The economy of attention is almost dead
But Fortnite may have a cure
The economy of attention is dying, and it is an unpleasant sight; a person can turn his attention to something (here I mean advertising) only a certain amount of time daily, and our community has reached this limit. But at the same time, Fortnite manages to remain a culturally significant game and has even grown since its launch in 2017 - which is unusual. That's because its creator, Epic Games, came up with how to keep people's attention.
“Pay attention” paying attention - can be translated as “attention, generating revenue” / approx. trans.] was an ordinary phrase until it turned into a literal one, until smart people guessed how much money can be made on time. The advertising industry - and therefore all the industries that it supports, such as the media - is based on the idea that if you heard about something and built a positive association with it, then you are more likely to buy this product or experience. And this is not far from the truth: people make decisions for reasons that are not clear even to themselves. It makes sense to monetize the fundamental irrationality of humanity. Economists who have promoted the microeconomic model of rational consumer are in flight. However, the basic assumption on which the whole doctrine is based becomes unstable,
A recent report compiled by Midia, a media and technology research company, highlights this: “Throughout the sector, engagement has declined, suggesting the economy has reached its limit. Consumers did not have free time to spend it on offers of new digital entertainment, which means that they have to prioritize it. ” They write that this trend has existed for some time, and now it can lead to a slowdown in revenue growth - as can be seen from the disappointing quarterly reports of some of the largest gaming publishers. “It probably happened faster than most of the players in the gaming industry had expected,” said Carol Severin, an analyst at the company, “but competition within the attention economy is as intense as ever.”
The problem is that attention does not scale. You can advertise a limited number of hours per day: advertising becomes less effective because it has penetrated everywhere. When was the last time you consumed something that did not try to sell you something or collect your personal data in order to better sell you something?
And then Fortnite comes into play. As the most popular game in the world - or, at least, the most famous one - it represents a tangible part of the attention economy. She is very popular with people under 18 years old, and her microtransactions brought billions of dollars to Epic Games. It is impossible to exaggerate the popularity of this game among young people: it has turned into a part of culture, with its own internal jokes, references and code language. If you communicate with two or more teenagers, the chances that they will perform the dance from this game are astronomically increasing.
However, the main genius of Epic is how it advertises the game to its audience: first of all, Fortnite is a place for hanging out with friends. Therefore, there is nothing strange in the fact that Weezer playstheir unreleased songs on the island inside the game, and no one is surprised when DJ and producer Marshmello plays a concert in a virtual park.
The incredible popularity of the game and its status as a meeting place made its competitors worry in the economy of attention. Last month, Netflix mentioned in its 2018 report that “we are competing with Fortnite (and losing to it) more than with HBO.” As Polygon noted , Netflix considers this game to be the toughest competitor, because for the giant of streaming video, screen time is the most valuable consumer metric. If people play Fortnite, they cannot watch Netflix.
This means that the advertisement (and, apparently, the musicians) arrived. It's easy to imagine how Fortnite is turning into a place where ads are unobtrusive but ubiquitous, as in the most hallucinogenic old cyberpunk movies. The game has already been promoting Disney's Ralph Against the Internet cartoon and introduced the villain Thanos from The Avengers with little to no complaints from users. Perhaps this happened because this collaboration was limited in time, and did not particularly affect the gameplay, unless you wanted it, as in the case of Thanos .
The Fortnite model also allows you to make these changes, otherwise it would become too annoying. Every couple of months, Epic rolls out a big update covering the entire map and game items. Epic calls it the new season, just like on television. And each serves its purpose - to return the players a little more, and to prevent the emergence of new competitors in the market of games in the style of "royal battle". The latest Fortnite update stole at least two of the main features of Apex Legends, EA’s first battle royale game. Apex managed to find as many as 25 million players in just a month, without any promotional release. Now it is the only competitor for Fortnite.
“It’s not that it was somehow better or worse adapted to the attention economy compared to others, but it finds a response in the hearts of generations that have more free time, so it feels so good in attention economy,” says Severin. - I believe that it is more about the cultural shift of generations: Fortnite was one of the first to create a truly successful business model for selling digital items that did not give players any progress in the game. They are just cosmetic. ” He said that twenty years ago, people identified themselves with the clothes they wear and the music they listen to. "Today, the personal image of the consumer is determined by the virtual world to a much greater extent."
The fact that Netflix even recognizes Fortnite as its competitor is important, because it means that companies engaged in digital entertainment are beginning to understand that you can not grow indefinitely, and change their strategies. Netflix will not release the game in the style of "royal battle" (probably). But I am sure that they will continue to experiment with interactive entertainment - as in the last episode of Black Mirror, Brandashmyg .
And although the “Black Mirror” is mostly watched by adults, the fact that the company offers interactive entertainment for young people falling into Fortnite’s demography is no coincidence. Netflix has cooperated with the now closedTelltale Games to create an interactive cartoon in the style of Minecraft: Story Mode. Prior to the company’s closure, there was collaboration on the topic “Very Strange Things,” and Netflix says it’s still “in the process of evaluating the revival options for the universe in the series Strange Things as Interactive Entertainment,” according to Polygon .
The eighth season of Fortnite began a few days ago, and the island changed again. Now there appeared a volcano with lava, guns from which you can shoot by yourself, and a pirate theme. Familiar places were replaced by new ones, for the development of which players will spend many hours. When I logged in there recently, other players acted as if they had just returned by playing another game somewhere else, and were eager to return to their usual pastime.