Fortnite and The New Age of Competition in Consumer Entertainment
Right now, the video game industry is bringing in massive amounts of money and attention. Popular games include League of Legends, DOTA 2, Overwatch, Counter Strike Global Offensive, and Fortnite; of these, one of the newest and largest is Fortnite. Fortnite has captivated its player base to such a degree that it no longer simply vies just for the video game audience but also for the general audience of digital entertainment. The state of competition in the entertainment industry is evolving: video games are now competing against movies, TV, and other forms of digital entertainment for consumers’ attention, and part of this change can be attributed to Fortnite.
Fortnite began as a more traditional co-op video game that required an initial purchase like any other title. However, it has since expanded, introducing multiple modes (the most famous being the ‘battle royale’), constantly adding and removing features, and shifting to a free-to-play model monetized with micro-transactions that are solely cosmetic and don’t affect users’ in-game performance. Much of Fortnite’s growth and success has been due to its transition to a free-to-play model, availability across multiple platforms, and regular updates with bug fixes, small alterations, limited time features, and large seasonal changes.
Fortnite has become more than a game to its fans — it serves as a social forum, a source of entertainment, and a cultural phenomenon. For example, though not the first game to do so, Fortnite has even held an in-game concert. Fortnite is often a source of live entertainment, as popular player livestreams and esports tournaments can draw viewing crowds that rival traditional professional sports outings. Because of Fortnite’s livestreaming popularity, video game streaming platform Twitch has also grown as a result of its collaboration with Fortnite developer Epic Games. Since its full open release in July of 2017, Fortnite has garnered even more viewing hours on Twitch than the much older but still extremely popular MOBA game League of Legends.
As a testament to its popularity, a recent study from LendEDU concluded that 32% of Fortnite’s player base spends 6-10 hours playing the game per week — 29% reported 0-5 hours, 17% reported 11-15 hours, 13% reported 16-20 hours, and 3% reported 21 hours and up. LendEDU also found that 68.8% of players spent money on in-game purchases and 25% of Fortnite players pay for Twitch Prime (in which users link their Twitch account to their Amazon Prime account) to watch other people play the game. This percentage of players also receives complimentary rewards, loot, for their subscription. Another study from Common Sense Media, using a sample of 19,063 adults — including 2,111 parents with children between the ages 9-17, and 1,348 teenagers between the ages 13-17 — reported that half of teens playing Fortnite use it to keep in contact with their friends. These statistics reveal Fortnite’s popularity and success; Epic Games has created a space where individuals socialize and interact with each other in ever evolving ways as well as just casually play a game.
Fortnite has contributed greatly to the ongoing transformation of digital entertainment. Since its inception, Fortnite has attracted money, attention, and even legal issues (as DisCo has written about previously) and has grown to compete with the current entertainment market on a scale that we are only beginning to see. Fortnite’s impact has also played a large role in paving the road for future free-to-play games, the newest and fastest growing being Apex Legends.
Competition in the entertainment market is therefore becoming more complex and multilayered, with companies branching out into neighbor industries to compete on a broader scale. For example, Netflix plays host to a large library of content, both original and licensed. While Netflix is currently thriving in the streaming services market, it is fighting to maintain its edge in the wake of disruption from new streaming services and other forms of digital entertainment such as Fortnite. Recent news indicates that Netflix sees Fortnite as a competitor for consumers’ attention. Another of the firm’s newest experiments, Bandersnatch, points in this direction as well. Bandersnatch is quite similar to the ‘choose your own adventure’ genre of books and can be seen as the bridge between streaming services’ passive forms of entertainment such as watching movies and TV shows, and active forms such as video games like Fortnite that require continuous user input. Netflix is recognizing its competition in a wider scope than their sector alone.
As a result of the actions by companies like Netflix and Epic Games, competition in the entertainment arena is expanding and evolving. The fight is now for consumer screen time, where companies aren’t just fighting for the consumer to watch content on their platform as opposed to a competitor’s but also for the consumer to first choose the activity of watching over playing a video game. Fortnite, for example, often draws more viewers than some cable programming. An in-game event called Friday Fortnite attracted 8.8 million viewers online, as compared to TV shows like The Walking Dead which attracted 7.9 million viewers for its season 8 finale and the season 2 premiere of Westworld, which only attracted 2.1 million viewers. While this point of measure may not be entirely comparable (for instance, Friday Fortnite had multiple streams from different players that individuals could all watch at the same time), it nevertheless shows Fortnite’s increasing ability to match or exceed the number of consumers from a related industry it was not initially a party to. Additionally, Fortnite plans to expand further into the entertainment industry with a global tournament in 2019 which will offer a $100 million prize pool.
With Fortnite’s cross-platform compatibility, massive popularity, and multi-faceted experience, it competes in both the gaming and entertainment markets and contributes greatly to the rise of video games in entertainment. Current streaming services and other sources of digital entertainment have to contend with the fact that their fight starts earlier, when consumers are first choosing what type of entertainment to devote their time to. Consumers are now choosing between the increasingly overlapping forms of digital media, such as streaming services, video games, or social media, and that is partly due to the success of Fortnite.