When it comes to integrating major brands into games, it’s hard to find a better example than Fortnite. The team over at Epic are experts at working with well-known IPs, and integrating those brands into the game in exciting ways that attract new players, engages the existing community, and keeps those retention levels up! But what is it exactly that makes them so successful at this, and what are some of the key lessons you can learn and apply to grow your game?
Let’s dive in and find out.
What are IP integrations anyway?
Brand events within games are a unique way to experience original collaborations between some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry. Musical artists, characters from a hit TV show or blockbuster movie: everyone’s getting in on the action. And it’s easy to see why these events are a perfect opportunity to bring together different fan bases and expand the reach of the IPs and the games involved.
Exclusive collaborations like these have proven a hit with gamers. The integration of recognizable brands, actors, or characters not only enhances the overall gaming experience, but also creates a limited-time opportunity where players collect exclusive items that are only available for a short period.
As mobile gaming continues to evolve, the way in which games integrate content has become increasingly important. And there’s no better example of this than Epic Games’ epic game, Fortnite. Over half of their players are between the ages of 18-24, and they’ve figured out how to keep their audience engaged with a variety of integrations that go beyond the typical skins.
So, how does Fortnite do it? Let’s take a closer look:
They know their player base well, and not just what they like but the sheer volume, how vast their reach is, and the key differences between players in various parts of the world. A majority of these players are young, used to digesting media and content quickly and constantly—Fortnite understands this and packages their collaborations to appeal to them.
For instance, the trailer for Fortnite Chapter 4 Season 1 featuring Mr. Beast zipping through outer space created a storm of hype among Mr. Beast’s 100 million+ fans, creating a huge amount of anticipation around the new chapter.
Insight: Think of potential players and strategic IP integrations like a Venn diagram. The large intersection between “gamers” and “Mr. Beast fans” made that collaboration a brilliant move. In order to find the perfect fit for your brand integrations, it’s important to understand your player base and what appeals to them.
Fortnite engages its audience by regularly dropping hints about upcoming content, adding to the anticipation and keeping players curious and coming back. Some events have been announced just a day before launch, following the trend in music over the past two years where artists don’t announce their new songs/albums far in advance, but instead drop a tweet just a day or two before the launch. This feeling of immediacy and excitement is part and parcel of the whole experience.
Going back to our earlier example, that trailer for Chapter 4 featuring Mr. Beast dropped on December 3, 2022, only a day before the start of the new season.
Insight: The volume of content young gamers can consume verges on incomprehensible. That means a week is an eternity. Keep that in mind as you build hype around fresh content releases.
Fortnite’s collaborations span a broad range of genres and brands, ensuring they appeal to as wide an audience as possible. They might team up with key figures in fashion, influencers, anime, film, TV or sports, in addition to collaborations with IPs from the likes of Marvel, Star Wars, and DC. These integrations are so numerous and come at such speed that even if a particular one is not of interest to a player, they’ll still check in again soon because they know there’s always something new on the horizon that they won’t want to miss.
Insight: It’s not possible for a given IP collaboration to resonate with all players. While quality is important, quantity shouldn’t be disregarded. If the goal is to appeal to more players, skins and events may make a bigger splash than a deep storyline integration.
One of Fortnite’s many integration hits was their recent collaboration with Dragon Ball Z. With the overlap between the anime and gaming audiences, putting the two together via an IP integration was a match made in heaven. A study conducted by media distribution service Crunchyroll showed that 90% of anime consumers also play games, and as a result the integration of anime brands in games is becoming more mainstream.
Dragon Ball Z fits in with Fortnite’s demographic perfectly: the mega-successful anime series has both a strong nostalgia factor for people in their 20s to 40s, and, as the franchise is still ongoing with new movies and manga series being released, it continues to attract new fans.
The integration between Fortnite and Dragon Ball Z had two distinct events: the first, launched on August 16, 2022, was tied with the US film release of Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero. You could watch the movie’s trailer in the event, and even discover some new episodes as a part of a chest. The characters skins Goku, Vegeta, Bulma, and Beerus featured as well.
The second event dropped on January 31, 2023, after being announced only the day before. This time, players could acquire skins of the movie’s main characters, Piccolo and Gohan.
The Dragon Ball Z example above is only one example—in November 2022, Fortnite held a collaboration with Naruto, the most popular anime in the US, followed by the August 2022 Dragon Ball Z event outlined above. They followed that up in December with My Hero Academia in December, for a staggering total of three anime integrations alone in the space of just one year.
So, what can we learn from this approach? What’s the secret to successful brand integration? Identify the sweet spot where your game’s audience intersects with fans of a particular IP. Create exclusive, buzz-worthy events that tap into the FOMO of players and offer something new (ideally driven by a deep emotion, like nostalgia). Get creative and strike a balance that benefits both parties, bringing in fresh players to your game and giving the IP a boost—a true win-win. Rinse and repeat.
From a brand perspective, this is an exciting new landscape for game studios and developers, offering an opportunity for not just the big hitters like Fortnite, but established, proven studios of all sizes.
IP holders want to reach players of all ages and engage with them, and despite what you might think, many are open to a variety of collaborations. Some might be looking to reinvigorate their brand or test a new IP across a variety of markets, and that’s an opportunity.
What level does a studio need to be at to consider IP integrations? First of all, you should have a solid and profitable game with active LiveOps that allow for this sort of crossover. There needs to be a natural path to welcome the IP into your game so it can smoothly fit into your game’s roadmap.That ultimately means planning everything far in advance (including deal negotiations), so that you can take full advantage of the integration.
With the rise of mobile gaming, games are now coming from a place of more strength and negotiation power; they can even become their own IPs and license them out once they reach a certain level of success. This can bring exciting new possibilities for both game developers, players, and the IPs, a win-win-win.
For both IP holders and game developers/publishers, IP integration offers a chance to bring new and exciting content to a game, promoting the IP while engaging loyal players and bringing in new ones. It’s simple–but there’s a lot involved: the key to successful IP integration in the gaming world is understanding the needs and wants of both parties involved and then creating an event that stands out—unique, risk-taking, and hopefully gets people talking—resulting in all sides not just recouping their investment but increasing their bottom line overall.
In a recent conversation, the Yodo1 Brands team discussed just this topic, and shared some insights about Fortnite brand integrations, including the big picture landscape of IP in mobile gaming.
Check out the conversation here:
“We can make the process easier and less intimidating for developers. With experience of working with IP holders from anime to Hollywood—and as game publishers ourselves, we know the ins and outs of developing and understand both sides of the coin.”
– Fil Robinson (Yodo1 IP Licensing Manager)
“We are in touch with licensors on a number of deals all the time, so we’re familiar with the people, terms and processes: working with Yodo1 can give a developer access to all those IP holders. Many are open to collaborations, but don’t have the time to go looking for games, and instead respond more reactively to opportunities, so they don’t always find their perfect match. We have a huge network of studios all over the world and we know which IPs they’re interested in and their budget, as well as what kind of games the IPs are looking for, saving you time and effort.”
– Marina Espin (Yodo1 Head of Strategic partnerships)
If you’re curious, but don’t know where to begin, happily, at Yodo1, we have a wealth of experience in positioning and integrating IPs to maximize their impact on a game. We know the ins and outs, and we’re here to help. In just one example, we recently worked with game studio 37Games to organize and set up their popular Puzzles and Survival x The Walking Dead collaboration.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to take your game to the next level—get in touch to learn more about Brands in Games from Yodo1 and what it could mean for you.