'Free' Game Making $300 Million Per Month? But I Thought You Can't Make Money On Free...

from the old-school dept

For most of the first decade of the millennium, we would post over and over again about content business models and how "free" content makes a ton of sense as a component of a business model. And yet, people in the legacy entertainment industry would laugh and laugh, and talk about how "you can't make money on free." You even had folks who claimed that if you gave away anything for free it proved you had "no fucking clue" about how to run a business. My favorite may have been Doug Morris, who was boss of Universal Music and then Sony Music, insisting that there was no way anyone in the recording business could make money on "free."

These days, that's all looking pretty silly, but just to drive home the point: the insanely popular free video game Fortnite made $318 million last month. Not last year. Last month. And it's free. Of course, as we've always said, the whole point of free is not that free is the business model, but that free is a part of the business model. And that's exactly how Fortnight works.

Even better, all of that revenue comes from nonessential in-app purchases. You don't ever need to pay any money to play Fortnite. And, if we went by what the entertainment industry "experts" from years past would tell you, if that's the case no one will ever pay. Except, obviously, they are, to the tune of over $300 million per month. Why? Because, they're still buying an actual scarcity: mainly different skins or dances/moves that let them show off. In other words: fashion. Something to make themselves distinct -- to stand out. That is a scarcity. Even in a digital world.

So, Fortnite is yet another example of how someone is taking a digital property, and leveraging free to attract a massive audience, and then figuring out ways to charge for a scarcity that people actually want to buy. And people are paying like crazy. So, can we put to rest the idea that you can't make money off of free yet?

Filed Under: business models, differentiation, economics, fortnite, free, free to play, scarcity


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  1. identicon
    Darkhog, 28 Jun 2018 @ 6:22am

    Re: Freedom is hard to control

    You don't force anyone to do anything nor you control them, period.

    You can ask, you can request and if you're a good person, then most people will do what is needed. Look at Warframe - perhaps a better example than Fortnite because Warframe was at this for YEARS. There are no competitively advantageous items in Warframe's F2P shop. There are only skins and other non-essential items.

    Moreover, the Warframe devs are pretty much the embodiement of Techdirt's CwF+RtB formula - they listen to the community (not fake listen, like EA, actually listen) and react to the community's requests in a way that makes them happy.

    One time they've actually REMOVED a feature that was making them money. Why? Because fans weren't happy with that.

    Assholes are everywhere and there will be always people who won't want to pay for stuff no matter what. But if you're a decent person, you WILL get paid, given you have a decent product as well.

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