The Fortnite esports phenomenon has been well-documented, but by way of background, the title has reached more than 125 million players on across console, PC, and mobile. According to SuperData, as of April 2018, the game generated $296 million of income across platforms, more annual revenue than any major console or PC game today.
Reason why Fortnite has been so successful.
We believe there are many reasons for why Fortnite has reached such an enormous scale. First and foremost, the game is part of the immensely popular battle royale genre, a survival-based game mode that appeals to a broad set of gamers, both skilled and amateur. Second, there is a building feature in the game, something that has already proven to be very popular among younger demographics in games like Minecraft, the 2nd best selling video game of all time. Third, the game is free-to-play, breaking the mold from most console games that have an upfront retail price of $60. By eliminating the upfront cost, we believe the title was able to reach a far larger audience than a paid game could ever reach, and in particular, appealed to younger demographics without the disposable income of older gamers.
However, we believe there is a fourth, and under-appreciated, explanation for Fortnite’s rise: live-streaming. In addition to being the largest fully cross-platform game in the world, Fortnite is currently the most popular game on the live-streaming site Twitch, and as engagement grew on Twitch, so too did the number of players and monthly revenue. In addition to the mechanics of the game, we believe Fortnite was particularly adept at integrating pop culture features and tributes into gameplay to drive mass market interest. Popular dance move emotes in the game include Vine-derived “Best Mates,” the Robot dance, Carlton’s dance from ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’, and Turk’s famous dance from ‘Scrubs.’ Also, Fortnite gameplay was regularly streamed by top Twitch personality, Ninja, whose feed of Fortnite streams broke the record for the most concurrent viewers ever on an individual’s channel.
While there were many reasons for Fortnite’s initial success, we believe streaming has clearly helped to sustain interest in the title and further grow the audience. Therefore, we see streaming — and really eSports in general — as something that can amplify the success of a game.
The Moneymaker Effect.
In 2003, Chris Moneymaker, an accountant and amateur poker player from Tennessee,outlasted a field of 839 players to win the World Series of Poker. Making his victory even more improbable, Moneymaker initially qualified through an online satellite tournament with an $86 buy-in, well less than the typical $10,000 entry fee for the main event. Up until that point, the WSOP champion was typically a well-established professional player, but with Moneymaker’s victory, he gave hope to amateur players that they too could win the World Series of Poker and (at the time) a $2.5mn first place prize. We believe the “anyone can win” mentality reverberated across the online poker community and sparked the meteoric rise of both online and live poker across the world. We believe the relevant lesson here is that Moneymaker elevated poker’s profile as a sport to the mainstream.
We believe Fortnite esports is doing the same thing for video games. Many competitive video games (DOTA2/CSGO/LOL etc.) can be very difficult to play and even intimidating for new gamers to participate in multiplayer formats. But with Fortnite esports, we believe the game format of battle royale is actually quite appealing to amateur gamers who can still enjoy playing against more talented players by hiding out in the map, or being part of a team that can support them. Not only is the gameplay of Fortnite appealing to the mainstream, we believe Epic is using Fortnite esports to attract the widest possible audience.
The company recently announced the Fortnite World Cup in 2019, a series of fortnite esports tournaments with an unprecedented prize pool of $100mn. For context, the total eSports prize pool in 2017 was $113mn. The World Cup will feature tournaments that Epic is making accessible to all types of players, not just pros, in an effort to maximize interest in the game. Therefore, we see Fortnite as having a similar effect on video games that Moneymaker’s victory had on poker: an inflection in audience growth that moves video games and eSports into the mainstream.
This article excerpted from report “The World of Games eSports From Wild West to Mainstream”