Marketing video games in today's society is much different than most other products. Traditional advertising might work well for a film or a fast food chain, but old methods just don't seem to grab gamers' attention. So, many developers (and their publishers) have embraced the power of viral marketing.
Epic Games, the developers of insanely popular Fortnite, have set up an elaborate Alternate Reality Game (ARG) in which fans can find subtle clues in the real world and slowly unveil what's in store for players of the game. This tactic is nothing new for the gaming community, but given how silly Fortnite is, fans can now look forward to finding some true wackiness out in the wild.
New objects from seemingly all over the timeline are appearing in place of missing items.
Previous seasons have played on medieval, space, and superhero themes (for seasons two, three, and four respectively). Each of those seasons coincided with a special in-game offer, giving more cosmetic options to dedicated players. So, naturally, fans have been speculating about what's to come when Fortnite's fourth season comes to a close — and hints are beginning to surface.
The first clue came a few days ago when an in-game space shuttle launched. To watch the event, players (mostly) stopped fighting to sit and watch. Since then, in-game models have been disappearing and giant rifts have been forming in the skies above the map. But now it seems the oddities aren't limited to strictly in-game events.
The real strangeness began when a giant Durr Burger, the icon of an in-game burger chain, was randomly found a few days ago outside of Palmdale, California. The burger was found by a photographer who had little understanding of the game — he just thought it was a weird burger placed next to an abandoned, retro police car (similar to the ones in the game). Next to the burger was a sign that reads, "this site is unstable. Beware of possible effects."
Not too far from there is a camo-patterned, netted tent and another sign that reads, "if you can read this, you're in range of the anomaly."
When gamers went out to the California desert to investigate, they were greeted by a man who gave them a card with "Agent #3678" on one side and a phone number on the other. If you call the number, you'll just hear a bunch of strange noises that sound like the in-game effect of someone being sucked into a rift.
Coincidentally, that number is (712) 380-4091. The area code is the day season 5 begins (July 12) and the rest can be turned upside-down to roughly read "I Go Home."
My biggest question is: Has anyone tried breaking it open yet? If not, why?
(Image by Reddit user /u/cerisedeguerre)
Meanwhile, European fans of the game have been finding llama pinatas in major cities. The first one was found just hanging out in a phone booth in London. A few hours later, another was found in Cologne, Germany and a third in Barcelona, Spain. Fans speculated that the next would appear in Paris, France (the llamas were facing in that direction), but then they found another in Warsaw and Cannes.
Gamers make for incredible sleuths. A dedicated few decoded the weird sounds heard when calling the mysterious telephone number with a spectogram (a program that turns audio messages into visual codes) to get an image. Sure enough, the weird sounds have been changing with each found llama — the image created from the sounds are coordinates.
Most of the llamas have been found by pure luck, but it seems they needed the coordinates to discover the llama in Paris.
By piecing clues together (and with the help of some hackers who prefer a more direct route instead of playing games) to find out what happens next, it's looking like the fifth season of Fortnite will be filled with time-travel-related stuff. Fans of the game can look forward to an entire history's worth of cosmetic gear and in-game tomfoolery, ranging from vikings and pirates to cowboys, ninjas, and dinosaurs.