Epic Games’ Fortnite is About to Change Console Sales Forever (and how Microsoft can take the lead)
Brian Cross | Partner

For those not familiar with the video game Fortnite, nor spent a major part of Monday morning waiting for the mobile sign up lottery to post on the Epic Games website, here is a quick primer:

Fortnite is a new genre of Battle Royale multiplayer game made popular by Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds game.  It is a hugely popular and competitive online game pitting as many as 100 players at a time against one another in a single round. They battle to be the last man, woman or team standing as the “storm” slowly decreases the battlefield into tighter and tighter fighting quarters.  There is more – building, the “save the world” mode, skins, battle passes and kids doing fortnite dances constantly. But for now, just know that everyone, everywhere is playing Fortnite.

What you also need to know is that Epic Games is taking signups (though it’s most likely closed at the time of this posting) to get in on the mobile version of the game.  And here’s the real kicker: The mobile version of the game is exactly the same game as the one played on PCs and consoles, with the except of input controls.  It is a great showing for the power of the Unreal engine and the future of mobile games not being stripped down versions of their PC and console counterparts. More importantly, it will allow cross-play meaning that for the first time, Fortnite players can play across platforms.  Xbox and PlayStation still cannot play console to console, and mobile users will be at a distince disadvantage, but that’s not the point.

The point is that cross-play across platforms is hitting the mainstream and will only grow. It’s huge.

Now, Microsoft is open to the concept and currently offers the capability with Rocket League and Minecraft with Nintendo’s Switch console.  But Sony in not incented to cooperate on Fortnite.  The PS4 still outsells the Xbox incarnations.  But that stance has to be short-lived given the popularity of Fortnite.  The popularity of the game and the launch of the cross-play mobile platform may force Sony into the decision if the players grow in number and demands.

But until that day happens, there is a window of opportunity for Microsoft to build on the good will PR efforts of openly wanting to collaborate.  Why not offer free Xbox One units to those that would be willing to switch?

It might sound both crazy and expensive, but just consider that once cross-play is standard in the world’s most popular games like Fortnite, the console you play on becomes totally irrelevant.  As long as I can play with my friends on other consoles, I don’t care which one I’m on.  Exclusive titles – once the main trappings of a system – will fade in importance as everyone will demand the game of the moment.

So now is the time, when console type still matters, to make the leap.  If Microsoft would put out a program to give free or drastically reduced-price Xbox One units to everyone that turns in a PS4, they would gain multitudes of new users immediately onto their platform and then gain the revenue back in Xbox Live payments, game royalties and more.  And this would all occur right before cross-play goes mainstream and no one has incentive to switch platforms or buy multiple platforms.

Now is the time to leverage the massive popularity of the Fortnite Battle Royale, the goodwill built into the willingness to collaborate and make a move to leapfrog Sony at a time where the window to counter that move from Sony would be small to non-existent with cross-play right around the corner and threatening to make console type irrelevant.

Aside from Pokemon Go, the impending release of Fortnite mobile could prove to be one of the most important mobile releases to date and one that could threaten to change the landscape of console sales forever.  If anything, it will be fun to watch.  Will Sony change their stance and cooperate with Microsoft, or will Microsoft make a bold move before the tectonic plates of the industry shift to forever change the landscape?

Ironically enough, whatever happens, it will be in the best interest of the players, and isn’t that Sony’s motto?  “For the players?”

Brian Cross

Brian is a founding partner for Elasticity. Prior to his role at Elasticity, Brian was the global practice group lead for Fleishman-Hillard’s digital communications practice. In his role at Elasticity, Brian is responsible for leading innovation in digital communications impacting online word of mouth, public outreach, social media and eLearning, as well as leading client engagements in Web 2.0/digital marketing and mobile marketing. In addition, as part of the key management of the firm, Brian provides guidance in operations, key team building, and works to introduce new products and services to help Elasticity’s clients maintain a level of continual activity, integration and innovation in their communications programs.

Most recently, he has been at the helm of online community building and social media for the CDC, launched the first text messaging campaign for a mobile platform for the United States Department of the Treasury and has been key to online word of mouth strategies for clients such as AT&T, Yahoo!, Papa John’s, Visa and Monsanto. Brian has more than 12 years of experience leading communication programs for Fortune 500, government, NGO, and NFP organizations, including roles as strategic client advisor, managing partner and director of PR and Marketing. He has created social media and digital conversational marketing global training courses for an international PR firm. Brian is frequently called upon by the media or conference planners to share his extensive experience in digital marketing, public outreach, community organization and public affairs programs.

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