“Fortnite is a game. But please ask that question again in 12 months.”
Epic CEO Tim Sweeney tweeted this rather ambiguous comment on Dec. 26, 2019 after he was asked whether he views Fortnite as a game or as a platform.
For many, Fortnite is just a game. They hop in, grab a Victory Royale, do some silly dances to celebrate, or just play around in its Creative Mode. All of this can be done solo, or with a group of friends and while its colorful design and its steep learning curve associated with its building mechanic may put some off, it still remains one of the juggernauts of the video game industry almost three years after its initial release.
For Tim Sweeney, though, Fortnite clearly has more potential than existing as just a game. Fortnite can be pushed, molded, and evolved into something far more than a zany battle royale game where everyone flosses and iconic pop-fiction like Deadpool make cameos just because.
As we edge past the four-month mark since Sweeney tweeted, Fortnite’s success appears to be as strong as ever.
The official Twitter account boasted of over 350 million registered Fortnite players, and 3.2 billion hours spent playing in April alone. That’s the equivalent of roughly 4.8% of the world’s population (estimated at 8 billion), all signed up to one video game.
It was on this news yesterday that Epic opted to announce Fortnite Party Royale – an ‘All Chill. No Sweat’ Fortnite experience where players can forget about mats and weapons and just hang out and have fun.
There will be live music performances at the main stage, aerial obstacle courses at Skydive Rift, boat races at Fishsticks’ Boat Road, and a paint launcher for players to mess around with at The Plaza.
In other words, Fortnite Party Royale is a social space like no other. Where Destiny 2’s Tower is a general hub for redeeming rewards and sorting out your Guardian before embarking on your next quest, there’s not a whole lot to keep you glued to it.
You don’t boot up the game, looking forward to hanging out in the Tower. But you might boot up Fortnite, looking forward to chillin’ with some friends in Party Royale.
Fortnite’s already highlighted its potential to be something more than a traditional online video game experience. From the events that take place each season throwing people into different dimensions, voting in real-time, or watching an epic Monster vs. Robot battle play out across the island, through to its musical performances from the likes of Marshmello and Travis Scott. It may not be to your taste, but its technological prowess is somewhat unmatched.
It’s all of this — its enormous install base, the brand-name recognition, big celebrity names, and Sweeney’s penchant to make Fortnite more than just a game — that seems to be pushing it closer and closer towards its metaverse potential.
A ‘metaverse’ is ‘a collective virtual shared space, and often simplified as ‘a future iteration of the internet, made up of persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe.’
Sound familiar? That’s because when you think about it, Fortnite’s already more or less on its way to becoming a metaverse. Its Battle Royale island is a shared, 3D virtual space where players can blow each other’s head’s off. The Creative mode gives players a blank canvas that can be used to create incredible levels and worlds that can be shared and simultaneously exist in this metaverse.
However, it’s only really with Travis Scott’s Astronomical event a few weeks back that Fortnite’s metaverse potential really began to become clear.
As 27.7 million unique players hopped into Fortnite over a weekend to view Scott’s performance, they were sent hurtling into the air with every drop in the bass. An enormous holographic Scott stomped around the map, before players were sent swimming underwater and speeding through space.
On its own, Astronomical isn’t a ‘piece of the metaverse.’ It merely shows Fortnite’s potential to host audacious live events and its capability to handle the obscene amounts of traffic directed towards its servers as a result. It was the test the game needed to pass to greenlight Epic’s more ambitious plans.
That’s kicking off with Fortnite Party Royale this Friday. A plethora of musical performances will take place and players can freely explore and play around on the island as they wish.
Don’t expect Party Royale to be all that enthralling tomorrow, or even for the next few months. It’s going to be a period of ironing out bugs and getting the foundations firmly in place.
But if the Battle Royale mode’s track record is anything to go off, you can expect it to be constantly reshaped, reworked, and improved upon to realize its true potential.
By year-end, don’t be surprised to see Party Royal become a bustling metropolis for the Fortnite world, teeming with shops, arenas, and more weird and wonderful events for players to enjoy in a relaxing, care-free environment.
Fortnite already has one of the ‘key pillars’ of any metaverse already in-place with its V-Bucks digital currency. Players can load up their account with V-Bucks and go about spending it on cosmetics currently.
Beyond that, however, V-Bucks could be used for entry to special events, allow you to further upgrade your character with new items, a place they could call their own within the Fortnite universe, and all the furniture and goodies to decorate it and make it their own.
With a good seven months to go until we can ask Tim Sweeney whether Fortnite is a game or a platform, the transition is already in progress. Now it’s just a case of waiting to see what the final destination looks like.
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