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When most people think of top Facebook competitors, they typically think of social media platforms like Twitter, Snapchat or LinkedIn. So is it really possible that Fortnite, with more than 200 million registered players around the world, should also be included in any conversation about the next great social media site?
Why Fortnite has emerged as a Facebook competitor
In terms of sheer size, of course, Fortnite is still an order of magnitude smaller than Facebook. 200 million users might be impressive, but it still pales in comparison to the 2 billion global users that Facebook currently has. However, while Facebook has struggled to win over the young, millennial market, Fortnite has not. In fact, a strong case could be made that almost all of Fortnite’s heaviest users are under the age of 30, which would place them squarely in the millennial camp.
Most social media analysts would agree with the notion that a social media platform first needs to capture the attention of the all-important 18-to-34 demographic before it can really go mainstream. That’s the reason why Snapchat was once the bright, shiny toy of social media analysts – it was more popular with teenagers than with older social media users, and seemed so unlike the traditional social media experience, filled with photos (“snaps”) that disappeared once they were viewed. Didn’t that break all the rules of what a social media platform should be?
Changing behaviors on social media
Being able to track the changing norms on social media is a huge key to understanding why Fortnite has taken off. People don’t necessarily want to share all of the intimate details of their lives anymore – what they are looking for is plenty of shared experiences. And that’s exactly what Fortnite provides – a way for friends to hang out together online and have a shared experience. That’s still “social,” even if it is a different kind of “social” than Facebook provides.
Until recently, Fortnite was easy to dismiss as a video game where people tried to shoot each other. But Fortnite seems to be getting into new kinds of social and competitive events that do not require people to shoot at each other. Case in point: a recent 10-minute concert by EDM star Marshmello attracted more than 10 million Fortnite players. This was the game’s first live experience, and the reaction on social media was uniformly positive, with many people saying it was their first-ever live concert experience.
Could Facebook take out Fortnite?
For any social media platform to overtake Facebook, of course, it will have to deal with attempts by Facebook to co-opt it or perhaps even buy it outright. That’s how Facebook has dealt with challenges in the past, most notably in the cases of Instagram and WhatsApp. Any time Facebook sees a threat on the horizon, it takes immediate steps to eliminate it. So, in the case of Fortnite, it could be the case that Facebook uses its Oculus VR assets to create rival types of gaming experiences that will keep fans on Facebook. Or, more easily, Mark Zuckerberg could simply convince more stars and celebrities like Marshmello to do live streams on Facebook.
Keep an eye on Fortnite
One thing is certain: it’s important to keep a careful eye on Fortnite. The platform has now become so large and so influential that a lot of people that you might not expect are now mentioning Fortnite as a potential competitor. For example, Netflix has said that it is more afraid of Fortnite than many of its more traditional streaming rivals. So it could be the case that, if Fortnite does not end up disrupting Facebook, it will end up disrupting another adjacent industry such as video streaming.