Around 10 million "Fortnite" gamers tuned in this weekend for a 10-minute live concert by Marshmello, the electronic music star. While the event generated major social buzz, it also sparked a conversation about how brands could use "Fortnite" in the future to reach its 80-million-strong user base.
“Advertising on this new platform can be really beneficial for brands if they do it right — it needs to feel like it’s part of the game and not a detriment to natural gameplay,” said Elliot Tomaeno, founder and chief executive officer of ASTRSK PR, a public relations firm based in New York City.
In the case of Marshmello, it seemed to be a perfect fit, taking advantage of all of the interactive elements that have made "Fortnite" so popular. As the concert was broadcast, players were encouraged to make their avatars dance to the live broadcast. The avatars bounced beach balls during the song “Happier” and were launched into the air during the song “Fly."
“Energy drink brands and snack brands have long pandered to gamers and they are some of the first movers in this category for 'Fortnite,'” said Tomaeno. “This is just the beginning. I think we'll see a lot more brands try their hand at advertising on 'Fortnite' this year — some better than others. Savvy brands who are willing to invest the time and effort into understanding this new ecosystem can be sure to benefit.”
Who needs the Super Bowl halftime show, anyway?
"Fortnite: Battle Royale," which is made by Epic Games, was released in September 2017 and launched on mobile devices last March. The game has become a smash hit, pulling in more than $300 million a month and entering the pop culture lexicography with its dance moves, known as "emotes."
Set on a post-apocalyptic tropical island, "Fortnite" has 100 players from around the world skydive into a kill zone where they duke it out to be king of the hill, with guns, grenades and crossbows. The map gradually shrinks to force the players into contact.
The game has low barriers to entry, which may be one reason why it took off so quickly. "Fortnite" is free to play and users can keep playing their same character from console to handheld device to computer. Players can express themselves by purchasing skins that change how they look or buy upgrades that earn them bragging rights with friends — with whom they can chat, and, of course, taunt, throughout the game via headsets.
In another business model twist, the game has "seasons" where players compete to unlock a new set of themed achievements, some of which have to be purchased. "Fortnite" is currently in Season 7, which ends on Feb. 28.