Falling For Fornite

But will the game’s allure for agencies continue into its fourth year?

by Mark Tungate , Adforum

There’s a slight difference in spelling between Fortnite, the wildly successful online game, and “fortnight”, meaning two weeks. But it can seem as though 14 days is about the time that passes between campaigns targeting the game’s huge audience.

The most oft-quoted figure for the total number of Fortnite players is 250 million, although that dates back to last year. More recently, Games Radar suggests that – despite rumours that interest in the game may have peaked – there are still “tens of millions” of active players.

Released in 2017, the game’s pitch is that most of the Earth’s population has been killed by a mysterious storm, leaving the survivors to battle zombified “husks” – or one another. They can use “basic resources” like wood, brick, and metal to build shelters and defences. Different versions of the game revolve around this central premise.

But which agencies have made the most creative use of Fortnite?

You may remember the campaign for Wendy’s that scored a Cannes Grand Prix for VMLY&R in the Social & Influencer category. Having remarked that most of the restaurants in Fortnite were equipped with fridges or freezers – while Wendy’s uses only fresh meat – the agency created a warrior named Wendy, who basically destroys a whole lot of fridges. Players weighed in to help.

Meanwhile, We Are Social in Paris focused on the more constructive element of the game in its “No Build Challenge” for the WWF. Reversing one of the game’s tropes, the agency defied gamers not to use the planet’s natural resources while struggling to survive. The way to win was to become more eco-friendly.

Similarly laudable was Wunderman Thompson’s recent initiative for the International Committee of the Red Cross, which awarded points for saving lives, rather than taking them. Players adopted the role of Red Cross workers and embarked on missions to restore health services and drinking water, defuse mines, rebuild infrastructure and re-establish education.

Next up is Samsung, which created a bespoke character – or “skin” – to promote its new Galaxy Note 9. The only way to unlock and play with the skin was to purchase the phone. One famous gamer was literally given “skin in the game” in the form of a free trial. Others went to the mall and tried to access the skin without purchasing the device.

But perhaps our favourite activation was the Fortnite job interview. That’s right: French agency Dare.win used the voice-chat feature to interview job candidates while battling with them against enemy teams. After reading their CV, the interviewers scheduled a game. Then, instead of asking the potential employees where they wanted to be in five years’ time, interviewers could see if they’d survive the next five minutes.

If the Fortnite phenomenon really is fading, we may see fewer of these campaigns over the coming months. But whether Fortnite bounces back or another fad takes it place, it seems as though agencies have finally developed the knack of reaching gamers.