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Lessons From the Best in Tech: Epic Games & Fortnite
Aug.30,2022By Boulevard Staff
Epic Games and Fortnite offer a valuable lesson to beauty professionals: Recognizing when something doesn’t work is vital to success.
Beauty industry professionals can always be learning from each other. There are countless brands and individuals forging new pathways and creating new trends. But to inspire monumental change in our industry, it can help to study leaders in other fields. That’s why this series is dedicated to surfacing the tech world’s biggest ideas and business themes that beauty pros can put to good use — everywhere from hair salons to medspas.
Now that we’ve covered Apple, let’s turn our attention to Fortnite, the most popular video game in the world. While Fortnite is an undeniable smash hit today, in 2017, it had a more uncertain future. Thankfully, the designers at Epic Games succeeded because they were willing to experiment, stay flexible, and be honest when something wasn’t working — all lessons the beauty industry can learn from.
The Fortnite that almost was
Epic Games first started working on Fortnite in 2011, but back then it looked a lot different from what your kids (or you!) are playing now. The initial concept was a fusion of several popular gaming trends: building construction, online multiplayer, and fighting massive hordes of zombies. When Fortnite finally launched in 2017, it excelled on a technical level, but the overall reception was mixed. Critics praised its charming art style and robust construction features but felt the core experience left something to be desired. After a month, Fortnite’s early access edition had approximately one million players — a promising start, but far from the blockbuster it had been expected to be.
From uncertain future to overnight success
While Epic Games was launching Fortnite, a new genre took hold in gaming — the battle royale. Inspired by a cult classic film of the same name, battle royale games offer a 100-player, winner-take-all deathmatch where only a single player could survive. Players were abandoning more traditional online games and flocking to this new kind of multiplayer experience.
Epic Games quickly realized that Fortnite could support battle royale play with a few relatively simple modifications. Two months after the game’s initial release, Epic launched Fortnite Battle Royale as a free-to-download game, dropping the zombies while keeping the unique building mechanics. This new game captured the attention of 10 million new players who swarmed into Fortnite’s servers over the next two weeks — a literal fortnight!
In response to this surge of players, Epic created a separate team to manage Fortnite Battle Royale’s development. Along with creating new assets, weapons, and game updates, the studio pushed to release the game across every device that could possibly play it, including every current gaming console and smartphone. Fortnite Battle Royale’s engaging gameplay and widespread accessibility made it Epic’s most successful product, ultimately driving billions in revenue.
Wait, what does this have to do with beauty?
That’s a fair question and it’s true that beauty and video games don’t typically share much overlap. However, Fortnite’s story does share some parallels with businesses that adapt when faced with unique challenges.
As any stylist will tell you, fashion is always subject to change. Beauty professionals must always be willing to try new things or be receptive to trends to keep their services relevant to clients. Epic Games succeeded on both counts by adapting Fortnite to fit into the battle royale mold.
Fortnite Battle Royale mode was a low-cost investment that minimized financial risk for Epic. However, once the game proved successful, Epic moved quickly to take advantage of momentum. By the same token, if beauty teams give themselves a little room to experiment, the results can be dramatic.
While Fortnite’s pivot to Battle Royale is the biggest reason for its success, that wasn’t the only change. The game’s original look was dark and realistic, but Epic threw all that out the window to give Fortnite a goofy, cartoony aesthetic. It would’ve been easy to stick to the original design, which represented a massive investment of time and money. Instead, Epic embraced the opportunity to start fresh and give Fortnite a second chance to make a first impression on potential customers. This willingness to branch out from Fortnite’s original vision was as much a part of Epic’s success as embracing the new style of gameplay.
Beauty businesses should never cling to a fixed vision of what a spa or salon can do. Staying flexible makes it easier to survive unexpected challenges, from client losses to a global pandemic.
Walking away from what’s not working
Experimentation and flexibility can help you embrace new ideas, but it’s equally important to recognize when something isn’t working. For example, while Epic’s original “Save the World” game mode held some appeal, players were far more interested in the Battle Royale experience that now defines Fortnite. “Save the World” wasn’t broken, but that didn’t mean it was working for Epic. Recgonizing the benefit of not sticking with something just because it was already in place, Epic finished its work on the campaign in 2021 and shifted its focus primarily to Battle Royale.
At Boulevard, we constantly see this trend at play in beauty tech. Far too many salons and spas struggle with Excel appointments and employee schedules for years before looking at flexible management software. Solutions like Boulevard are far easier to use and incorporate features like client management and reporting tools that make beauty businesses far more efficient over the long run.
In the end, Fortnite is far more than floss dances and llama loot boxes. Instead, it offers an excellent case study of how any business can grow when it adapts to best meet customer needs.
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