After a long day of classes at NYU this past February, I came home exhausted and hungry. As I cooked dinner in my apartment, I thought about perusing Netflix on my computer for some light entertainment. With my plate in hand, I entered the living room and sat down at the table, to find my roommate playing an unfamiliar video game on the TV. I was transfixed. It seemed to be a “shooting game,” but the colors were so bright and inviting. “What is this?” I asked him. “It’s called Fortnite,” replied my roommate.
“It’s the new big game. Chance The Rapper is even playing it.”
After watching him play, I was hooked. The game is like Call of Duty mixed with the survival of the fittest aspect of “The Hunger Games,” and you play against real people. In the most popular mode of the game, “Battle Royale,” 100 players air-drop out of a moving plane and parachute down to a vast world. With a huge map containing cities, rivers, and forests, the goal is to find weapons quickly and try to stay alive: the last man standing wins.
Aside from being the best video game I’ve ever played, one thing’s for sure: Fortnite is the defining video game of Gen Z. It earned $2.4 billion in 2018, setting a record for the highest annual revenue of any game in history. Epic Games’ master- piece of a game is as influential to Gen Z as Super Smash Bros was to ‘90s kids, and Pong to the generation before. Here’s why Fortnite resonates so well with Gen Z, and why marketers should take note of the phenomenon:
1. Fortnite Understands its Audience
When you play the classic “Battle Royale”,
there’s a waiting room before the actual game
begins. In it, all 100 players are free to test
their aim, break trees and buildings, or dance.
The dances are remarkable because they’re all
culturally relevant. So much so that Gen Zers
love to perform the dances IRL. BuzzFeed even
made video of professional dancers trying some
Fortnite dances and garnered 14 million plays.
Now take the popular Instagrammer Roy Purdy
for instance. With over 3 million followers,
Roy became well known for a certain dance
move. This past March, Fortnite launched the
#BoogieDown competition, which encouraged
fans to submit videos of themselves creating
new dance moves. The best submissions would
be added to the game. Roy Purdy, of course,
submitted his dance, and Fortnite added his
winning dance to the game.
Fortnite was able to understand its users and
co-created a cultural phenomenon with them.
The takeaway: Creating culture is better than trying to catch up to trends.
2. Everyone Loves to Play, Including Celebs
Fortnite isn’t just played by teens and college
students. Celebrities of all ages are just as
easily hooked. In March 2018, the Internet
blew up when pop superstar Drake decided
to stream himself playing. Drake teamed up with
pro-gamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, NFL rookie-
turned-gamer JuJu Smith-Schuster, and fellow
rapper Travis Scott. Their stream garnering
The takeaway: Once a celebrity organically
interacts with your brand or product, find ways
to maintain the relationship.