Fortnite: Battle Royale follows games such as Candy Crush and Pokémon Go in entering the mainstream, capturing imaginations, not to mention bank balances, outside of the core gaming audience. And Peak Fortnite has surely now been reached with Esports star Ninja’s live appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres show. Given that Ninja has accumulated more than 350 million views across streaming platforms including Twitch, it’s no wonder that Ellen was keen to reach out to a new audience.
That’s something tech manufacturers and retailers are also attempting to achieve. Stores, including Argos, say that sales of gaming peripherals and PC kit have soared thanks, in some part, to the success of games like Fortnite, played and watched by millions of people across the globe.
The popularity of streamers such as Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins in the US and Gary ‘BreaK’ Marshall in the UK, and even footballers such as Dele Alli and Mesut Ozil launching Twitch channels, shows that the ‘battle royale’ mode made possible by PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and since adopted by Fortnite and Call of Duty, has made the desire to gain a competitive edge over fellow gamers even stronger.
Streamers play games on the latest performance gaming kit – not the standard out-of-the-box controllers, headphones and equipment you’ll get with any console or basic PC. The products that the pro gamers use are on show for all to see. Most are sponsored by tech brands, and list and promote the gear that they use on their social media channels and websites – so, yes, you can go out and play Fortnite with the same controller as Ninja. There are 4.6 million views of one YouTube video demonstrating Ninja’s Fornite set-up, with shout outs for manufacturers including NZXT, Logitech, and Alienware (the Dell subsidiary), and gaming websites review and detail the products and settings in even greater detail.
This has created a desire among gamers that’s reminiscent of when every young footballer wanted to buy a pair of Adidas Predators – the boot of David Beckham. But in gaming there is a legitimate advantage – when playing online against dozens of other competitors, shaving milliseconds off the time it takes to aim and fire a weapon could be the difference between a Victory Royale or not.
The opportunity to capitalise on this is huge but marketers need to tread carefully – try to muscle in on such a vocal and passionate community without knowing your ‘mats’ from your ‘heals’, or your ‘bush campers’ from your ‘one-knocks’ and you risk a salty response to your marketing.
Brands must seek specialist consultation on marketing to this group. Talk their language and you’re much more likely to build trust so that you can help them get their next Victory Royale. But if you’re not familiar with their jargon, you’ll be laughed out of the room and risk becoming the subject of an unwelcome meme. You can’t force or fake your immersion in this scene – if you’ve got people massively into Fortnite or esports within your company, then engage those closest to you in helping to shape the marketing, or work with specialist agency teams, freelance experts or esports influencers to ensure that you’re creating communications that truly resonates with this audience.
When talking to the gaming community, as with any niche group, it’s vital that this is on a peer-to-peer level, rather than as a teacher to a student. That’s the most effective way to emerge triumphant in the tech and gaming tech battle of the brands.
And this shouldn’t be confined to social channels, the authentic messaging needs to be reflected at the point of sale too. Purchase journey research shows gamers know what they want to buy, and then look for the best deal online. So use their language in these places because, if they like buying from you, they’ll come back again and again.
Michael Blount, director of entertainment and content, Kazoo Communications