Fortnite’s potential as a marketing tool has been well documented over the past few years, with some of the biggest brand integrations picking up numerous headlines and awards.
Brands from Marvel to Wendy’s have integrated their characters and IP into the hyper-popular video game. And Travis Scott’s performed a live Fortnite concert to release a single, pulling in a 12-million strong audience in the process.
The success of these campaigns has proven that the metaverse can be a valuable addition to a media plan. Marketers who previously watched the space with cautious interest are increasingly ready to activate.
But these large scale integrations require a lot of investment, both in terms of time and money. And space is naturally somewhat limited. Fortnite’s creator Epic Games has resisted running too many brand partnerships at the same time, in order to prevent over-commercialisation.
Recently however we’ve seen brands and media companies turning to Fortnite Creative, a lesser-known mode introduced in 2018, as their beachhead into the metaverse.
Fortnite Creative lets users build their own ‘islands’, or small in-game worlds, using a set of pre-made items and construction tools. Creators can make their own game modes inside these islands, or just let other players explore the world with no specific objective.
It’s designed primarily as a sandbox mode for players, rather than as a professional development tool. But we’ve started to see businesses jumping on board, using Creative as a cheaper and easier way to reach their audiences on Fortnite.
UK telco O2 is one of the most notable examples. O2 worked directly with Epic Games to recreate its O2 arena within Fortnite Creative. Players can enter O2’s map at any time to explore and play mini-games, as well as getting access to unique items that can be used in Fortnite’s primary battle royale mode.
O2’s virtual arena is also being used for in-game concerts. The first of these, a show from indie-pop band Easy Life, aired last month. As with the Travis Scott show, the landscape transformed around the player as they watched the set, showcasing the creative possibilities of a virtual concert.
O2’s integration benefited from Epic Games’ involvement, allowing O2 to offer in-game rewards for exploring the world. But one of the advantages of Creative mode is that brands and media companies can freely create content without having to work through Epic.
UK broadcaster ITV has taken this route. Earlier this month it released a map based on its new game show The Void, which let players try an in-game version of The Void’s challenges.
Dan Colton, ITV’s group strategy and transformation director, said that ITV’s experiment with Creative mode was useful for helping the broadcaster get a feel for operating in the gaming space. “The Void is a really innovative new Saturday night show that fits perfectly with this style of gameplay,” he said. “The Metaverse is a huge opportunity for ITV both from a consumer and advertiser perspective and this is the first step of how we can best make use of our IP in these spaces.”
French supermarket Carrefour has gone down the same path. Working with Publicis Conseil, Carrefour released The Healthy Map, a virtual recreation of a Carrefour store where players regain health points by eating healthy foods.
There are a few trade offs which come from working through Creative mode.
While the creative tools are designed to be user-friendly, it still takes a lot of time and experience with the game to be able to create something which looks professional.
To solve this problem, agencies are popping up which specialise in building Fortnite maps. While O2 did collaborate directly with Epic Games on its island, the actual work of building the O2 arena was left to PWR Create, a company which develops Fortnite Creative experiences.
ITV meanwhile worked with 3D LAB, a small team of creators which emerged out of Fortnite’s community. And ITV said it is building up a network of creators on various gaming platforms as it looks to future metaverse activations.
The other downside is that Fortnite Creative maps don’t receive the same kind of prominence that full brand partnerships get. While official branded items and characters are heavily advertised, or sometimes automatically given, to Fortnite players, Creative maps get no such boost.
But brands can turn to other means to promote their maps instead. Carrefour for example turned to influencer marketing to promote its map, working with French Twitch streamer Teeqzy, who live streamed himself playing Carrefour’s Healthy Map.