Netflix vs. Fortnite

The day before the Super Bowl halftime show, the battle royale game hosted its first virtual concert with masked DJ Marshmello performing. During the interactive 10-minute set, players performed their favorite dance emotes, levitated into the air, and bounced beach balls.

To be fair, virtual concerts are over ten years old, but the scale was the difference. On top of live participation, the video of the concert has garnered more than 24 million views on YouTube. Marshmello also got a nice 40 million view bump on YouTube streaming platforms.

With the success of the event, Fortnite has established itself as more than just a game–it’s a platform for other types of programming. Today, music. Tomorrow, who knows?

It’s no wonder then that Netflix recently stated in a 2018 earnings report that Fortnite was its biggest competition in the streaming wars, more than HBO and Hulu. “We compete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO,” the report noted.

According to Netflix, all forms of entertainment are now competing for “consumer screen time,” the streaming company’s most valuable metric. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is time, and in the same way that Coca-Cola is competing with other liquids you put in your body, Netflix is competing with anything that might be pulling you away.

This is a big deal. Previously, videogame success was thought to be in its own separate universe. But as gaming becomes more and more the status quo, it’s taking enough away from other forms of media that the rest of the content world is paying attention.

With the recent release of the choose-your-own-adventure film Bandersnatch, Netflix knows that the longer they can keep you in front of a piece of content, the better off they are. The average viewing time is about 90 minutes, but with 10 possible endings. Ninety minutes of attention isn’t much in the world of games, but it’s a great springboard for Netflix to build stickier experiences.

Netflix isn’t alone in the way it’s eyeing its competition for eyeballs. YouTube also describes watchtime as the most important metric. Ryan Wyatt, the global head of gaming and virtual reality at YouTube, wrote on LinkedIn, “[T]he amount of gaming content watched on YouTube in 2018 equated to the entire amount of total watched content on Netflix in 2017. That is a true grasp on the power of gaming content.”

So what’s the takeaway? Stop thinking of games as just games. If you’re creating something that draws attention, games are eyeing your lunch.

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