Fortnite is revered and reviled for what it’s done for the industry over the past eight or so months. Its dissenters point to it inspiring a wave of less than inspired competitors, but its defenders hail it for making itself entirely free as well as having the most intriguing mechanics of all its peers, as well as just generally working (most of the time).
Its success has inspired more than just fellow battle royale games, however. Fortnite’s Battle Pass has been lauded as a good approach to monetising a free game with players unlocking access to new skins that don’t affect gameplay. Of course, it didn’t take long until paid games followed suit and decided they wanted some of that recurrent spending.
While it may fall short of being a monthly investment, Fortnite’s Battle Passes are effectively just another subscription in a sea of them. Is that the worst thing in the world, however?
Every ten weeks since the launch of the game — at least, the mode that made its name — Fortnite rolls out a new season with a new theme. The most recent season, season 5, has had a (fairly underwhelming) theme of “Worlds Collide”, which effectively entails items and characters from our reality making their way into Fortnite’s.
Those who purchase the Battle Pass are given access to 100 tiers of different unlocks with a handsome amount being filler items, like sprays and badges. In recent times, the first five tiers are unlocked by being a regular player and also contain two new skins: one that is just a standard skin and another that promotes repeated play by “upgrading” the more you play. The final skin also does the same thing, just to ensure the game keeps its hooks in you.
Epic claim that the Battle Pass contains 25,000 V-Bucks worth of items. V-Bucks are the currency of Fortnite and are either given out very irregularly through the Battle Pass or with real spend. However, the savviest of gamers can keep all of the V-Bucks they earn from the Battle Pass from certain tiers and put them towards purchasing the next season.
That’s easier said than done, however. Epic has become the masters of utilising FOMO as a way of building their Fortnite empire. Cosmetic items, some old and some new, are added to the item shop regularly, but once they’re gone and rotated out, there’s no telling when they will return. Some players feel compelled to buy the newest emote or skin, even if buying just a couple of the “rarer” skins will set you back the cost of a brand new game.
They’ve also opened the door for those who don’t want to purchase the Battle Pass to unlock free items, though the inner cynic in me suggests that this is just a way of nudging them towards purchasing the Battle Pass in a “here’s what you could’ve won” kind of incentive. The best selling point for the Battle Pass, however, is the Fortnite culture itself.
Those who do not have any skins are often seen as just not being very good at the game; a strange sentiment considering they offer no gameplay enhancements. “Defaults”, as they are affectionately called, rock the basic skin that all players have. The typical connotation with using these skins is that you are a bad or novice player, though some players have started using them often to trick others into thinking they can’t build their way out of a wet paper bag.
It’s FOMO in-play again, not wanting to miss out on the skins everyone else has, which is why “subscribing” to the Battle Pass every ten weeks is so alluring to so many players. Not only do players unlock skins as they go, but they also are then further incentivised to keep playing and find enjoyment in the game from completing associated challenges. With season 5, the Battle Pass also changed the mechanics of the game by effectively gating off a large part of the theme: summer sports. Battle Pass owners could use golf clubs and beach balls, free players could not.
Of course, Fortnite is a free game and its approach to monetisation is relatively laudable compared to its peers, even if the prices of skins verge on scalping. However, when you download Fortnite for the first time, you may not be asked to play, but you’re certainly buying into a culture and one that involves a subscription service by any other name. FOMO are a powerful thing and something that Epic Games have mastered the art of.
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