If you don’t have a teenager in your house, you might have missed one of the largest events ever held last week. Nope, not Super Bowl, but on Saturday, D.J. Marshmello held a virtual concert in the game Fortnite. The event altered human trajectory and every banker should take notice for the ramifications to our industry, particularly for marketing and product development. In this article, we recap the event and analyze the potential.
Fortnite, of course, is a standard battle royale, multi-player shooter game that is the most popular video game in the world and played by more than 125 million gamers on almost any type of device from Playstation to a smartphone. The basic version of the game is free, but paid versions start at a one-time fee of $19.99 and go to $79.99.
At any moment in time, including 3 am in the morning, you will likely find more than two million people trying to capture high ground and work their way through seemingly endless scenarios as they move around the virtual world. The game starts with 100 players dropped onto an island and then start fighting one another to the death. In a newer paid version, a storm forces players into an ever-decreasing area where they must kill or be killed. Along the way you seek to pick-up new weapons, armor, items that let you heal and building materials. The game can be downloaded for free, and players can purchase cosmetic features such as costumes known as “skins.”
The average player age is about 24 years old with those between 25 and 44 years old comprises about 35% of the players. 84% of the players are male, and the average player plays between six and ten hours per week. The average player spends $85 per year on the game largely on outfits, gliders, harvesting tools and, our favorite, dance moves.
While shooting isn’t the best lesson in the world, the violence is cartoonish. However, the game has strong merit as in addition to picking up many new dance moves, players need to decide who to pair up with, when to work alone, and what strategy to employ to move deeper into the game. Decisions come fast and furious, and it’s very common for more experienced gamers to help out those that are new to the game. The sense of comrade is palpable and not unlike running a 10K or a Tough Mudder. Many of the experiences within Fortnite can be applied directly to real-life.
The Virtual Becomes Real
While real-life and virtual life often intersects, when the Marshmello event took place, it brought more than ten million people together to collectively experience virtual reality and became a real-life event. That type of scale is amazing. What is even more mind-blowing is the fact that because of the graphic-rich content, the games are constructed to manage a maximum of 100 players. Thus, to pull off a ten million person concert, more than 100,000 mirrored versions had to be created. Each player, while they experienced the concert, each version was slightly different given the other 99 participants around you.
After the event, players got together online to discuss their separate and shared experiences. Listening to players talk it was indistinguishable from a real event. While these virtual concerts aren’t new, what is new is both the scale and the fusion between both virtual reality and augmented reality. Players recalled certain dance moves, skins and how they experienced the concert. Fornite showed that it is not about the game but about a place you can go for a shared experience, or “presence,” not different from the real world.
Impact on Business and Banking
Any bank wanting to target Gen Z going forward must first stop at Fortnite. The game’s popularity and a strong sense of community is a marketing dream. Any brand that can generate ten million participants for a single event has huge excess power ready to spill over to other brands that want to partner.
At present, there are no in-game ads, but many brands are standing by waiting for the day. In the next couple of years, it is possible that a real-life bank brand could pop up within the game. While no bank and few businesses took advantage of the Marshmello event, the marketing tie-ins are waiting to happen. The licensing of Fortnite characters is starting to take off, and it is only a matter of time before this goes mainstream and banks get involved.
Then there are the second derivatives of the game. Just as knowing and mentioning a person’s college helps open and click rates for digital marketing, the lift from Fortnite tie-ins are proving equally strong. Produce YouTube or Facebook content that is related to Fortnite and watch views go through the roof. One family did a Fortnite dance move challenge with each other filmed on a phone in their hallway and has received more than 75 million views.
Banks could sponsor competitions, offer gaming scholarships or produce content on how to save up for the latest paid version.
There are also a wide array of professional gamers that publish their gaming and commentary on platforms such as Twitch. Here, ads are plentiful and help leaders like “Ninja” rake in more than $500,000 per month. Ninja is a major influencer with more than 13 million followers, and brands like Uber, Taco Bell, Red Bull plus many others pay approximately $4,000 per campaign. It is not uncommon to reach 400+ million impressions. That ad leverage is hard to duplicate elsewhere.
In addition to content, event tie-ins, and Fortnite-related promotions, banks could offer targeted accounts with interest paid in skins or Fortnite credit. The Marshmello concert was so successful that it will be duplicated and it is only a matter of time before banks get involved with the first movers garnering the bulk of value. Further, now that the concept is validated look for other games to try something similar.
Virtual worlds are becoming more and more of reality, and even if your bank actively decides not to experiment with gaming and Fortnite, this trend is undeniable and worth putting on your radar to track the progress.
Submitted by Chris Nichols on February 14, 2019