How ‘fortnite’ cracked the code to become the most successful free videogame ever – marketwatch heartburn treatment milk

Beyond enjoying a cash windfall, it’s something of a cultural phenomenon: The seemingly overnight rise of the title has captured the attention of professional athletes, who say it is a frequent locker-room topic, and has even been used by a high-school student to secure a date to the prom, part of a social experience that has made the game a meeting place for players.

Epic, which declined to make executives available for this article, figured out or stumbled across a basic recipe for success in 2018: A videogame needs a strong social experience, must be palatable for spectators, and has to be made available across multiple platforms, for free.

At its most basic level, “Fortnite” is a multiplayer third-person-shooter game for mobile devices, personal computers and gaming consoles. The most popular feature pits about 100 players against one another in a fight-to-the-death match on an ever-shrinking map, which is known in industry jargon as a “battle royale” game.


It’s not the first popular game of its kind: Privately held Bluehole Studio Inc. released “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” in early 2017 for an earlier and still popular success in the genre. But “PUBG,” as the game is commonly known, has now been surpassed in popularity by “Fortnite.”

“It isn’t the first battle royale game, but ‘Fortnite’ is truly brilliant,” Benchmark Co. analyst Michael Hickey said. “Anyone who tries to copy it will fail. All of the other [gaming companies] will try and iterate on battle royale games [but] won’t try and replicate ‘Fortnite.’ That would be suicide.”

One potential reason is that the secret sauce of “Fortnite” comprises several moving parts. Perhaps the most plain is the existing audience of millions of players of first-or third-person-shooter-type games, many of which are produced by the gaming industry giants. Games in Activision’s “Call of Duty” series often sell more than 20 million units, and competing titles in the genre such as the EA-published “Battlefield” or Take-Two’s “Grand Theft Auto” series also sell well.

“I think the ‘battle royale’ mode appeals to anyone who has played or enjoys shooter titles, which is going to be your typical ‘Call of Duty,’ ‘Overwatch’ consumer,” Piper Jaffray analyst Michael Olson said. “Every year, Activision sells more than 20 million copies of ‘Call of Duty,’ just on console and on PC. There is an audience for battle royale games in the tens of millions.”

Fornite’s revenue comes entirely from microtransactions. The key for the game’s longevity is that players can’t buy anything that will affect the actual game mechanics, which has proven disastrous in the past. Players can only buy cosmetic upgrades, and they appear willing to do so at a rate of tens of millions of dollars a month.

But Epic has pushed beyond the edge of existing shooters with “Fortnite,” too, allowing players to build structures from harvested materials during the match — it’s easier to see to understand — which makes it more challenging to play and more interesting to watch.

In the copycat-heavy videogame industry, “Fortnite’s” head start cannot fully inoculate it against competing releases by the bigger players in the industry. Olson said “Fortnite” is likely to be a topic that will come up during the earnings calls of Activision, Electronic Arts and Take-Two this quarter, as well as at the large videogame conference E3 in June, though there haven’t been any formal announcements.

“Fortnite” could ultimately become a positive instead of a negative for Activision and other publishers’ shooters, though, because it’s drawn new players into a genre that previously didn’t really exist at a large scale, struggling to expand beyond a core audience.

“There is a need in the space for innovation in the shooter genre,” said BTIG analyst Brandon Ross, adding that the battle royale mode has demonstrated that there is clear demand from nongamers as well as more casual gamers. “There were people who wanted to be a part of what was going on in gaming,” he said, and “just needed the barriers to entry to be removed.”