This recent change now means brands can make money on Fortnite
Ashley Lewis, managing director at Metavision, the metaverse creative agency, observed a pivotal moment in Fortnite that promises to support a whole new wave of activity on the platform. He thinks it’s now time for brands to leap in.
Earlier this year, during Epic Games’ State of Unreal Keynote at the Game Developers Conference (GDC), it announced the launch of the Creator Economy 2.0, a transformative new way in which Epic will pay Fortnite creators. A monumental shift for the platform, with Fortnite build teams and gaming influencers being quick to take note. But is it brands and IP holders who could perhaps be the outright winner if they play their cards right?
So how did payouts work before Creator Economy 2.0 was launched? It centered around ‘Support a Creator’, whereby a player would have to either hit the ‘support a creator’ button in one of their experiences or manually type in their ‘creator code’ at the point of purchase when using V-Bucks (Fortnite’s in-game currency) in the Fortnite store. A fairly convoluted process where the creator would receive just 5% of the purchase price.
This has now been flipped on its head.
In this new era, which brings about a much more equitable and sustainable revenue-sharing model, Epic will pay out 40% of the game’s revenue to creators every month. This represents a monumental shift away from the previous model. Incentivizing creators to produce high-quality and engaging content which keeps the community on the platform for longer, and so, creating a harmonious rhythm that benefits both the creators and Epic Games alike.
With Creator Economy 2.0, payouts are based on engagement metrics that contribute to the success of the overall Fortnite ecosystem, with those metrics currently falling into two main subsets; firstly player engagement where experiences bring in new players and also re-engage lapsed players. And secondly, player retention where players return day-to-day rewarding consistent play and returning players.
So what does this mean for the community and beyond?
Let’s start with the build teams and creators themselves. With 2.0, build teams are in a prime position to use their years of acquired knowledge of what Fortnite players want in order to build their own Fortnite Native IP. For example, once Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN) was launched, Atlas Creative, a best-in-class Fortnite build team, got straight to work rebuilding the original ‘Chapter 1 Fortnite Island’ because the community had been crying out for it. By simply giving the community what they’ve asked for, it secured huge and engaged audiences, and the payouts that now go with it.
Gaming influencers are another entity who are poised and ready to pounce. They have long used the popularity and versatility of Fortnite to generate content that they can then monetize, be it through live streams on platforms such as Twitch or playthroughs on YouTube. With 2.0, influencers can direct their massive audiences to spaces that they have built and monetize that traffic. Recently, five of the largest Fortnite content creators announced ‘Project V’, a Battle Royale game mode being developed by Oni Studios, which is itself owned by one of the content creators: SypherPK. It’s easy to see that they’re seeking to capitalize on their influence over their vast audiences, to drive plays to their experiences.
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Why this matters to brands
So, clearly, there’s incentive for build teams and gaming influencers to pay attention, but could brands and IP hold the winning ticket here?
It’s widely known that the community, which now boasts 236 million monthly active players, screams out for the brands they love to enter and play in these spaces. It’s important to ensure they are adding to and not detracting from the experience - that is key. But the success of branded activations on the platform to date such as Timberland’s ‘Parkour Trails’, Adidas’ ‘Ozworld’ and Dorito’s ‘Triangle Island’ demonstrate that there’s a clear demand and appetite for brands to show up and bring new and exciting experiences to the platform.
Before the Creator Economy 2.0 came to be, IP and branded activations were seen as pure marketing investments to increase the IP profile, build the profile and salience on the platform and extract that value elsewhere. This has brought with it an internal debate for brand marketers in deciphering the value in investing in the space, especially when now the age of ‘Brand X enters the Metaverse with Fortnite activation’, the pure PR angle is fast coming to an end.
But, now we’re operating in a world where IP holders can actually extract dividends from their assets on the platform and so it finally answers that all-important question ‘Is this activation doing more for Fortnite (and Epic Games) than it is for us?’. Not only can brands now continue to build fandom on the platform, get in front of millions of eyeballs on a daily basis, and enjoy engagement times ranging anywhere between an average of 15–20 minutes, but they can gain monetary value back from doing it (if it's successful).
This is extremely important for brands and IP holders whilst monetizing through the official Fortnite store is still off-limits. Creating and selling customized skins, emotes and dances, still requires an official ‘first party’ partnership with Epic Games. This walled garden has a very long waiting list, and is usually reserved for a particular type of brand, with a particular type of global cultural cache, think Ferrari, Balenciaga and Spider-Man. And so Creator Economy 2.0 allows brands and IP holders to monetize the platform from pure engagement, while other avenues are still very much locked off.
This, coupled with the launch of UEFN means that not only can brands now monetize their experiences, they can now use the power of Unreal Engine’s editor to build stunning and powerful games, that can make use of fully custom assets such as icons and logos, all the way up to detailed, animated and interactive products, characters and other brand identity components.
So I believe brands that have spent years investing in long-term brand building now have a platform to make this work. They just need to jump in.