Fortnite In-Game Purchases Even Though It's Free? Why?

Public domain image courtesy Unsplash.

I used to be a stoner. And when I say “stoner,” I mean a Cheech and Chong, Redman and Method Man, or Seth Rogen-level stoner. 

I haven’t smoked marijuana since 2017. (For a bit of context, I smoked like every day for a decade before that.)

That sentence was one of the hardest sentences that I have ever had to write. Not because I am ashamed, I am proud to be a stoner.

I was just tired of being broke. I used to be unambitious, full of ideas, and too lethargic to pursue them. Long story short I got divorced, lost my job, lost my apartment, fell into a deep depression, and coasted on the sympathies of my relatives to secure financial help for far too long.

And I had a job – I know how to make money, just not keep it, which is a laughable tragedy.

I don’t blame marijuana for that. But if I spent a little more ambition saving money and working on my nascent business plans, I might have realized my business dreams earlier.

It would have been fine if I had the guts and initiative to toke AND manifest my ideas. But I threw away a lot of money for many years.

And now I just have hazy recollections of dirty water bong hits, watching sci-fi films, and convincing myself that I would start my business idea tomorrow. I should have become a weed connoisseur – weed is big business now.

The Legal Weed Hustle (That I Missed Out On)

John Boehner, a former conservative politician and staunch marijuana prohibitionist, is now investing in a marijuana-based business. Jaleel White, TV’s Urkel, is releasing a marijuana strain named after himself. I wish I had half that hustle. But I was just a broke stoner.

Anyway, long story short, in 2017, I moved to Southeast Asia from New York City to travel, write freelance full-time, and figure out a way to launch a budget-conscious comic book company. (Sounds like something a stoner would say, huh?)

The cost of living is lower here, I’ve saved more money than ever before in my life, and I am hopeful that I will launch my tiny business this year (more on that in another column soon). It’s also true that sourcing marijuana is very illegal here and hard to do – but the point is that I think more clearly.

When you want something, to save more money, start a business, buy a home, you must assess your financial standing and your budget. Prioritize need over want. 

And sacrifice.

Nothing worthwhile is attained in life without sacrifice. And the less money you have starting out on a financial dream, the more you must sacrifice to attain it. I wrote that extended introduction to give you free rein to judge me because I am about to start preaching and judging for your financial benefit.

Are you a fan of Fortnite? Do you really spend $100 per gaming season on in-game purchases, even though the in-game purchases offer no gaming advantage?



I am not a gamer. 

For the last few years, I have heard about “Fortnite” on TV and social media and only bothered to learn about it recently on social media. What I’ve learned about Fortnite has shocked me. I wished I thought of the business model. I also learned that the people who play Fortnite have a lot of disposable money to burn or are a long way from realizing financial maturity.

Fortnite is a free online video game. It is wildly popular and has become a popular phenomenon.

A new version of the game is released every season, and you can play online with friends or strangers from around the world. The gist of the game is that you and 99 other people are embroiled in a battle royale or mission on an island until one person is left standing.

Over 350 million people are registered to play on Fortnite. About 4% of the planet’s population plays a video game that was released in 2017. Over 3 billion play-hours were registered in April 2020 – just one month alone. The makers of Fortnite, Epic Games, Inc., and Tim Sweeney made over $1.8 billion in 2019.

However, Epic Games, Inc. doesn’t sell Fortnite.

Fortnite is 100% free to play. That is the genius of the Epic Games, Inc. business model. The company makes money from players paying money for in-game purchases in a free video game.

The Fortnite Hustle

I cannot stress this enough: Fortnite is absolutely free to play. (The old drug dealer ideology is that the first hit is free after all.)

A common practice in modern video games, especially online and mobile device app video games, is encouraging in-game purchases. In some games, the resolution improves if you pay for an upgrade, for example. In Fortnite, you can pay for a digital skin – you can change the aesthetics of your avatar. For example, your game avatar can be changed to look like Thanos, Batman, or Superman.

You can make an in-game purchase to upgrade the aesthetics of your weapons. The most popular in-game purchase is to buy dance moves. After a successful mission, you and other players can celebrate and dance in the game. 

So, you can purchase dance moves like the Floss Dance, the Running Man, or the Dougie and watch your game avatar perform these real-life dance moves. (Seeing all those internet gifs of Batman performing goofy dance moves makes so much sense now.)

I’m not a gamer, so I just don’t get it.

Fortnite fans seem to love modifying their game avatars, at cost, as much or more than the game. The average Fortnite fan spent over $102 buying digital items during gameplay per season. In 2018, the average Fortnite player spent less than $60 buying digital items.

Over 70% of the people who play Fortnite buy digital items. Only about 30% of the people playing Fortnite are playing it for free.

35% of Fortnite fans have no idea that in-game purchases offer no gaming advantage. Ignorance must be blissful and contagious because only 20% of Fortnite fans were aware of that fact in 2018. I respect the Fortnite hustle – I just don’t get why fans are paying for it.

Achieving Financial Dreams Require Sacrifice

I started this column writing about the money I wasted as a pothead as a cautionary tale. And I don’t regret being a pothead (I can’t wait to travel somewhere where pot is legal.)

I regret being financially irresponsible and unambitious as a young stoner. John Boehner was a pot prohibitionist who is now a pot entrepreneur. Why couldn’t I just buy less pot and work on my business dreams earlier? (I’d be smoking a lot more pot now!)

I have learned the hard way that you are much better off with a few bucks in your pocket than being broke after experiencing one toke over the line. In the next month or two, I will be writing about the small business I plan to launch. I am proud to be making these small steps, but I am ashamed it took me this long to do it.

Save your money. Prioritize need over want. Do you want to launch a business, buy a home, get out of debt? Achieving things like these takes sacrifice. And sacrifice is 80% mental and 20% effort – we often get in the way of the very things we want to achieve.

Play Fortnite for Free

Feel free to leave a comment below, especially if you play Fortnite. Are you of the 30% who play for free? Or do you spend $400 annually, so your digital avatar looks like Thanos doing The Running Man? If you are spending $400 annually on Fortnite, you have money to burn or you don’t assess your finances well. 

What do you want out of life? How would having an extra $400 a year help? Unless you are one of these people who earn money playing video game tournaments, I don’t get it.

I am not telling you to give up video games. Just don’t spend money buying unnecessary digital items while playing if you have financial problems. We are living in a pandemic-wrecked economy. And it will be the small businesses and new entrepreneurs of the future who will get us out of it.

A new era of history is starting in these desperate times. Only the people who understand that achieving a dream requires money, a plan, conviction, and sacrifice will make a difference. It won’t be the listless, unambitious stoners or people who spend $400 annually on digital video game items that offer no playing advantage who change the future.

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