February 15, 2019

What’s the most popular game in the world? I’ll wait…

What if I told you it wasn’t Fortnite. I know that sounds hard to believe. Fortnite brought in $1.2 billion dollars in its first year and boasts more than 200 million players.

But just because the Epic title has received a lot of mainstream attention for reaching new levels of popularity, that doesn’t mean it’s popular everywhere.

Each year, Tumblr posts a year in review, analyzing tens of thousands of lines of data, including searches, original posts, reblogs, and likes to rank fandom on the platform. While the microblogging social network isn’t the most popular in terms of users (which was projected to grow to 26.9 million last year), it is an active community with roughly 550,000 million unique visitors per month, 457.8 million blogs, and 168.8 billion posts.

In their 2018 analysis of videogames on Tumblr, they found that Overwatch, the multiplayer title with rich characters and an esports league that starts its second season this week, was the most popular title on Tumblr. Where did Fortnite land on the list of 30 titles?

Dead last. 

How can this be? I thought Fortnite was the biggest ever! The main difference between the two games’ popularities is the communities they speak to. On Tumblr, fans want a way to dive deeper into the characters and the world of their favorite games and explore their universe beyond just playing the game, namely user-generated content, such as video clipscomic strips, and fan art. Fandom runs on Tumblr.

Tumblr is perfect for Blizzard who’s created a rich backstory for Overwatch, complete with animated shorts, comics, and character bios. Fortnite’s episodic structure, where different big group events happen every couple months, are great for drawing attention, but they don’t invite players into conversation with each other the way that the narrative universe of Overwatch does.

Well, what about Twitter? Fortnite did not top the list of most-Tweeted about games last year either. It comes in at second place, following Fate/Grand Order, a free-to-play mobile game in which players command characters to battle their enemies.

You may not have heard of this game, but Fate/Grand Order’s obsessive fandom and character love behind it has spawned fan art, toy figurine collections, and cosplay that Twitter users enthusiastically share on the platform. In fact, one man spent $70,000 on in-game purchases and has no regrets. “When we played the first chapter, many of us were moved to tears. The story zooms into each character. It makes you feel something for them. You want what you love, right?” he told The Wall Street Journal.

So why the disconnect between what you might read in the NYT or see on CNN? Well, first, though, videogames are a multi-billion dollar industry, mainstream media doesn’t regularly cover it. From TIME to WSJ, many 2018 year-in-review lists in culture did not mention Fortnite which is insane (thank goodness, The Ringer did). An aside: If Fortnite doesn’t make your culture list, then you need to rethink what culture actually is.

When mainstream media does cover gaming in a positive way, it gravitates towards what’s noisy. If you only wrote about one movie a year, you might only write about Black Panther or Avengers, and miss out on other culturally or commercially big, but not quite as big titles like A Quiet Place or Crazy Rich Asians.

What does this mean for you? While Fortnite has conquered all screens, from smartphones to PCs, it isn’t necessarily the only game or story related to gaming that’s worth media attention. The world of games is much, much bigger than you might realize. Look for opportunities to engage the ecosystem differently on different platforms or find other titles that are quietly larger than they seem at first glance.

Like what you see? If you’d like to receive our newsletter, subscribe here.