What Can Website Owners Learn From Fortnite?


If you haven’t heard of the smash game that is ‘Fortnite’ then you must have been living under a rock for the last 12 months. The free-to-play game has amassed over 200 million accounts as of November 2018 and has generated revenue well over $1B – It actually hit the one billion dollar mark around 9 months after release.

If you haven’t played Fortnite, there’s a chance you’ll have seen some pre-teens or even adults mirroring it’s famous dance moves, such as the ‘Floss’ or ‘Fresh’ – both of which have landed Epic Games in to some hot water with the original dance creators, ‘Backpack Kid’ and Fresh Price of Bel-Air star Alfonso Ribeiro (or Carlton to us 90’s kids.) attempting to sue epic games over using the likeness of the dance, with that much money floating around, there’s no wonder people want to be compensated for the likeness.

Speaking of court-cases, the ‘battle-royale’ genre pre-Fortnite was dominated by another popular game called ‘PlayerUnknowns BattleGrounds’ or ‘PUBG’ for short. Bluehole, who own PUBG tried to sue Epic Games for copying it’s game mechanics (they are remarkably similar) but the case fizzled out as an agreement seemed to have been reached out of court. Of course, the agreement could have been that Epic Games would allow PUBG to continue to licence their gaming engine (Unreal Engine 4) which PUBG runs on, and Bluehole may have decided not to bite the hand that feeds them.

Fortnite has the perfect formula for monetisation. The product is completely free to play. If you want to jump right in, there’s no transactions needed whatsoever. However, to get ‘into it’ you may want to purchase the ‘Battle Pass’ for £8 which will grant you a ladder of achievements, progressing your character to have emotes (the little dances we’ve referenced above) and ‘skins’ – which are basically outfits for your character, a skin can cost as much as £20, but your teenager doesn’t care that it’s just pixels on a screen, they want it, and they want the exclusive skins that aren’t within the battle pass tiers.

What makes Fortnite so popular is the community, big names like Drake, England forward Deli Ali and Panic at the Disco’s Brendon Urie have admitted to playing Fortnite, with Drake making an appearance on the streaming platform ‘Twitch’ – playing with the face of Fortnite, Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins to a viewership of 628,000 concurrent viewers. Ninja streams the game up to 8-10 hours a day, 6 days a week to an average of at least 40,000 viewers.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re first.

Fornite has proved that being the first to do something isn’t always the best, you just need to either do it better, or have enough of a difference to attract a slightly different market.

Fornite is known for it’s cartoon-like graphics and despite having guns in the game, it feels less like a shooter. There’s no references to ‘killing’ and no blood/gore, instead it’s ‘elimination’ which to some parents, must feel less ‘real’ than PUBG, which is somewhat true-to-life, using names of real guns and ammunition. The game is rated at 12+, whereas PUBG is 16+ (and was 18+ until it switched in July 2018) those extra 4 years make up a huge demographic, and the player counts show so.

Listen to your community

So, back to the community aspect, as this is where we’re heading with this. This post isn’t just something to quell my own Fornite addiction.

To stay popular, Epic Games make regular content updates (once a week!) to the map, the game mechanics, skins, emotes – you name it, and they’ll tweak it to make the game feel and play differently. This keeps users coming back, as Epic are regular contributors on the Reddit communities, fan forums and Twitter platform.

How can you learn from this as a website owner?

If you’re an e-commerce store owner you need to know what people are saying about your products.

This doesn’t mean something like asking them for a review after they’ve purchased it – you’re going to have to actively seek out where people are discussing your products, or competitors products to help drive product development or customer engagement.

Besides listening to the community, Epic has access to the data of millions of games, and can see patterns within the game that they use to tweak weapon balance and game mechanics, albeit it’s at a larger scale, you should also be using this to see how customers are using your site. One of the best examples of watching user behaviour I’ve seen was on AO.com, AO noticed that users were clicking the name of their product on the single-product page, despite it not being a link. Why were people doing this? After some investigation, AO noticed that users were clicking and highlighting the name to ‘google it’ and look for a cheaper retailer, so they introduced this micro-interaction:

When a user highlights the product name, they see a little pop-up which says that AO will price match if they find it cheaper. Unfortunately we don’t do any work for AO, but I’d hazard a guess that conversion rates went up after adding this.

Have your users make money for you

They’ve also cracked a way of keeping content-creators playing the game for millions of viewers on YouTube and Twitch which is essentially an affiliate scheme called ‘support-a-creator’.

Content creators (like Ninja) get a ‘code’ which they can give to players, and when they use this code upon purchasing a skin, a little kickback goes to the content-creator.

Epic won’t allow the release of financials on this, but we already know it’s not going to be a measly sum, considering they put up a competitive prize pool of $1m for 12 months of Fortnite tournaments, epic knows the value of it’s content-creators and players, and is investing heavily in them.

Adding an affiliate scheme to an e-commerce site is a great way of having your existing customers generate new business for you. They’ve already bought from you, so may be likely to spread word of your product in a much-more positive light, especially if there’s a reward in it for them too.

The three tips above are essentials if you’re running a business online, especially e-commerce and I could have likely used another example to bring them to light for you, but, like may others, Fortnite fascinates me and I’m eager for any excuse to either play it or talk about it.