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Millions of children and adolescents around the world play the Fortnite game. What makes this game so popular? Research teacher Mirjam Baars researched it and found out that it’s not just because the game is free.

This article was previously published (in Dutch) on Fontys BRON.

Only recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that gambling addiction is an officially recognized addiction. Baars does think it is a pity, that stigma on gaming. “The percentage of addicts is very low. For children, gaming is often just entertainment, after a long day at school.”

Mirjam Baars
Mirjam Baars

She also sees other, positive aspects of gaming. “I was completely flabbergasted when I heard my 12-year-old son behind his Playstation talking in English with someone on the other side of the world. He told me he played Fortnite and therefore had to work in teams. I decided to start researching why this game is so popular and what kind of business is behind it.”

Reliable resources

Baars teaches Research at the Fontys Business School in Eindhoven. “In my lessons, students learn to find reliable sources for research questions. I used my research into Fortnite in class, as a case study. By the way, they liked that, a teacher who talks positively about games. I heard that they were taking pictures of my slides and sharing them with friends.”

Baars found her own sources the same way she advises her students to find theirs: with Google Scholar, for example, she found interviews with developers of Epic Games, Fortnite’s owner. She watched TEDx videos about the business processes. “Epic Games does not work in a traditional way with separate design and marketing departments, but in project groups. Because the creative, production and sales employees worked closely together, the production time is shortened.”

The fact that the game is free is also an advantage. Although this can also work against a product, if young people start to think that ‘it can’t be anything’. But the appearance and interactivity of Fortnite were apparently so good that this did not happen. Moreover, Fortnite came on the market at a time when competitors were going to ask a lot of money for their games, which caused resentment among the buyers, according to Baars.

Winning dances

And then, of course, there are the dances. Those who have not seen it yet should have a look on Youtube. “At one point I saw my son making a victory dance in the living room, too. As a parent, that makes you happy. The dances have started to lead a life of their own, as evidenced by the schoolyards where children practice on the funny dances.”

Fortnite has a much less grim character than other games, says Baars. “It’s not just a shooting game. You can also collect materials to build a defensive wall, for example. You can also win with this tactic.”

The game Fortnite now brings in more than 10 million dollars a week, recently reported. But where does all that money come from? “You can buy all kinds of extras if you want. Like skins, a kind of virtual alter ego. And if you have 40 million users, that quickly adds up,” says Baars.

The Fortnite dances: