In case you missed it, Fortnite recently pulled off one of the most cleverly organised publicity stunts the gaming industry has ever seen. Not only was it kept (mostly) secret, it was also well organised and captivating. ‘The End’ came at a fortunate time where Fortnite had the opportunity to steal the limelight from a LOT of its competitors and solidify their position as the world’s most popular game.
What was ‘The End’ all about?
In every game, at the same time, across the entire world, the rockets at the centre of the map launched into the sky and smashed through the barrier above. Players witnessed every rocket from every game smashing through the barrier until it collapsed, causing the meteor above their heads to plummet to the ground. The entire map exploded and sucked everyone into the black hole created by the impact, and the game… just ended.
Everything: social media, twitch broadcasts, the entire game itself, was engulfed by the black hole. The players who were told an ‘end event’ would take place to close out the season were blown away, no pun intended, by what happened.
A bold move
Fortnite was completely unplayable on every platform – an incredibly bold move for the most popular game in the world. But how do you keep players engaged with a game without being able to play it?
Twitch broadcasted ‘The End’ live, and the broadcast just kept going for days, showing only an endless empty obsidian space, and nothing more. There was a hidden message found within the broadcast which kept a lot of players speculating, but the total mystery of the event captivated millions of players worldwide and grabbed the attention of millions more who had never even dabbled in the game.
When it returned, the game was reborn; graphically upgraded, new mechanics and features, and with a new map. It was completely unexpected, very little was known, and it went off mostly without any kind of hitch or leak.
It’s worth noting the Pokémon company had actually done something similar a short time before, broadcasting a livestream teasing the announcement of new Pokémon, showing nothing more than a live woodland background for the majority of the 24-hour stream. Eventually, keen viewers were rewarded when a new Pokémon emerged from the bushes. The upcoming titles undoubtedly benefitted from a similar air of mystery that the stream generated, and aided the consumer clamour towards the upcoming release of the new Nintendo titles.
Who needs to learn from this?
Well, everyone basically.
Game companies are far too complacent when it comes to popular game franchises. Sure, some release new games on a yearly basis and those with competitive modes try, often quite lazily, to keep competitive modes fresh (Overwatch, I’m looking at you…). But it’s a bold statement to all players and competitors when the number one game in the world does something so epic to reinvent themselves when they maybe didn’t even need to. So, what are we going to see happen over the next few months because of this reinvention?
Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) and EA’s Apex Legends, are two big-hitters in the battle royale sector. They’ve both taken steps to implement changes to ensure they stay in the game, but there is still room for both to make big steps in terms of story and publicity – so maybe we’ll see them work harder at this after witnessing Fortnite’s ‘end’.
Unfortunately, as things just don’t seem to be going their way recently, it’s Blizzard’s Overwatch which takes a big hit here. Activision Blizzard have just completed the launch of the latest Call of Duty game with a huge marketing campaign, which has largely overshadowed Blizzard’s signature shooter, Overwatch.
The power of the good old-fashioned ‘leak’
Despite the rework of the core gameplay of Overwatch, the player base is bored; there’s little content being released, and this year has been the quietest developers have been regarding their own game. In addition to this, Blizzard were unfortunately caught up in a certain political argument and Blizzcon (their annual convention and announcement platform) is happening at the beginning of November, along with a lot of potentially disenfranchised fans, this weekend.
Overwatch players weren’t allowed to dwell on Fortnite for very long though; a huge series of leaks, regarding suspected Overwatch announcements at Blizzcon, have come to light through material being leaked from an inside source to influencers on Twitter and Twitch.
It feels as though these leaks have been targeted, and purposefully leaked, to those who have the right arsenal to grab people’s attention. Overwatch and gaming-dedicated YouTube channels are ALL talking about the leaked content, with popular gaming news websites also contributing massively to the buzz.
The question remains; why would a company want to leak all their announcements ahead of the release event? Well, perhaps it wasn’t originally intended, but it became apparent they had to do something to control the negativity surrounding the franchise. By giving the players something to be excited about, they’ll be tuning into Blizzcon for the exact reasons the company wants – to find out what’s next for their favourite game. If so, well played, as it’s worked in turning many people’s attention away from Fortnite entirely. We can only hope that the announcements live up to players’ hopes for the game’s future.