Travis Scott just performed to 12.3 million people inside the game Fortnite. While in-game concerts are not new, this is a significant achievement for a number of reasons. Firstly that’s a lot of people to have watching you live. Secondly Travis Scott is a pop culture icon, and as the father of Kylie Jenner’s child he’s about as famous as it gets. But it’s the third reason that creates a pertinent conversation for brand marketers, and that is Fortnite’s continued evolution as a place to socialise, and not just play games.
With 95% of Millennials and Gen-Z in Southeast Asia stating that they regularly play games, and their continued elusion of traditional advertising, their in-game activity becomes of great relevance to marketers. (Source: Global Web Index ad blocker and gaming activity behaviour).
Fortnite is one of many cross-platform, player-driven games on the market but it seems to be leading the innovation curve within the industry with regards to social experiences that extend beyond gaming. These video games are uniting people around a central activity (the game) and building huge communities by capitalising on the human desire to socialise and share experiences. They’re also achieving this at enormous scale, due in part to many of these games being free to play.
Jonathan Lai at Andreesen Horowitz said in a recent interview “Games are the social networks of the future. Instead of scrolling through feeds of static images, liking and commenting on things, we’ll be in virtual worlds and games having very real interactions in very immersive environments. The game is the passive activity that’s happening in the background, when all they’re trying to do is hang out and socialise.”
The communities created in these games extend far beyond the games themselves. Top players and entertainers leverage these games to fuel entire channels of content on platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Twitch, where they broadcast gameplay, discuss community issues, and help people get better at the game to build skill and status. This is not dissimilar to the communities built around sports teams, except it combines the sport, the teams, the entertainers and the “sports bar” type venues in which the audience can immerse themselves in the whole experience.
These Content Creators also command huge influence amongst their audience and have the ability to lead these audiences into new experiences at scale, as we saw recently with Riot Games’ beta launch of Valorant, which was almost exclusively marketed through Content Creator networks and drew record breaking viewership on Twitch within 24 hours of launch.
The rule book for brand marketers is yet to be written, which makes this even more exciting. If we shift our view of gaming from entertainment to social experience, where gamers not only play games but also build friendships and lasting social connections, then we unlock a world of opportunity. Building connections and community has forever been a core pillar of marketing strategy, making this prime territory and perfect timing for smart marketers to jump in and lead the way.