Unless you’ve been living off the grid or haven’t been in contact with kids recently, you probably know about the shooter-survival video game Fortnite, and its free edition Fortnite Battle Royale.

For the uninitiated, though, I’ll paraphrase the description on its website: Fortnite Battle Royale is the free Fortnite edition that features one giant map, a battle bus and destructible environments combined with intense player vs. player combat. Up to 100 players can join; the last person standing wins.

Fortnite Battle Royale was released in 2017 by Epic Games, the same company that developed the Unreal Engine, which a lot of VR and AR is developed on. It is set to make $2 billion this year. There are paid versions like Fortnite: Save the World, but the one that everyone is talking about is Fortnite Battle Royale, which allows players to pay a small fee for certain game perks. It is available on PC, Mac, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Recently surpassing 125 million players, Fortnite appears, to me, to be the Instagram of video games. Its ubiquity extends to celebrities, too: Drake has gone on Twitch (a platform for live video-game streaming) to play the game with Ninja, a superstar gamer. And during the World Cup, Antoine Griezmann (from France) and Dele Alli (from England) each performed a celebratory Fortnite dance on the field.

There are even more Fortnite videos posted on YouTube than Minecraft videos. My kids can spend hours watching YouTube clips of Preston Playz playing Minecraft, but Fortnite has become the most streamed and watched game on Twitch, which, according to Business Insider, pulls in as many viewers as CNN and MSNBC.

But what does this all mean?

Marketing to Gen Z

The Fortnite craze, in my opinion, is a signal toward a future where esports is a popular spectator sport — Epic Games plans to invest $100 million in upcoming Fortnite esports competitions.

To make this easy to understand, let’s use an analogy that my friend Jennifer Erdman, vice president of brand partnerships at Player 2 Studios (an esports firm focused on branded content), shared with me: Think of gaming as the sport, like football, and then think of esports as the NFL.

So, why should PR pros care about this craze? Fortnite’s explosive popularity is opening the door for brands to find new ways to reach the coveted Generation Z market. For instance, Marvel recently partnered with Fortnite to give some users the opportunity to play as "Avengers: Infinity War" villain Thanos.

Beyond the platform itself, though, the popularity of Fortnite, esports and video games in general also means that the nature of celebrity influencers is changing. Twitch streamers like Ninja may soon be as effective in marketing to young people as movie stars, athletes and singers.

Just don’t interrupt their game to sell them something. 

This article originally appeared in the September 2018 Issue of Strategies & Tactics.