Nite watch: The licensing power of Fortnite

How Epic Games’ brand won the hearts of consumers, licensees and retailers.

A quick Google of ‘Fortnite’ brings up around 385,000,000 results – among the links, tips, conversation pieces and YouTube videos, are articles from the likes of The Guardian, The New Yorker and Forbes on how Fortnite conquered the world.

The online video game – first released in 2017 and developed by Epic Games – has certainly captured the attention of the licensing community, too. And, having appeared in a raft of most wanted lists in the lead up to Christmas, this should be no surprise.

Seen by some as the natural successor for the original Minecraft generation who have now grown up, Fortnite is also responsible for the flossing dance craze – something which all generations could join in with and share on social media.

And consumer demand shows no sign of slowing, with retailers reporting high requests for more and more product.

Growth is also something of which Fortnite’s licensees are confident. The licensing programme is being handled by IMG and partners on board include Jazwares, Funko, Fashion UK & Global Licensing, Character World, Moose Toys, Rubie’s and Hasbro.

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Jazwares’ vp of global licensing, Sam Ferguson, says that the chance to bring a property like Fortnite to life was “an opportunity we couldn’t miss”.

He says: “The range is on fire. It has been incredibly well received by retailers and consumers. From outfits to loot featuring game-replica weapons, pickaxes and more there is so much to collect – and it’s all on a rarity scale so there’s even legendary stuff to chase.”

The company’s autumn 2018 line features true to game 4” action figures, Domez, loot chests, building sets and environments, game-replica weapons and tools, plush and piñatas. Further new launches are being planned, although Sam explains that it’s under wraps for now.

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Staying with the toys and games category, Hasbro’s senior marketing director, Craig Wilkins, says that Fortnite has quickly become a “cultural phenomenon”. He says: “We’ve seen really positive feedback from retailers and consumers so far, with the Monopoly: Fortnite Edition game being selected as one of the top toys for Christmas across many gift guides, and we’re really excited to see the NERF Fortnite line launch in 2019.”

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Meanwhile, Worlds Apart and Moose Toys launched Fortnite collectables with Smyths Toys in time for Christmas. The range included 20 poseable 5cm figures in the first wave featuring fan favourites such as Skull Trooper, Omega and Cuddle Team Leader.

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The success of Fortnite continues into other categories, with Jayne Wadsworth, commercial manager at Global Licensing, saying the company has shipped over 2.2 million units across t-shirts, sweatshirts, beanies, pyjamas and boxer briefs to date (at time of writing). A capsule collection will also be launching in key retailers throughout 2019.

Jayne says: “With the rise of the gaming genre in licensed consumer products, Fortnite is the biggest talked about game on the market. Sales [of our lines] have been amazing; it has been difficult to keep product in stock.”

Jayne believes that the fact Epic Games is continually refreshing content – ensuring there is always something new for players to explore – is a big factor in Fortnite’s popularity and its continued growth. Something which Tania Hrycko, licensing manager EMEA at Rubie’s, agrees with: “The release on multiple platforms has certainly boosted the broad appeal of the game, however I think that it is the continued work that the Epic team has done in evolving the game, keeping it very relevant, as well as marketing it to players which ensures that fans remain engaged and keep coming back for more.”

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Tania explains that Rubie’s focused its efforts on three main characters – Skull Trooper, Black Knight and Brite Bomber – for its initial launch for Halloween last year, with a range of full costumes and costume tops in a variety of sizes.

“In the same way that players use visual customisation to express themselves in the game, dress-up lends itself perfectly as an extension of the brand,” Tania says. “Bringing this online world into reality and enabling fans to become their desired character – there is something very magical about this and creating emotive appeal is what we are all about at Rubie’s. The extensive library of characters also means that the opportunities are endless.”

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Character World’s brand director, Tim Kilby, believes that Fortnite has the potential to become an evergreen game franchise. “It’s such a social game and Epic Games is updating the game every two to three months with a new season where the entire map changes, plus there’s always new downloadable content,” he says. Bedding and cushions were the key launch products for the licensee – hitting the UK and some European countries in December – while towels and blankets among other lines are due to launch in 2019.

Back to Jazwares’ Sam for the final word: “Jazwares is convinced that Fortnite will continue to grow. Epic Games has some mind-blowing plans ahead and millions of enthusiastic players, so I’m confident in the long-term popularity of the game. It is a new icon in entertainment, not just gaming.”

This feature originally appeared in the spring 2019 edition of Licensing Source Book. To read the full publication, click on this link.

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