Brushing Up On The Floss

Image: Epic Games

Image: Epic Games

Last weekend found me on the edge of a football pitch, wrapped up warm, the nerves slightly on edge. It was the second round of the Cup competition for my son’s football team. The pressure was on. The kids were excited. The whistle was about to blow. And there’s my son standing on the left wing…doing the Floss!

Disclaimer: I can’t do the Floss. Don’t ask me to try.

Look around any playground and there will be loads of kids flossing. Listen into any playground conversation (or eavesdrop into any family dinner conversation around the country) and there will most likely be discussion about Fortnite – the free-to-play Battle Royale game.

It’s the latest computer game craze and the popularity of the game has grown massively in just a few months. If you want to find out more here is an interesting BBC Radio 5 Live feature on Fortnite.

What interests me most about the game is how it has created such a following and what goes into making it so popular. And what might we learn about communications and engagement from the experience.

1)    You can make it personal – you can create your own character in the game (for a fee – which is where the company makes it money from). From dinosaur heads, to disco spacemen, to medieval knights with the latest headphones on – you can be who you want to be in the game.

2)    It’s funny and quirky – you can purchase little dances for your character to do. Before the game loads you spend a couple of minutes in a holding pen (waiting for other users to join before the game commences). Here everyone is running up to each other and showing off their dance moves and trying to impress the other users.

3)    You can play with your friends. You can team up in groups of 2 or 4 and play the game with your friends – talking with them over headsets and enjoying the experience together.

4)    You can watch other people playing it – Fortnite is one of the most watched games on YouTube and Twitch with millions of views every week. There are popular influencers like Ali A who advocate the game and command a huge, loyal following.

5)    There is a steady flow of new content to retain interest in the game. The challenge with anything like this is that users will get bored and find another game to play. Fortnite seems to have judged the release of new content just right to give players enough to get excited about but not too much that they run out of new ideas. New ‘limited edition’ game modes or weapons or moves keep it feeling fresh even if the basic game play never changes.

While there are some general lessons here for PR and Communications around engaging with influencers, fresh content and customisation of messages or platforms, the biggest lesson I can see from the Fortnite phenomenon is around the importance of engaging their gaming community.

Listening and responding to the community who play a computer game is key. It makes or breaks a game. A company that is seen to listen and acts to improve the user experience creates a positive momentum that is then spread across social media. It means you can make a few slip ups or when something goes wrong (like a server issue) you are given the benefit of the doubt. And when you add or introduce a new product or feature it rapidly infiltrates the community and becomes adopted.

Yes, you need a good game. Yes, being able to Floss helps. But more than that – listen to your audience, show that you are acting on what you have heard and the potential is limitless.