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Star Wars and Fortnite – a brand partnership that missed the mark?

Star Wars and Fortnite – a brand partnership that missed the mark?

Saturday 14th December saw one of the most hotly anticipated in-game partnerships in gaming history as Fortnite and Star Wars got together for a new in-game collaboration.

Previous events have been incredibly well received – and memorable – whether it be the rocket launch, Cube explosion, volcano eruption, monster fight and the recent (and epic) destruction of the Fortnite map which led to the killing of the game for a couple of days as they launched the new map.

Epic Games have shown that they are able to introduce brands through highly integrated methods that offer benefits to those in the game and are far removed from straight adverts. We’ve seen the Marshmello concert, the Batman Dark Knight crossover and even the NBA has got involved with play-off team skins made available. This event however was the most ambitious yet on both a technical level and the marketing that surrounded it.

You can watch what happened during it and read some of the reactions, so we won’t go deep into the commentary but what transpired was a level of interest that meant people around the world had difficulty logging in so many ended up watching streams on Twitch and YouTube to make sure they didn’t miss it. Then there was the opening sequence involving the Millenium Falcon and TIE Fighters in a dog fight… and it looked stunning.

JJ Abraham had his own skin developed for the event and it was great to hear from the much celebrated director after his dramatic introduction from the belly of the Millenium Falcon. Then there was an ‘exclusive’ clip shown on an impressive big screen within the game – a technical achievement for which Epic should be congratulated.

The clip however was so brief that you got less than what you would get from watching the trailer. The event started late leaving players waiting to get going on the game and taking people away from what they wanted to do – play!

So, did it live up to the hype? Well no, not really.

When you’re looking to activate authentically as a brand, you need to do just that. Placing an oversized advert that forces everyone to stop and watch isn’t going to engage with the community as well as you might hope. For all the technical achievements made in delivering the event on such an epic scale, it was undone by the lack of benefit to those watching.

The talk with JJ didn’t reveal anything and the clip was so brief that it wasn’t worth the wait. It was only when the Millenium Falcon and Star Destroyers departed that fans got what they really wanted – the lightsabers… and the new gameplay mode where they can take on stormtroopers with their new found weapons.

The end result is that the Star Wars franchise could have got so much more from the partnership. In the short term, this could affect them by turning fans away from the Christmas showing of the latest (and last) film. It could however also have long term consequences for the brand if it comes across negatively to such a huge collective of people.

This also affects Epic Games and any future events that may be added into the game. Will players be as hyped for the next event that comes along if they remember the last one in a negative way? This is why partnerships have to be managed carefully and the community has to come first – what is in it for them? How can it add to their experience and rather than take away from it? All questions that need to be addressed from the start to succeed.

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