The Twitch directory is a fascinating thing to watch. We are in the middle of an era where everyone wants to view and create live gaming content. Players around the world dream of being the next Tfue, whose legions of fans follow his every move and whose influence is so strong that his day-to-day weapon load out can define a meta.
Twitch Is The New Gaming Barometer
For many gamers, the Twitch directory decides what game they are going to play. Why? They want to be where the action is, they want a chance to get in early and become amazing at a game before the masses. That’s why EA’s brilliant marketing plan for Apex Legends has worked so well.
The game was announced the night before release. There was a time, not long ago, when this would be considered a disastrous strategic move in the world of game publishing. Twitch, however, has changed all of that. It is the behemoth in the room that determines whether a game lives or dies.
EA’s Big Gamble
Behind the scenes of the late-night Apex announcement, EA was working deals with top Twitch influencers. They wanted the new golden goose of game marketing, Twitch playtime. This is not an entirely new concept, it is becoming increasingly common for new games to have sponsored streams – but, these typically last just a few hours before the streamer retreats to whatever game they were previously playing. Streamers have to please their fanbases, who often demand that they get back to the status quo.
What EA did differently is what will define future multiplayer game releases. EA brokered deals for an entire week of playtime and by all reasonable observations they spent a lot doing it. How do we know they spent a lot? Because for a streamer, devoting a week to an unknown game is a risky financial endeavor. Fortnite players want to watch Fortnite, and if their favorite streamer is devoting a whole week to Apex Legends a lot of them will find a different Fortnite streamer to watch. The longer the influencer goes without playing their favorite game, the more subscribers will jump ship. Whatever amount the streamers were paid by EA, it was enough to offset that risk.
The Lingering Aftermath
After the paid week of Apex Legends playtime ended, the damage to the Fortnite ecosystem was deeper than any previous challenger could inflict. Apex Legends was still dominating Twitch. Chants of “Fortnite is dead” were a common sight in Twitch chats, and Fortnite’s large Twitter community had already started crafting excuses. The most notable one was that the Secret Skirmish was underway and top players were away playing in it. This argument held some weight, as even the mighty Tfue participated in the tournament and spent several days away from streaming. However, the tournament has now ended and as of press time Apex Legends had an almost 150k viewer lead on Fortnite in the directory. By Twitch standards, 150k viewers is a lot.
Epic Pulls Out The Big Guns
Epic noticed the threat early and rushed to launch a counter attack. They increased the payout for the Support-A-Creator program 4x, launched a ‘Share The Love’ Valentine’s Day themed event that forced players to enter creator codes to unlock a new wrap, caved to the demands of competitive players everywhere and launched a patch (v7.40) that gave them everything they wanted. Update v7.40 was so sweeping that it changed the meta mid-season. The Hand Cannon was nerfed, explosives were nerfed, and Pop-Up Cup settings were implemented into the default playlists. They did everything they could to get the top Twitch spot back, and it didn’t work.
Where are the noobs?
The impact of Apex Legends permeates every Fortnite server. Team Rumble, the deathmatch LTM that features Fortnite’s most casual players, is now a sauna. The Squad, Duos, and Solos playlists have a noticeable absence of unskilled players. It’s clear that a large portion of the casual population is away playing Apex. Epic knows this too, as they relaunched soccer skins (after a 4-month absence) in the item shop recently to cash in on the sweat-ridden player base.
Season 8 Is Fortnite’s Biggest Season Yet
The next two weeks will define the future of Fortnite. Season 8 is coming, and now is Fortnite’s chance to take back the Twitch throne. Epic knows this, and launched the Overtime challenges which allow all players to earn the Season 8 Battle Pass for free. An unprecedented move designed to bring back players at the cost of short-term revenue. Time will tell if this strategy is fruitful.
If Season 8 arrives and Apex Legends is still number one, we know that this will be a long war. No game has tested Fortnite’s long-term dominance before, and it will be fascinating to see how Epic reacts. Ultimately, the competition from Apex will make Fortnite better than it’s ever been – but for now we want our noobs back. OK?
Stay tuned to Fortnite Bunker as we march towards the monumental Season 8 release.