What are collaborations? Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya doing the sand walk in Fortnite, it didn’t happen by chance, overnight. In the history of digital advertising, there have been many stages. From the advertising insert to branded content, including influence, many ways have been invented to reach the public. And the most profitable is collaboration. Why ? Because in a collab, you pay to become a micro-influencer.
A recent example: the Naruto collaboration in Fortnite. Lots of people spent 10 euros to have the right to hover on Kyubi’s back, and to brag about it to their friends, their communities on social networks, and then also to the players on each of the games where they use it. So they technically paid to convey a commercial message around Naruto. Concretely, collaborations are two brands that come together to increase their notoriety. Make brand A known to the public of brand B, and brand B to the public of brand A.
From now on, there is something for all tastes and styles: cinema, music, series, real brands, manga, other video games. Fortnite has food and drink. So a lot of non-Fortnite non-gamers take a very dim view when something they love happens in Fortnite. Like the Xenomorph who sings or Jinx from League of Legends who dances Gangnam Style. It drives the non-players crazy, they feel tainted. In truth, collabs are extremely profitable, both for Fortnite, of course, but also for the brand associated with it.
As we often say in marketing, collaborations are “win-win”, “win-win”. It is not for nothing that Fortnite espouses this model, because the Chinese giant Tencent owns 40% of the publisher of the game. If you ignore it, know it: in business in China, when you trade with foreigners , we often favor the win-win philosophy, even if in reality, we put a little more in our pockets than the other. Collaborations have been around for years in the Asian market and Fortnite is globally the first Western juggernaut to integrate this philosophy directly into its commercial DNA.
So, what is the brand winning with Fortnite? Let’s put aside the commercial deal itself, the amounts and terms of which remain unknown. An interesting question would be who pays? Is it the brand that pays to be in Fortnite, the other way around, or a bit of both? This we are not sure we will ever know. In any case, what we can say is that the brand that signs with Fortnite thus recovers the promotion among the public, especially among the youngest. This allows him to test his potential, to see if the brand is has been or ready to come back in force. In the end, that makes a micro market study. This shows if players are receptive to the concept of Ghostbusters, if they like the characters, and especially which are the most popular, when they were not even born when the first Ghostbusters movies were popular. Maybe they haven’t even seen them yet, or rather not seen them yet! Because that can change after they play with the skins. We often focus on the impact on the youngest, but it also works on adults. Someone who never listens to K / Pop might get going by listening to the music of a certain emote featuring the band Dynamite composition of the group BTS.
For Fortnite on the other hand, the collab is the jackpot! This activates many very fruitful levers. For example, we can cite the micro-transaction, which we will carry out to buy something from a collaboration. Well that, we must not forget that the console makers take a little money each time, suddenly, it fills the pockets of the console console PlayStation Xbox and Switch. It is therefore totally in their interest to put the game well forward and to praise its merits, as it is efficient and profitable in their eyes. Here again, it’s a win-win situation. Same pattern for the notoriety of the game: with each collaboration, the machine is reactivated. First of all, there are the leaks and rumors, analyzed and relayed in all the press and on social networks. During the release, this reactivates lots of streamers and players curious to see the collaboration: they will also pay to participate and become technically micro-influencers of the partnership. Finally, on social networks, there are those who proudly display their purchases, and those who criticize the collab ‘in its realization or its approach. However, each time, it still reinforces the notoriety of the game. As we say in English: “There is no such thing as bad publicity”: “Whether we are talking about you, for good or bad, the important thing for a brand is that we are talking about you”.
But beware, it is not magic either. You have to present, highlight and cleverly integrate this famous collaboration. On this, Epic Games has more than one string to its bow. Take for example the collab ‘Naruto: they had put forward a game mode created by the community where you could explore the village of Konoha and learn how to become a real Ninja. Suddenly, this makes the public aware of the universe that we will then try to sell them with packs at 15 euros. Some can easily spend a hundred dollars a month if they’re not careful. We must admit that sometimes it is well put forward, such as partnerships for virtual concerts or those of Ariana Grande and Travis Scott. If we made them, we want to keep a little memory in the style of a dance or a skin. It’s like buying a t-shirt at the end of a concert in the real world.
Other means of promotion exist, less expensive and more accessible, such as the integration of collaborations into the combat pass. Superman, Rick from Rick & Morty or Carnage were all three recoverable in the game’s battlepass, without having to pay large sums to have them individually. They therefore generate less direct income, but will be used much more by players, due to their wider distribution. This ensures more notoriety in the long term. But the real nugget, apart from the special events that take tons of hours of work, is the creation of a suitable game mode. This makes it possible to effectively highlight the collaboration and to offer a kind of game in the game. To talk to you about that, we will come back to the very first collaboration in the history of Fortnite. The latter was signed with Marvel.
We found traces of 102 partnerships, which makes us more than one deal every 2 weeks. It’s not nothing. The first to date remains one of the most impressive: the Marvel partnership for the release of Avengers Infinity War. In the movie, Thanos defeats everyone with his Infinity Gauntlet and the Avengers all try to take it away from him.
Well, in Fortnite, Epic Games implemented a similar game mode: players who collect the glove become very powerful, and are then the target of all other players. The person who collected the glove becomes Thanos until they either kill everyone or end up getting shot down, then leaving the glove on the ground before another retrieves it. It was funny, interesting to play, innovative, well anyway, it’s the perfect example of successful collaboration. Unfortunately since then, Epic Games has been racking its brains a little less. Usually, it’s a presence in the store, with nothing else. But what could change that?
We know it, Epic Games wants to make Fortnite a Metaverse and in this sense, widening the possibilities of the title in terms of creativity seems inevitable. Creative mode may be good, but it’s nowhere near as polished as Epic would like. Facing giants like PlayStation, Roblox, Core, Xbox, and Meta, the studio must prove that it is still the best place to secure enticing business deals and boost brand awareness. With the end of Chapter 2 fast approaching, Epic can allow itself some big changes. We think in particular of the passage of the game under Unreal Engine 5, which would allow better integrations and an even more impressive technical and visual result. Some dataminers have also spotted the addition of modding tools for the community, to offer new gameplay and new possibilities. We can’t help but think back to the Naruto collab, with the Ninja card made by the community. If Epic goes in this direction, it is possible that soon, in addition to paying to wear promotional skins, we will have the click of the purchase by walking on a map or a dedicated game mode made by the community. And that is well done on the part of Epic Games and Fortnite.