Remember when Fortnite was just a game? It's highly unlikely given its instant success. From 10 million players in its first fortnight (pun unintended) in 2017 to 125 million players in less than a year, Fortnite is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon – and a constant reminder of the power of modern gaming.
Currently, the global player base stands at a staggering 350 million, compared to Call Of Duty – an 18-year-old franchise – which boasts 250 million across all games.
These numbers are huge, especially when compared to year-on-year stats, which highlight not only the scale but the enormous growth of the industry in the last decade.
In part, this can be attested to multiplayer gaming's modern approach of combining a free-to-play base game with cosmetic microtransactions and cross-platform play.
The battle royale format has revolutionized the way people access gaming, offering larger scale and even bigger rewards. Even Call of Duty got in on the action with Warzone.
Fortnite, as a result, has become synonymous with the face of the battle royale genre. Its cross-cultural connections beyond gaming, however, are what continue to elevate the game's cultural relevance.
Third-party entertainment franchises and global musicians were the first to truly capitalize on the power of Fortnite, with in-game crossovers with Marvel, Rick & Morty, and the NFL captivating old and new players alike.
While these were enjoyed as temporary gameplay elements, the pinnacle of cross-media collaboration has been in-game concerts. Headlined by Travis Scott, Marshmello, and Ariana Grande, these events offered a new way to experience music and a new way for artists to connect with a massive section of their fanbase.
For some, this may feel scarily similar to Ernest Cline's Ready Player One. Unfortunately for them, we've barely scratched the surface of what kind of collaborations gaming can offer and the role it'll play in shaping the future of luxury.
The next milestone in Fortnite's collaborative portfolio is this multi-dimensional creative partnership with Balenciaga – somewhat a full-circle moment for the luxury house, which replaced its Fall 2021 runway show with a video game and already dropped a Sony PlayStation collection.
Fortnite x Balenciaga marks the game's first luxury partnership and arrives with both digital and physical elements. Within the game, this is realized through skins and outfits within a virtual store that replicates physical Balenciaga retail spaces.
Akin to the in-game concerts, this recreates a physical experience as an immersive digital experience for a new way to shop. Most of all, this makes arguably the most relevant high-fashion brand of the moment more accessible to a younger demographic.
Fans are already piping up on social media, expressing shock and admiration of "the drip" on Fortnite's reveal post. "how a fortnite skin got better drip than most of y’all," one commenter asked. "Skins about to cost 10,000 V bucks lol."
"A collab nobody ever expected and an actual good one at that," one commenter said on YouTube. "Definitely copped these skins."
Alongside the digital offering, Fortnite x Balenciaga will deliver a limited-edition lineup of physical products spanning apparel and accessories.
These physical elements of the collaboration are available to shop on Balenciaga's website now for some serious outrageous prices.
Despite the sticker shock, though, several pieces — including the $395 caps and some $725 hoodies — are already out of stock. Plenty of T-shirts and layering pieces are also nearing sell-out status in certain sizes.