The first-ever Fortnite World Cup Finals attracted comparable attention and dollars to traditional sports events

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This past weekend Epic Games hosted the first-ever Fortnite World Cup Finals in NYC, which I attended, and will write up in greater detail later this week. Business Insider Intelligence

Fortnite has taken the world by storm, garnering 250 million players worldwide in under two years, and quickly cementing itself — especially after this tournament — as a top tier game in esports.

In part, Fortnite is so successful because of its highly engaging nature, which includes almost weekly updates and rollouts of new features, requiring a high level of commitment for players to stay on top of their game. Those updates include many in-game purchases, which have allowed Epic to monetize the game: The developer made$1.2 billion off of Fortnite in 2018 alone, making it the first free game to pull in a billion in its first year.

As a result of its massive player and fanbase, Fortnite World Cup attracted attention and dollars on par with traditional sports events:

  • Epic doled out $100 million in prize money over the course of the qualifiers and finals, a move many fans considered a representation of the firm giving back to its fervent community. Of that $100 million, $30 million was awarded to players during the three-day finals, with the top prize sitting at $3 million. For comparison, the prize for the winner of the Tour de France — which also happened this weekend — is$2.56 million.
  • The three-day event pulled almost 20 million streams, and over 16,000 in-person viewers. For comparison, live TV viewership of NFL games across the networks last season averaged15.8 million viewers, up slightly from 15.0 million in 2017 but down from 16.5 million in 2016. It’s also double the number of Fortnite viewers who “attended” a live-streamed, virtual concert helmed by DJ Marshmello which, at10 million concurrent viewers, was the single largest “gathering” Fortnite had managed.

While Fortnite publisher Epic Games didn’t sellsponsorships attached to the event itself, brands capitalized by partnering with leagues or individual gamers.

  • For now, Fortnite seems laser-focused on making its own brand the chief focus.There were just three brand partner tie-ins over the three-day event: Nerf, chicken restaurant chain Fuku, and YouTube. For example, branded games could be played featuring prominent “Fortnite x Nerf” signs, and a creator’s lounge prominently displayed YouTube’s logo across its side. The relative lack of brand density could indicate that Fortnite, similar to Netflix, is more interested in propelling its own brand identity. Epic made sure to heavily reference the future, featuring a sneak peak at the newest version of Fortnite and already referring to next year’s World Cup Finals. I think Fortnite will likely open its events to more direct brand sponsorships once it feels comfortable as an established piece of mainstream culture, and not a fleeting trend or niche interest.
  • But brand opportunities still exist in the form of league and player sponsorships, and that’s where advertisers should focus their energy for future events. Many of the leagues — like FaZe Clan, TSM, and the team behind the solo’s final world champion, Sentinels — sported brand partners, which ranged from global brands like Nissan to endemic brands likeMobile Grips, or “mental performance drink”Respawn, which is aimed at helping gamers stay up and play at peak performance. Sponsorship remains thebest way for brands to tap into the exploding esports space — advertisers should look to align themselves with top leagues and players to grab a piece of next year’s World Cup.

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