Many people observing the video games industry seem amazed at the success of Fortnite’s monetization. While Fortnite has surprised and vastly surpassed expectation (the original version of the game, before its pivot to Battle Royale, appeared to on the verge of being a miss) it has always had the right set of ingredients for effective monetization. It’s impossible to know if the game just happened to be structured to allow growth in this direction, or if it was masterfully planned from the beginning. But, credit to Epic for taking full opportunity of the potential when they saw it.
Let’s examine some of the ways in which Fortnite is positioned to be successful at monetizing.
1) Fortnite is a 3rd person game
This helps stoke desire for THE most powerful and attractive customization of all – control over what the player’s character looks like. While it may argued that FPS games can also generate the same response, showing off to other players is only half of the equation. Seeing your own character at all times creates a far stronger personal bond than remembering what they look like each time you return to the loadout screen. Being 3rd person and always seeing your character also increases the chance for a look to become stagnant and in need of a refresh, when you see it every match.
Bored with your character’s current costume? Buy a new one!
2) It isn’t limited by it’s concept or art direction
Many triple-A games are so well defined that they struggle to find ways to create a large catalogue of meaningful item offerings for players to purchase. Factors such as the genre, year, location, narrative, and fashion often become walls that narrow-down the choices available for purchases. There’s a lot of big name triple-A games that have 100’s of pieces of customization, but a large percentage of the items aren’t really that different from one another. Fortnite is stylized, but feels flexible - it's never held back by the boundaries of it's world.
This completely avoids the trap and allows players to dress up as everything from stone angels to mascot bears.
3) The game allows itself to be silly
One of the biggest challenges that big triple-A games face (when it comes to monetization) is that they take themselves so seriously. Some large companies even contain entire franchise departments that act as guardians, to ensure things don’t get off track. Teams that work hard to ensure that every detail of their world is well thought-out are to be admired. It takes a huge amount of effort to build a believable world. But, a rigid world lowers the ceiling on monetization potential. This is a problem that some of the biggest companies and franchises in the world are wrestling with. In Fortnite, players can express themselves, mock fallen opponents, and avoid boredom while waiting for the match to begin by dancing, throwing out emotes, and generally messing around. Things that wouldn't really be acceptable in some games.
4) A short match time sees players returned to the frontend very frequently
Whenever a match plays out in Fortnite, anywhere from 10-30% of the 100 players can be eliminated within the first 3 minutes. Especially, if the bus happens to be on a course that takes it very close to highly desirable locations, such as Tilted Towers. It’s not uncommon to see matches were there are less than 30 players remaining after just 5-7 minutes have passed. Each time the player is returned to the front end is an opportunity for them to visit the store. Maybe they saw another player with a cool costume that they must have? Or were killed by someone that was half camouflaged by their appearance? They have quick and easy access to the store right when the impulse to acquire is fresh.
5) Players can’t buy (much) competitive advantage
Some of the biggest controversies in video games over the last few years have been the result of players either perceiving, or proving, that a game was ‘pay-to-win’. This meant that non-paying players were either discouraged or frustrated that they weren’t able to compete on a strictly level playing field. As Fortnite only sells cosmetic upgrades to players, there’s almost no advantage to be gained by paying for additional content. The only advantage that exists is that some of the costumes make players a little harder to spot under certain circumstances.
6) Fortnite is Free-to-Play
As we all know, only a portion of players actual make in-game purchases. So, there needs to be a lot of them to make the funnel work. Removing the price barrier to entry creates the potential for many, many players to arrive. Especially on console which isn't as cut-throat or mature as PC and mobile when it comes to F2P and player acquisition. There have been a few F2P games that have found some success on console, but nothing that has captured a large audience like Fortnite has. Epic took a risk with Fortnite (and maybe they had nothing to lose with the original survival mode not really taking off) and it has paid off beyond their wildest dreams.
7) It's Easy to Learn
Currently, most big publishers are stuffing their games with features, systems, and modes to justify the price of entry, and to entice players to stick around long enough to monetize. This has resulted in a number of high-profile games that have felt bogged down and unfocused in recent years. Players are swamped with things that they must learn, systems that are fighting with other systems, and distractions from the core objectives. Fortnite is simple and uncomplicated. Anyone can understand how to play it after just a few matches. While mastery takes time. Time in which to make a few purchases.
Obviously, the heart of Fortnite’s success is that it’s a really fun game. But, it's also that these key factors provide great opportunities for monetization. When designing products that have business needs or goals requiring the dev team plan for effective monetization, it’s worth bearing these elements in mind. It wouldn’t be surprising to see some big triple-A franchises introduce modes that allow them to explore these areas, throwing off the shackles of their main game or mode, while not compromising the integrity of the core product.