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Fortnite is already one of the biggest games in the world after months of astronomical growth, but its rate of growth is beginning to slow down, according to the estimations of research firm SuperData. Of course, that’s not to say that the battle royale shooter didn’t do booming business in July.
“Players spent $8.2 billion on digital games in July [worldwide], up 3 percent from the same month last year,” reads SuperData’s report. “Growth came mainly from console once again due to Fortnite and rising full game download rates. Premium PC was the weakest segment this month, down 14 percent year-over-year.”
Fortnite was also the top-grossing game digitally on consoles and No. 5 on PC, according to SuperData.
So what’s the problem? As SuperData points out, Fortnite had a new Battle Pass in July, but its revenues didn’t grow the way they did the last time it launched one of those premium progression passes.
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“Fortnite’s peak may be behind us,” reads SuperData’s report. “Fortnite revenue is up only 2 percent from June. Growth was modest despite developer Epic Games releasing Season 5 of the game’s battle pass midway through the month.”
None of this should suggest that Fortnite is failing. The game made $318 million across all platform in May, according to a SuperData estimate. The research firm uses behavioral data to extrapolate revenue, so it doesn’t know exact figures for a game like Fortnite. But it’s also the only game in town for getting insight into the performance of a privately owned game.
And even if $318 million is off by 10 percent or more, it is still huge. And it looks like it has made around that same amount in June and July as well. The research firm is pointing out that growth from June to July is much smaller than it was from March to April and then April to May.
And it’s possible that Fortnite’s unprecedented growth is behind it, but I doubt it for one major reason: Christmas.
Fortnite is the biggest free-to-play game on consoles ever. It continues to drive sales of gamepads, headsets, currency cards, and likely consoles themselves. No free-to-play game on consoles has ever had such a strong effect across all of these product categories.
And the thing about free-to-play games is that people tend to get into them more when they have a good reason. On mobile, people spend more time and money on games when they get a new device. That has turned Christmas into the biggest day of the year for mobile games, because people open up their new iPhones or tablets and then rush to the App Store to put their shiny new devices through their paces with a dozen games or so.
For years, mobile game developers have taken advantage of the Christmas rush with updates and events timed to that holiday. That has had diminishing returns over the years as more developer crowd the space.
But Fortnite is in a far less crowded market, and it is a cultural sensation with children, which is the audience most likely to open a new console on December 25. All Epic has to do is time a major new Battle Pass and event for that day, and it could wind up having mobile-game-like success on a console.
Consoles don’t have the same general gift appeal as smartphones do, of course. A new Xbox One and PlayStation 4 comes along once every few years at this point. But players don’t have to get a new system for the Christmas Day Effect to happen. A new headset, gamepad, or TV could accomplish the same thing. And a new keyboard or mouse could do the same thing for PC. Epic could even work with partners to put new themed headsets, controllers, bundles, and currency cards in stores to coincide with a holiday event as well.
Because come Christmas Day, people are going to find reasons to boot up their consoles, PCs, and smartphones, and Epic could see a major spike in growth if it gives all of those people an extra reason to boot up its game.
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