As if living with three boys isn’t chaotic enough, imagine what it’s like when your youngest (Josh, age 7) has 14 “solo dubs” on Fortnite Battle Royale to his older brothers’ combined zero. Fathom the bickering over what strategy he used (does he “camp” until almost everyone is dead?); what platform he's on (Xbox is harder to win than mobile!); and whether he really won at all (this is just sore losing on their part -- kids all over the country tell us Josh has mad skills). Since my last Fortnite article, this groundbreaking game has continued to shatter all kinds of records.
There are a staggering 145mm players worldwide.
It was widely reported the release of Season Five generated more Internet traffic at its peak than the 2016 presidential election by five times!
Esports says revenue topped $1bn sometime in July. (And remember, since Fortnite is technically free this revenue came in the form of micro-transactions. You know, kids worldwide begging their parents for V-bucks.)
Because of Fortnite streaming, Ninja became the first person on Twitch to reach 10mm followers.
Then, in late July, The Wall Street Journal reported parents were hiring coaches to help their kids win, which seems crazy and yet isn’t if you consider how many smart people are betting that eGaming will someday be an Olympic sport.
What I want to know: does all this frothiness signal a peak? Besides the obvious media hype, which in itself is a good indicator, some clues are coming from our house:
1. There’s a lot of chatter about the nerfing of weapons – for the uninitiated this means making them less lethal. It’s fairly obvious the strategy here is to make the game more accessible to defaults (users who play without paying) as a way to hook them, which makes sense on the surface. The potential downside, of course, is it makes things less interesting for your paying users who really want weapons to be buffed (e.g. more deadly); and then if your defaults never get hooked you lose audience and ultimately share.
2. Summer is winding down; kids undoubtedly will have less time to play; and by the time they get back to it there’s a decent chance they’ll be over it -- let’s not forget how short Gen Z’s attention span is. What's more, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, is due out in October. Its much anticipated release will no doubt take back share even if only temporarily.
3. It was announced Epic Games won’t launch Fortnite for Android in the Google Play Store so as to avoid Google’s hefty 30% cut of app sales. Unclear if this will hurt traffic but it’s inarguably one more ingredient in an overheating stew.
Bottom line, I’m hearing the words "Fortnite" and "boring" in the same sentence for the first time since March, which is never a good sign with Gen Z. And while I know it’s bold to suggest the biggest global-gaming-phenom in history may be cresting, the reality is if I’m right I’ll certainly remind you and if I’m wrong you’ll surely forget.
Whether it’s peaking or not, doesn’t change the assertion in my original Fortnite article, which is this game signals how users increasingly expect to engage: you must be responsive to feedback; able to react to it quickly; and social interaction is essential to name just three. Corporations -- many of which are still struggling to deliver basic omni-channel experiences-- who miss this message risk missing the boat completely.
I’m happy to report our oldest, Nick, got his first "solo dub" last Wednesday. He said he was shaking as he made the last kill. I asked Josh if he congratulated his big brother on his classic win and his reply was: “No, he never says ‘good job’ to me.” Another reminder that as much as things change, sibling rivalry never does.