How Fortnite broke the mould and used gaming influencers to dominate their industry

What is Fortnite?

Developed in 2017 by the company Epic Games, Fortnite is a free online video game where 100 players are dropped onto an island and must fight one another to death, with the last one standing being the winner. Fortnite’s business model is simple but innovative. The game is free to download, so they make the majority of their money from in-game purchases, where players can buy new costumes for their avatars and new dance moves.

It is no secret that Fortnite revolutionised the gaming community, and is ranked the most popular game in the world. The already popular game then skyrocketed into mainstream news, when in March the musician Drake, rapper Travis Scott and American football player JuJu Smith-Schuster joined professional video game streamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins in a Fortnite squad. They broadcast the footage onto the popular live-streaming service Twitch and broke the record for the most-viewed episode on the internet.

Fortnite’s winning marketing strategy

Fortnite not only diverted from a traditional gaming structure, but also ignored conventional marketing strategies that video games typically to use.

  • Epic Games did very little marketing themselves, and instead, they let their fans rage about the game on social media. Social media is increasingly used amongst young teenagers, which allowed for knowledge of the game to spread quickly across many platforms. Although Epic Games did a few trailers for the game, the most popular video content was footage of everyday people playing the game. This included compilations of ‘funny moments’ or ‘fails’ on the game, a genre of video already incredibly popular among a younger audience. These types of videos garnered hundreds of millions of views within the first few months of the game’s release.


  • Epic Games also turned to the biggest gaming influencers on social media platforms such as Youtube and Twitch. These platforms are predominantly used by gamers, as they are solely dedicated to video content. With only good reviews from these influencers, kids began to play the game at an unusually high level, in an effort to compete with or match the ranking of their favourite influencers. By choosing gaming influencers, Fortnite was able to market to their target audience and get their game ‘trending’.


  • Furthermore, Fortnite also updates the game every 3 months, meaning new maps and features which keeps the game relevant and ever-changing. The game doesn’t have the time to ‘get boring’, so kids continuously play the game.


  • There is no obvious ranking in the game, so in order to show skill level, players either purchase skins or spend time leveling up their character models to visibly reinforce how they compare against other players in the game. By removing a typical scoring system and making the opportunities for reward scarce, they create a greater incentive to keep playing.


  • You can also buy a ‘Battle Pass’ which is £10 every quarter, which allows kids to buy new skins and features, thereby keeping up with their friends and Fortnite gossip.

The effect on younger children

With the game progressing an at unprecedented rate amongst teenagers, Fortnite now has 80 million monthly players. Although the game has a rating of 12 and above and is primarily marketed towards younger teenagers, many players on the game are younger than this. Fortnite does not have a strict age restriction, which enables many children younger than 12 to access the game without much hassle.

Fortnite is having a startling effect on younger players. Many parents are starting to express their worries about the games ability to change their child’s behaviour. When they are not obsessively playing the game, they are watching streams of other people playing the game on their laptops or phones. The addictive nature of the game is arguably a reason as to why the games age certification should be older, as the surprise rewards hold a strong appeal for kids, and they continue to play the game in search of the excitement of these surprise boxes. Each game is only 20 minutes long, which gives the players the chance to ‘binge play’ games in succession, making it increasingly difficult for parents to pull their children away from the game, as they all want to play ‘just one more game’.

Parents in the Davies + Scothorn office and indeed many of our clients that have children have commented that the social aspect of the game makes the game even more addictive. The game gives players the option to play with another player or in a ‘squad’ with multiple players. The fact that the majority of high school children are obsessed with the game means it is harder for parents to confiscate it, because to do so would make their children feel left out of conversations surrounding the game and therefore isolated. In many cases, the inability to play with their friends has led children to become aggressive and antisocial with their family. After seeing the effects of Fortnite on his son’s behaviour, Gavin our Creative Director, who is himself a gaming fanatic, has said that he has become disillusioned with today’s gaming culture and very much aware of its toxicity. The corruptive nature of Fortnite is reminiscent of the game Battlefield 2 developed by EA (Electronic Arts) and released in 2017. The original Battlefront had a place in many people’s hearts in the gaming community and it was at the top of the league for a long time. With Battlefront 2 they changed their model and introduced a ‘pay-to-win’ element. Essentially to get ahead in the game you had to pay to buy what they call ‘loot boxes’, which gave you a gameplay advantage over those who had not purchased them. This caused outrage and EA were forced to quickly backtrack. As aforementioned, they were already performing incredibly well and had managed to produce a beloved product, which serves to highlight a similar kind of greed being exercised by the creators of Fortnite. Discussions about the negative impact of Fortnite often focus on the many reports of children  ‘borrowing’ their parents’ credit cards without permission to make expensive in-game purchases so that they can get ahead of or impress their friends.

Even teachers have noticed the children in their classrooms have disintegrating attention spans, which is affecting their grades. Younger and younger children have access to mobile phones, allowing them freedom on the internet and the ability to play or watch Fortnite anywhere and anytime. Although the game itself isn’t excessively violent, the sheer addictive quality of the game is causing kids to become irritable or even violent towards others when they are banned from the game. In one of the most extreme cases, a 9-year-old girl is reported to be in rehab being treated for the addiction, after she sat in her own pee for hours rather than choosing to end the game. She reportedly played the game over 10 hours a day and tried to punch her father after he confiscated it.

However, others believe parents are overreacting. Dr Marcus Carter, a lecturer in digital culture and gaming from the University of Sydney, states that it could be easily turned into shared time between the parent and the child if the parent played it with them …

If you found this article interesting and want to learn more about the intricacies of a winning marketing strategy from industry experts then please feel free to get in touch.


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