Fortnite Proves that Successful In-Game Promotions Are Possible (and Essential)

June 20, 2018

A comet flies over the battlefield where 100 players just landed, ready to battle until only one combatant remains. As the comet crashes to the ground, it reveals a yellow glove decorated with colorful stones.

Turns out, this was no ordinary glove – it was a gauntlet, an Infinity Gauntlet. And grabbing it would turn a Fortnite player into Thanos, the villain from this year’s movie, “Avengers: Infinity War.”

This was all part of a crossover promotional event that brought the Avengers’ foe into the game Fortnite for a week. Here’s the thing about this crossover: it probably shouldn’t have worked.

Photo Credit: VR & FUN

I understand the desire of combining the IPs of the hottest game going right now and the biggest movie of the summer (I’m sure those Jurassic Park dinosaurs are going to be great, but they’re not cracking $2 billion in worldwide ticket sales), but the two properties have nothing to do with one another.

Yet, by most accounts, the event was a success (full disclosure: I do play Fortnite; however, I did not play during the Thanos event). According to reports, playing as Thanos was a blast, but, apparently, it was just as fun playing against him. There’s an interesting article on The Verge, where two players, one inexperienced and one a veteran, talked about how they interacted with and enjoyed the event.

“The best survival strategy for me has been to find a really good spot away from everyone else, and wait for other players to die off,” wrote Andrew Webster. “One of the advantages that Thanos has … With one leap he can scale huge distances, which makes it all but impossible to outrun him. I never truly felt alone because the big purple baddie could leap right in front of me at any moment. This changed my mindset; since I didn’t feel comfortable hiding so much anymore, I actually began to explore some of the more well-populated areas of Fortnite’s map, and even got a few kills in while doing so.”

Photo Credit: Forbes

“Surprisingly, the two Thanos mode matches I did win happened when I wasn’t the titular character. One involved an unlucky and poorly positioned opponent dying as Thanos in the storm, much to my surprise. The other involved hiding in a bush and landing a few choice rockets at Thanos’ feet, securing a victory I was not anticipating when I first faced him as my final opponent. Both times felt hard-earned — rewarding patience, stealth, calculated and skillful fighting, and a dose of good luck in ways that felt much different from the standard game modes,” wrote Nick Statt.

Yet another article detailed how enemies would team up to defeat the Mad Titan, only to have play return to normal when the big, purple foe went down. “But, on occasion, if you were lucky, the quest for the gauntlet’s power would demonstrate a different side to the typical free-for-all ruthlessness as players called temporary ceasefires in favor of pooling resources to deal with the bigger threat,” wrote Anthony McGlynn. “Of course, they dropped all pretense when the Infinity Gauntlet was free of its former wearer because There Can Be Only One, but for a minute there these one-man armies were legitimate allies.”

What probably should have felt like a gross cross promotion of two disparate franchises, instead turned out to be a lot of fun and something that could be enjoyed by different gamers regardless of their skill level or even if they ever got to wield the Gauntlet in game (two of the three writers did not). Epic and Marvel did not promote the event for weeks – it was announced one day before the event arrived – and it only lasted a week, so it never had time to become stale and overstay its welcome.

In short: it was a successful promotion.

Photo Credit: Game Rant 

There is a lesson here for marketers. Video games are huge, and, currently, Fortnite stands above all the rest. The game, which is free to download and play, made $300 million in April through the sale of microtransactions, such as character customization options and in-game dance moves (which is JUST SO BRILLANT!).

In addition, Epic Games announced it would commit $100 million into esports prize pools over the 2018-19 season, instantly vaulting Fortnite to the top of the esports ladder even while it has not yet revealed what Fortnite esports will look like.

Integrating promotions in-game can be done – but it has to be done thoughtfully and bring something of value to the player. If that element is missing, the promotion will fail.

This is not referring to in-game branding. Your logo can appear on an in-game billboard or wall easily enough. But if you want to create an in-game event, one that will be appreciated and fondly remembered by gamers, it needs to be significant to the audience.

Now, this can take many forms in many different games. Look at how the once phenome but still popular game, Pokémon Go, utilizes sponsors to provide value to players. Niantic has partnered with two brands. First, it turned all Starbucks stores in the United States into PokéStops (real world locations that interact with the game to reward players with in-game currency). It also turned all Sprint stores into PokéStops, and Sprint went further by offering $100 in PokéCoins to anybody who signed up for its Sprint Unlimited plan.

Photo Credit: Mac Rumors

Both of these promotions provide a value to the player while giving significant exposure to the brands.

The video game audience has been labeled as a fickle one – that’s not exactly true. While they are very media savvy and quick to point out anything that feels inauthentic, they are more than willing to embrace brands that support the things that are important to them. Which is why it is essential to have a thoughtful marketing campaign that provides value to the audience. It’s an old saying, but no less valid: the more you give, the more you’ll get in return.

If you have interest in conceptualizing an in-game promotion, give one of the experts at eGency a call at 972-323-6354. We have years of experience in the burgeoning esports industry and are ready to put our knowledge and creativity to work for you.