Traditionally, video games and the companies that produce them utilized public relations to promote their product and influence public opinion of the games. Now, video games are being used directly as PR tools.
While there are many video games used for PR, the two most prominent are Epic Games’ Fortnite: Battle Royale and Innersloth’s Among Us. Both games have been utilized as PR tools for multiple reasons, the main one being their accessibility. If you have internet and a mobile device or console, you can hop on Fortnite or Among Us. The games are free to play, which has been beneficial for PR and made the games very popular very quickly.
Fortnite: Battle Royale is a battle royale style game, meaning 100 players drop into the playable area, called the Island, and only one player or one team emerges victorious. Players must search locations and buildings for weapons, aid, and equipment to get an edge on other players, while also harvesting materials to build their structures and defenses. On the other hand, Among Us is a social-deduction type game, where up to 10 players are crew members on a spaceship, but one or two players are imposters. The crewmembers must complete tasks around the ship, while the imposter must try and eliminate the other players without being caught. Crewmembers can call emergency meetings when a body is discovered, and players will then vote on who to vote off the ship. The game ends when the imposter eliminates all crewmembers or when crewmembers successfully vote the imposter off of the spaceship.
How are these games being used for PR? Well, there are many ways the games have been utilized for public relations practices. For example, Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, utilized a Twitch stream of herself playing Among Us as a part of a campaign to encourage people to vote in the 2020 election and raise money for charity. The stream had 439,000 views at its peak and raised over $200,000 for causes such as eviction defense, food pantries, and other issues plaguing inner-city low-income families. Not only was the stream beneficial for the charity, but it also helped streaming service Twitch, boosting their viewership, and getting the name out to those who know Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, but not Twitch or Among Us. The popular social deduction game only recently came into popularity. It was released in June of 2018 but came into mainstream popularity in Fall 2020. It is likely that Among Us will continue to be used by politicians and big-name celebrities for PR purposes, as long as the game stays in the limelight.
Transitioning to Fortnite, the Battle-Royale competitive shooter was released on September 17, 2017 and came into popularity shortly after. It is difficult for a game to keep its player base for more than a year or two, but Fortnite has been able to do it through collaborations and crossovers with celebrities, franchises, and other games. For example, Fortnite hosted its first Live Concert, “Showtime,” on February 2, 2019. Music producer and DJ Marshmello performed live over the internet in Fortnite’s Pleasant Park. Then, on December 14, 2019, Fortnite hosted a Star Wars collaboration. The Risky Reels screen showed a scene from the upcoming Rise of Skywalker, and director J.J. Abrams interacted with players in real-time. Finally, on April 23, 2020, Fortnite hosted Travis Scott’s Astronomical Concert, where players could watch a gigantic in-game Travis Scott perform his top hits from the safety of viewers’ homes. The event had 12.3 million concurrent viewers and reportedly earned Scott roughly $20 million.
Fortnite also does regular collaborations with popular Twitch streamers, such as the American Tyler “Ninja” Blevins and Spanish streamer “TheGrefg,” who both have in-game characters or “skins,” which can be purchased by players for use in the game. Big-name franchises like Star Wars and Marvel have also had crossovers. These crossovers included limited-time game modes, whole themes for seasons, and skins for players to enjoy.
So how were these games utilized for PR? Well, as mentioned before, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez used Among Us to reach young people to encourage them to vote and donate to causes she supports. The relationship was mutual for her, Twitch, and Among Us. Twitch reached potential new consumers, and Among Us reached potential new players. In addition, both games benefited greatly from the pandemic. The games served as not just a PR tool, but as a means for entertainment when many were self-isolating at home over the summer. As for Fortnite, Travis Scott, Marshmello, and the other live concert events potentially reached a new demographic of fans in gamers and the icons’ fans being exposed more to Fortnite.
Furthermore, the crossovers, whether it be Halo, Star Wars, Marvel, The Walking Dead, or God of War, to name a few, have also achieved the same goal. The fans of each have now been introduced to the other in a way they had never been before. All parties involved receive positive publicity, and in turn, their sales and use increased.
Beyond the shadow of a doubt, other companies, brands, celebrities, and franchises have noticed the success of using video games for PR tools. Hopefully, more will continue to utilize this new and unique platform to conduct their public relations activities.