The number of people playing the free game Fortnite is higher than the combined populations of France and Germany.
Fortnite became the world’s most popular game in 2018, netting developers a rumored $3 billion in profits in the process. What made this all the more remarkable is the fact that Fortnite is completely free to download and play.
Within a few months of Fortnite: Battle Royale’s release in 2017, more than 125 million people were playing it worldwide. The game has since become a cultural phenomenon as well as providing a revolutionary kick to the gaming industry.
Let’s take a look at the reasons why developers are choosing to create free games. We will also examine how developers like Epic Games still manage to make a formidable profit.
The competitive gaming landscape
There are currently an estimated 7.6 billion people living on earth right now. Of that figure, an estimated 2.2 billion regularly play games on at least one device. That’s just under a third of the world’s entire population.
In western countries, the percentage of the population regularly playing games rises to roughly 70%. That’s a pretty big market, and the number of gaming developers is representative of that.
In the United Kingdom alone there are around 2,700 registered game development companies all vying for a foothold in a massive market. To say the market is crowded is somewhat of an understatement.
Rockstar spent half a billion dollars marketing Red Dead Redemption 2—this promotional trailer alone has been viewed almost 30 million times on YouTube.
Therefore developers have to be creative to stand-out. Developing an excellent game with a unique plot is not enough to gain a foothold anymore. Industry leaders Rockstar shelled out approximately $500 million on marketing for their most recent release—Red Dead Redemption 2.
The fact that gaming giants like Rockstar are spending so much on marketing highlights the difficulties faced by smaller companies looking to break into the gaming market.
That is why Epic Games and other developers are choosing to make their games free. Had Fortnite sold for £40, it’s unlikely that it would have had 125 million active players in the first few months of release.
Why was Fortnite so popular with gamers?
Fortnite is undoubtedly technically poorer than a lot of other multiplayer shoot ‘em ups on the market. That matters little to its active players though, as they have not parted with any money to download the game.
Player’s expectations and demands are lower for free games than they are for more expensive titles. Epic Games, therefore, did not have to spend $4 billion on development as Rockstar did with Red Dead Redemption 2. Instead, Epic Games focused on creating something that would make their game popular: an engaging multiplayer experience.
In the shoot ‘em up genre most players are looking for a good multi-player experience – and that’s exactly what Fortnite provides. By making Fortnite free to download, developers ensured that there would be a high number of online players.
The ongoing competition and availability of high-level games made Fortnite an instant hit. Players could easily corral their friends into joining them online as they didn’t have to risk money to play.
Friends playing online in large parties, an initial free download and a great multiplayer system provided the perfect storm to thrust Fortnite into popular culture and make it the success it is.
So how does Fortnite make money?
Footballers have played a major role in boosting Fortnite’s popularity—using dances from the game as goal celebrations.
To understand the profits of Fortnite, you first have to realize just how big the game’s reach is. Players can download the game on PC, PS4, Xbox, iPhone, Android, and other consoles.
It’s not just restricted to one device, and players can also access it on the go through phones and tablet devices. Fortnite makes the majority of its money from in-game purchases.
Players can purchase V-bucks to spend in-game on things such as cosmetic skins, dances, and pre-released game modes. Epic Games have avoided allowing players to purchase anything that will actually improve their chances of winning in-game – cleverly sidestepping the ‘pay to win’ critique.
Celebrities have boosted the game’s popularity, making it appeal to all types of gamers.
Fortnite has created a perception of social exclusivity. This has been helped by high-profile celebrities streaming their Fortnite games. Players will see another competitor performing an exclusive victory dance and not only want to get the same dance but purchase an even more exclusive one.
This model has been super successful. Paul Pogba and half of the England team at the 2018 World Cup in Russia incorporated Fortnite dances into goal celebrations, further boosting the game’s reputation.
These in-game purchases weren’t just successful in getting professional footballers to inadvertently advertise the game. They were also the reason behind revenues of £2 million a day in the first week of Fortnite’s release on iPhone.
The online gambling industry is almost a mini-version of the video game sector. The similarities are clear to see: huge numbers of people gamble regularly all around the world, there are a plethora of gambling developers in the market, all battling it out for a bigger slice of market share. And it’s a huge market – estimated to be valued at $525 billion by 2023.
Free Gaming in Online Gambling
There are also some gambling companies trying to achieve the success of Fortnite by offering free games. There are some brands such as Wink Bingo. It’s not just bingo that Wink Bingo offers to their customers. They also provide a huge selection of online slots. These are themed around a variety of niches, including Hollywood movies and popular music. In order to attract new customers, they are providing free Bingo play opportunities to prospective punters.
Now that they have gained a foothold in the gambling market, they are looking to expand their reach through free offerings. Log onto their website and you’ll see they offer:
- Free entry to lotteries
- Bingo bonuses
- Sign-up deals
- Free to play games
Wink Bingo’s intentions are obvious. They want to attract slot machine skeptics to their website by giving them a free sample—eliminating any risk on the users’ behalf. It’s not just about attracting new customers though, Wink Bingo want existing customers to stay with them too, by rewarding them with comps.
In such a saturated market, it’s increasingly rare to see a customer with any loyalty to a particular brand. Wink Bingo’s open promotion of their offers and bonuses keeps their existing customers satisfied and reduces the chances of them moving on to another operator.
This strategy of marketing is relatively new in the gambling industry, and Wink Bingo will be hopeful of revolutionizing the industry in the same way as Fortnite revolutionized the video game industry.
Fortnite became the most popular game in the world by charging customers nothing to download it. Then through clever marketing and innovations developed a model of in-game transactions that raised its profits to previously unimaginable amounts.
Other games developers in the industry are already rumored to be thinking of copying Fortnite’s business model. Skyrim producers have claimed that their next installment will be free to play.
Fortnite’s influence has not just been limited to the video game sector, though. It has also spread to the gambling industry with companies such as Wink Bingo looking to gain customers through a similar approach. The Fortnite model could be adopted by more entertainment industries as the battle for customers heats up.