Recent media focus on Fornite has been successful at re-igniting old tropes about the decline of youth, falling grades and parental frustration that 2018 can’t be like 1988. This narrative has helped editors revisit their own declining content which has resulted from an exodus of readers and failure to attract game company revenue for their essential advertising income.
But Fornite is not doing so well. Firstly, the player base is largely pre-pubescent teens who drop in an out with no commitment and no loss for losing. The conversations are largely about in-game purchases, rather than how in-accurate the guns are. No FPS adult player sticks around for long (unless they really can’t aim) as the gun-play is horrible. Epic then nerf these things making the already bad guns worse which further discourages any kind of long-term skill development. For those who drop in and out, this is okay — as the game mechanics remain horrible and will change next week.
The decline is here in terms of a boom and bust. On console, crossing the $300 million in revenue mark is astonishing and reflects the young player base and their ability to install free-to-play games. In March, the game grew by 77%, in April, 33%, but overall the game’s grown by 7%. The challenge is how to entertain the player base with exponential growth – and the answer seems to be in skins and in-game purchases, rather than improving or fixing the gameplay. Not a bad way to earn $300m. In contrast, the ‘fad’ game Pokemon Go has not died out, and pulling over $100m in earnings still with the highest player base it’s had since 2016.
In terms of player tastes, it’s worth looking at what gamers are watching. As part of the top 10 games viewed on Twitch, Fornite has dropped significantly from its peak in March, dropping 50% by June and that continues. It’s not to say that Fornite isn’t fun for those who enjoy it, but it hasn’t exactly wiped out the competition for players or viewers — and of course COD and BF are about to release new titles which include Battle Royale mechanics.
With 125 million players (active, casual or dropped) the challenge for Epic is immense – competing with PUBG is one thing, but taking on COD, BF, Overwatch and LoL who have all reacted to the challenge — isn’t going to be easy in a game which rose from it’s free-to-play pitch and microtransactions. With parents increasingly reading negative media about the game, statistically dropping interest from its core player base — any ‘new’ Fornite will require access to those parental coffers to bring in the V-Bucks. The competition, especially Activision are grand-masters at this and have escaped media attention for the entire year.
I’m not saying the game is dead. I know people said Pokemon Go is dead – but it’s not. What Fornite has achieved is massive. It’s further opened parental wallets on behalf of young players who don’t seem to mind the game-play is
crap unpredictable when there’s loot to be purchased and bragged about in 5th grade classes.
The rest of the year will be very interesting as the big-lads launch new products. It’s great if you’re a gamer, but perhaps not so great if you’re a die-hard Fortnite player.