Fortnite has been a roller coaster of a game, turning from an overlooked failure to a replica of a successful game, to the #1 game in the world of all time, even surpassing Minecraft. This game went from nothing to a phenomenon so fast that it is almost unexplainable how it happened. Today we will be looking at the microtransactions in Fortnite: Battle Royale and why they have helped the industry, even if you think they are terribly overpriced.
For those of you that have been living under a rock for all of 2018, Fortnite Battle Royale is a completely different game mode which was added to Fortnite, separating the game into two modes: Save The World and Battle Royale. Fortnite started development in 2011, and was one of the biggest projects that Epic Games had ever worked on. It was started right after the release of popular shooter game Gears of War 3. After 6 years of hard work, Fortnite: Save The World pre-orders opened onto the Epic Games launcher on July 25, 2017. One of the perks of preordering the game was that you got to play it early, and this served as a substitute for early access, conspicuously absent from the Epic Games launcher. After 6 years of heavy fan anticipation and hard work, the game was dead on launch, as the hype had died down and similar games had more momentum.The company was losing money on a game that held a lot of stakes for the company. Epic Games, desperate and not knowing what to do, we quick to eye the success of the beta for PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and took only two months to make their own version of the game, cashing in on the trend. At the time, this game mode, Battle Royale, was bashed heavily by critics and fans, but what the consumers did not know at the time was that Fortnite had certain features that would captivate a modern and younger audience; building.
Fortnite: Battle Royale was getting a lot of press from games news outlets bashing it, but it was around this time that the players of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds were getting fed up with the decisions made around the future of 1.0 of the game. Seeing that this game was in a similar genre to Battlegrounds, lots of PUBG fans decided to give Fortnight a try. Around this time, Epic devs committed to updating Battle Royale every week, which is something that PUBG did not do. Then, the game was played on and off by some streamers, who were getting burnt out by PUBG. Eventually, one streamer committed to streaming Fortnite full-time, and that streamer was Ninja. Ninja’s fanbase stuck with him on his transition to Fortnite, and with other streamers like Dr.Disrespect and Shroud condoning the game, it took off quickly.
This game was also more accessible to the general audience, as it could run on the two major consoles, PS4 and Xbox One, low spec PCs and MACs at the time of release of Battle Royale. The game was also cartoony and had no blood in it, compared to PUBG’s gritty and adult nature, filled with blood, but mostly for tactical purposes. Later in Fortnite’s life cycle, it was also released to cell phones and the Nintendo Switch, which just gave it more accessibility. The game was also free, which made it a way easier sell for young children’s parents. Lots of people who were getting fed up with PUBG, children who couldn’t play PUBG, and people without fast PCs saw Fortnite as the best alternative to PUBG that they could play. With the medium-sized player base now, Epic got behind Fortnite, and started updating the game very frequently, until the game was objectively better than PUBG.
Now that Fortnite has the player base, how could a free game make so much money? But before we can look at the success of Fortnite’s microtransactions, we have to take a look at the failures of other games.
Overwatch accidentally started a trend that it could not control with the introduction of randomized loot boxes, each containing four random items of in game cosmetics. Loot boxes in Overwatch could be easily obtained through 30 minutes of playtime, and this strategy for engagement worked. Overwatch blew up in the media, and many people could not stop playing, for the sense of excitement of being close to getting another loot box. Many companies saw that this worked, and wondered how they could make people invest their money, rather than their time in the loot boxes. All companies, even Call of Duty, started to use this strategy for their game, and they kept on pushing the idea to new extremes. The tip of the iceberg was when EA used the loot box strategy for in-game content, such as characters and better weapons. This was a little upsetting in itself, but what made it even worse was that the game prompted you to spend extra money on top of the investment in a sixty dollar game. If you choose not to spend any money in the game, it would take around 4,528 hours to unlock all items in the game. This made a big controversy, and EA’s stock lost a lot of value. Battlefront 2 lost big bucks when they got greedy and tried to make more. This event was covered heavily by non-gaming media outlets, and many countries even tried to make the practice of loot boxes illegal. Fortnite, seeing how this way of monetizing your game was under fire, needed to think of a way to monetize their free game, and fast.
Ever observant, Fortnite: Battle Royale looked to the concept of Supreme Clothing’s exclusivity and high costs, and applied that strategy to their game. Even if the prices were crazy, averaging 2,000 V-Bucks, or 20 real world dollars, critics would have nothing to complain about, as people knew what they were getting, and these items offered no in-game advantage. This quickly caught on, with people rushing to buy their lusted skins, before they disappeared forever from the game. These skins were also high quality design, which only increased their value, and justified the high price tag. Fortnite now sits at the highest grossing game of all time due to this strategy, and many games companies are taking looks at this formula of monetization to understand how to get more money and less backlash this way. This could possibly save upcoming games like Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4, Battlefield V, and Fallout 76 from going down shady paths of progression, both cosmetic and stat-based. While extra monetization in multiplayer games will never be perfect, this is a step in the right direction. While the exclusive skins may be a big source of Fortnite’s income, a lot more is being made through their limited time Battle Pass.
The Fortnite Battle Pass is a 10-25 dollar pass to Fortnite, which lasts for an in-game season, which is around 90 days. The way this system works is that there are 100 tiers, and you upgrade a tier by earning 10 battle stars, which you can get by playing Fortnite, or doing challenges which are unlocked every week. The 10 dollar version contains just the cosmetic Battle Pass, while the 25 dollar version contains the battle pass, with a quick advance straight to up 25 tiers. As this pass has a limited time for completion, it makes players feel like they need to grind out tiers right now. You can also buy an extra tier for $1.50, or 150 V-Bucks. It provides a faster way to get the coolest cosmetics in the game, which can take a lot of time to unlock, if you are getting close to the battle pass deadline. For many avid players of Fortnite, it is crucial that they finish this Battle Pass, and get the extremely awesome 100 tier skin. In Epic Game’s eyes, this is a win-win situation, as you will either get the player’s time or get their extra money. And everyone who plays multiplayer games knows that the more time spent in a game means the more you lust for paid skins, as the games are in a social construct where the people with higher cost skins are more well-respected, leading to an endless loop of playing and buying for the hardcore players. As a matter of fact, this is a problem, especially in Fortnite, where people without skins are mocked for being bad at the game, regardless of their actual skills., While Epic is trying to control this community behavior, it pressures players into buying skins, so they will never pursue this mission wholeheartedly.
Epic Games has found themselves a monopoly with how they have structured the item shop and battle pass. I would much rather see other games doing this, rather than selling me gameplay affecting items and shady loot boxes. Whether or not you are a fan of Fortnite, this game is changing the way that companies and investors are looking at cosmetic items, as well as the way they are looking at Epic Games, now the leader in this space…