A relevant article by Matthew Byrd on Den of Geek in 2020 made a very important point: Fortnite’s compelling playing statistics are not what represents Fortnite’s success anymore. As a matter of fact, players have moved on to other games such as Call of Duty: Warzone, Fall Guys, Genshin Impact and some others. Byrd’s point is that Fortnite is moving on to become some sort of “marketing platform” where brands basically create their happy little island and people can “experience” their brand on it. Fortnite also teams up with Hollywood studios to create sets of skins or items that mimic the blockbusters of the season. 

A few minutes on gaming on Fortnite might immediately provide some impression about how efficient these strategies are. At the current time, people are going haywire for Spiderman’s gloves, that allow to cast actual – ehr I mean digital – webs and hang on objects around you. Also Matrix is now on Fortnite: you can wear Neo’s actual priest-like gown. Yet, marketing goes beyond gaming: Fortnite is hosting live-digital concerts, shows, premieres and branded “islands”. 

Fortnite is still trying to rewamp its storytelling aspects for the shootout part, but it is placing more and more focus on the plain Metaverse aspects. It is not the only metaverse platform hosting large-scale branding partnership: among the others, we can mention Roblox’s event with Gucci, or Sandbox hosting brands such as “The Walking Dead” or Binance. 

Yet, the key question is whether this version of metaverse branding is the “future” of digital marketing, and whether it will be able to replace (at least partially) social media marketing. Point is: if we consider all the elements, the answer is “no” – at least for the time being. 

  • The most popular (and commercial-prone) platforms restrict the amount of cooperations with brands. This is due to normal strategies to prevent the dilution of the marketing tool, but still this is different than simply setting up an Instagram profile for your new vitamins brand. You simply cannot open an island on Fortnite and brand it with your vitamins. 
  • Setting up a decent island is costly. I mean, say that you want to create an environment that looks and feels good, so that it actually serves something in terms of brand-building. It is not that much different than building an actual store: it is difficult and expensive. Moreover, the lack of a standard exposes your project to risk. Creating an island is something you can theoretically do by yourself, but it is not that much different than creating a website: do-it-yourself is often recognizable because it looks sloppy. 
  • Creating a Metaworld for your brand is a promotional initiative that needs to be promoted. I know this sounds tautological, but it’s all there. Say you create an island that is particularly engaging: you really have to make pressure to people to move their e-backs and hop onto it. Otherwise, they will stick to the other islands. It is a fiercely mutually-exclusive (meta)world: you cannot be in more places at once. 

They key issue is that branded metaworlds are not like an old-fashioned page that people read and then skip to the next one. Metaworlds are social environments and in order to feed them with avatars one needs a real diffusion strategy. You can compare it to a club: you can create the best one in the world, but this won’t work alone: you still need PRs to feed it with people. Otherwise, you risk to have an empty party. 

Case in point: Fortnite is partnering with Brazilian flipflop maker “Hawaiianas” and the brand created a funny flip-flop shaped island. Ten players at a time can join (no worries: there is zillions of islands at the same time) and they can interact in games like shaping into objects and play hide & seek. Guess what? These islands are always empty and you can easily find yourself playing hide & seek alone. It’s not that fun. 

Consequences: 

  • Metaverse marketing is something between social marketing and TV marketing. It can originate form anywhere (or it will, once branded access is made more… popular), but it requires a lot of investment, be it in terms of money, time, or both
  • The real shape of Metaverse marketing will be clear when also smaller brands will have access to platforms that allow for a true, diffused creation of branded metaverse experiences. Similarly to webstes, we could have standard “islands” that can be bought and tailored, and so on. 

Metaverse marketing is still the rich kids’ game. For the time being, social media marketing is still the way to go. Moreover, also in the future Metaverse marketing will not take all the shares because of the true technical nature of the experience: it is an all-involving media technology that requires full time and concentration commitment by the viewer. 

The alternative will be that of creating some form of digital advertising in metaworlds – and this will happen, not differently than street-advertising. Wheter it will be more effective than street-advertising is yet to be proven.