5 lessons the Fortnite game teaches enterprises about mobile app engagement
If you’re a gamer, the parent of an adolescent or just a reader of tech news, you’ve likely heard of Fortnite Battle Royale. Developed by Epic Games, it’s the most popular game in the most popular gaming genre of 2018.
PC and console versions of the Fortnite game launched in September 2017. By January 2018, 45 million people were playing it, according to PCGamesN. By February, it was the second most-watched game overall on Twitch. In March, Epic released a mobile version, which became the best-selling app in 13 countries within 12 hours of hitting app stores.
What makes Fortnite Battle Royale so popular? And what can enterprises learn from this game about making engaging app experiences? Here are five lessons enterprises can take from this hit mobile app.
1. Be trendy by being agile
Battle royale is a new game genre that blends elements from other genres. Players are pitted against one another in a fight-to-the-death-style tournament. It is played in a constantly shrinking game space with limited supplies, and players are forced to hunt and scavenge to survive. Inspired by popular films such as The Hunger Games and the genre’s namesake, a Japanese film called Battle Royale (2000), these games have become hugely popular over the past year — starting with PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), a battle royale game released in March 2017.
In July 2017, Epic released the original Fortnite game, a four-player team-based game set on a post-apocalyptic Earth. By then, PUBG was already an international record-breaking sensation, so Epic decided to pivot and create a battle royale mode for Fortnite, according to Newzoo. In just 12 weeks, the company built and launched the new content as a stand-alone free game.
PUBG already had a head start, but Epic’s agile move to capitalize on the battle royale trend still paid off. By February 2018, Fortnite had overtaken PUBG as the most-played battle royale game — which is a big deal considering 30.1 percent of core PC gamers played battle royale games in early 2018.
2. Keep it simple, especially for mobile
The mobile version of Fortnite Battle Royale is the full game with the same features as the PC and console versions — just with different touchscreen-based controls and added visual cues so users can play without sound.
As any game designer — or enterprise app developer — knows, simple user interfaces are hard to build, especially for mobile. This often makes it difficult to translate web content into mobile apps and to translate popular PC games into successful mobile games.
This is where Epic had an advantage, as the PC game was already fairly simple and streamlined. Players only have five gear slots and don’t have to bother with managing inventories or backpacks as they do in other battle royale games. This not only makes it easier for beginners to learn and enjoy the game without feeling like they have to play all the time to be competitive — a major drawback with many battle games — but the simplified design also makes it easier to create a good mobile experience.
3. Build buzz through exclusivity
Before officially launching Fortnite Battle Royale on mobile, Epic created a invite-only pilot program, requiring players to sign up online for the chance to get a sneak peek. According to Forbes, Epic began sending pilot players friend invites, enabling them to share the experience with three friends.
The mobile game is now available to anyone, but the pilot program enabled Epic to iron out any kinks and build buzz for the game, while also making its community feel special — and then making them feel popular among their friends. Of course, those people also talked about the game, blogged about it and streamed their gaming sessions on YouTube and Twitch, so the Fortnite game also got loads of free marketing before it ever hit the app stores.
4. Add social elements
It makes sense that Epic offered players friend invites. Fortnite Battle Royale is a highly social game, so it’s more fun when you’re playing with your actual friends. Players can team up with friends and compete together, either as a duo or a squad. Just the shared experience of playing the same game — and comparing items found or costumes collected — makes the game a new bonding ritual.
It’s also fun to watch, so many players stream their battles, and the game allows players to record battles and put them online. As Newszoo notes, the Fortnite game was the most-watched battle royale game on both Twitch and YouTube Gaming in Feburary 2018.
5. Keep content fresh
Epic keeps the user experience from getting stale by constantly adding new content, items, features, modes and unique timed events. Players have to keep coming back to get the latest gear and to try their hand at new challenges.
The game also releases new personalization features — emoticons, character costumes and weapons skins — each season (which is every couple of months), and players can either play frequently to get access to those features or pay $10 for them. This timely customization content is actually where Epic makes its money on the free-to-play game. Recently it began making more money on in-app purchases ($126 million in February) than PUBG, which gets most of its revenue ($103 million the same month) through one-time software purchases, according to The Verge.
The ultimate Fortnite game lesson: Take the best and leave the rest
Not all of these strategies will work for every enterprise mobile app. For example, adding social elements to a fitness app is a great idea, but most people wouldn’t want the same functionality in a banking app. Still, enterprise decision-makers and app developers can learn a lot from Fortnite Battle Royale about how to capture an audience and keep them hooked — even if they don’t offer fights to the death or have a cult-like teenage and millennial following.