could it be used for gaming? Absolutely. And Fortnite knew that.
When you are a noob and are, let’s just say, not the best at the game yet, and you see someone with a fire personality pulling off crazy stuff in-game, you are hooked even deeper.
Insert Ninja. What Ninja did for Fortnite was nothing short of remarkable. While the majority of Fortnite users were still very bad due to the steep learning curve, they looked at Ninja with awe. Watching this dude win game after game, hit 20+ kills, and be himself was naturally interesting.
People would not only watch Ninja play for entertainment but in the hopes that you could learn something to implement into your next game. This was motivation. You would watch Ninja’s clips and full games, then right after try to copy what he was doing to try to win.
Ninja allowed for other gamers to post their cool in-game clips & get traction. On Instagram alone, Fortnite takes over the explore feed of teenagers with clip after clips of things we wish we could do.
Strategy #4: Content, Content, Content
If you saw Fortnite highlights, or new stuff every time you opened YouTube, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, you’d eventually want to give it a try. The thing about trying is that once you tried, you had to keep trying again to achieve the coveted “Victory Royale”.
Fortnite put out new content consistently on their social channels. Promoting cool clips from influencers and amateurs adding to their huge community. With encouraging users to play, and post their clips, the content just continued to grow and grow. And with content marketing, the more you post the more you reach.
But the thing was, it wasn’t even Fortnite’s posting that led to the increased reach. With the help of professional gamers, amateurs wanted to post their clips to prove to their friends that they were good. It eventually came to where if you won, you immediately posted it on your Snapchat story.
When you see your friends winning, you want to win even more. The unlimited amount of content Fornite users produce is astonishing and makes complete sense as to why they took over gaming.
As with other games, they released new ones every year, Fortnite did this every 3 months, creating a cycle of new that lured you back in if you got bored.
Strategy #5: Creating Suspense
The fact that Fortnite released new “Battle Passes” every 3 months was key to their growth. Essentially every 3 months it was a new game, and to get the most of the new game you had to buy the $10 battle pass to complete challenges, level up, and unlock exclusive gear.
Fortnite created suspense with these themes. They knew that creating a new map or items wouldn’t do the fans enough justice, so they treated it like a massive event.
For weeks leading up to the release, they put hints and little easter eggs in game that allured that something big was coming. This created suspense. This created motivation to keep playing to see what was coming.
They also released trailers, with even more hints to the new season. People posting about “leaks”, and other pretty theories about the new season created even more interest to see what was coming. Then came the day of the new season’s release. Social media was taken over with reactions, clips, and information on what is new.
Releasing new maps, and a treasure chest of new challenges, skins, and everything else of the like allowed for a whole new content stream. This constant cycle of new, suspense, new, allowed for complete user retention which kept people playing the same game for years, which is very hard to do.
Want to Replicate? Here’s how.
Replicating their ridiculous growth is not easy, but putting in place their strategies is more manageable. Nothing great happens overnight, and Rome wasn’t built in a day–neither was Fortnite.
Don’t try to do it all at once.
It’s not going to happen overnight or in a week. This needs to be a long game. Small successes every day leads to large successes in the big picture and that is what you need to strive to do.
If you are implementing a new product, or are a new business, start with free. It may not necessarily mean completely free products but it could mean free trials, consultations, ebooks, or anything else you can use to build loyalty to prospective customers. You want to make people come back and bring friends with them. Don’t be greedy.
Influencers are a great way to create exposure, but vetting influencers to see which ones are even real, let alone in touch with your brand values it difficult. When done right it can pay leaps and bounds. In my mind, influencers work best when you have a physical product. If you are a digital company, high-quality testimonials can take their place.
Creating content is something you should always be doing regardless of your goals or strategy. It creates awareness, trust, and dependability, all things you want your brand to be associated with. One wildcard that happened with Fortnite, was the use of user-created content to grow their reach.
Implementing user-created content may be tough for small business and marketers but here are some ideas. Host competitions allowing people to create content for your brand, with the winner(s) receiving a product or something similar. Allow for a user-generated thread on your site discussing the UX of your product.
Regardless of what type of content you are creating, between video, written, or graphic you need to be doing something.
It is no secret that the use of new releases helped keep Fortnite relevant. You can take advantage of this tactic, too. I’m not saying release something huge every day or week but periodically works.
Maybe, once a month you release an ebook, host a webinar, or something similar. While the event is a big part, creating hype is more important. Why these new releases worked so well with Fortnite was because of the hype they created, which sparked the interest of users.
Promote your upcoming release, but don’t give all the information away. Keep it small and create interest. Subtly promote it in your videos, blog posts, and whatever else you put it. People will notice and wonder, which is good.
If you implement these strategies, odds are you won’t become the Fortnite of your industry. But you will increase sales, awareness, fans, and your brand image, which will make it all worth it.