The race to create an interconnected virtual world, also known as the metaverse, has been ongoing despite the decrease in its usage. It has been sandwiched between the hype of NFTs and AI, but one company has emerged as a potential leader in this field.
Epic Games and Disney recently announced their collaboration to build an “entertainment universe” that will utilize Epic’s technology and Fortnite’s social gaming ecosystem to bring Disney’s vast intellectual property vault to life. The project, which is expected to take several years to complete, will feature a futuristic series of colorful islands floating in space, connected by highways that will link with Epic’s Fortnite. Disney invested $1.5 billion for a portion of Epic in this deal, positioning themselves for potential cash-printing possibilities.
Fortnite, a third-person shooter game that gained immense popularity for its goofy maximalism and custom skins, has evolved into something much more than just a battle royale game. The game has become a platform or a marketplace where users can experience a variety of games within the game.
In its early days, Fortnite was already a sensation, with hundreds of thousands of viewers tuning in to watch gameplay on Twitch. By 2020, the game had more registered players than the population of the United States. In 2023, the game saw a resurgence, with 100 million people logging in last November.
Epic, the company behind Fortnite, has been steadily expanding the game into something much more than a standalone game. The psychedelic seasonal events, kaiju Travis Scott concerts, and user-generated sandbox worlds hinted at these grand plans. In December, Epic launched three new games within the game: Lego Fortnite, a Minecraft/Animal Crossing hybrid, Fortnite Festival, a rhythm game from the studio behind Rock Band, and Rocket Racing, a fast-paced racing title from the makers of Rocket League.
The recent news that Disney is coming to Fortnite has taken the game’s evolution to another level entirely. Although the two companies already had a relationship, with Disney investing in Epic through its accelerator program in 2017 and licensing many of its Marvel and Star Wars characters to Fortnite as skins, the new $1.5 billion investment signals a much deeper and long-term play.
Fortnite’s evolution from a simple battle royale game to a platform or marketplace has been impressive. The game’s popularity and the addition of new games within the game show Epic’s true ambitions. With the recent partnership with Disney, it is evident that Fortnite’s evolution is far from over, and users can expect more exciting developments in the future.
Disney Needs Fortnite
Disney is in a unique position where it needs something that it probably couldn’t do better itself, and that something is Fortnite. Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, is leading the way in seamless online multiplayer gaming, which is technically complex and expensive. Epic’s core experience runs smoothly and enables people across devices to play and chat together instantly. This is thanks to Epic’s Unreal Engine 5, which Disney’s partner Square Enix will also use for Kingdom Hearts IV, the latest game in the hit franchise featuring Disney characters.
Disney CEO Bob Iger has called the Epic partnership “Disney’s biggest entry ever into the world of games.” This collaboration will allow Disney to instantly gain access to Fortnite’s 100 million monthly players without needing to build a player base from scratch. Additionally, whatever the two companies come up with will be interoperable with Fortnite, giving players a seamless experience.
The benefits of this partnership will extend both ways, and Fortnite might be able to surpass Roblox’s numbers, which are currently at least double its own. Disney, like Lego, will also widen Fortnite’s appeal beyond the audience that plays battle royale and Fortnite’s other shooting-centric games. By offering Fortnite in other genres, the game’s appeal could expand to more women, who are currently enjoying the rise of cozy gaming, and to parents looking for family-friendly titles.
Fortnite’s business model is also key to the potential success of the Disney collaboration. Games in Fortnite’s ecosystem are free to play, and the company makes its money through brand licensing partnerships and in-game purchases like skins, dances, and emotes, which rotate through its virtual store on a daily basis. With the popularity of Fortnite character skins from Disney-owned franchises like Star Wars and Marvel, players will be eager to collect their favorites and show them off on Fortnite’s slickly animated avatars. Disney’s vast vault of characters is a near-endless resource with limitless revenue potential for both companies.
In conclusion, the partnership between Disney and Epic Games’ Fortnite is a win-win situation for both companies. Disney gains access to Fortnite’s massive player base, and Fortnite can expand its appeal beyond its current audience. The potential for revenue is limitless, and the collaboration could lead to exciting new offerings for both Disney and Fortnite fans.
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State of the Metaverse
Meta, formerly known as Facebook, has been focusing on VR hardware as a solution to the future of the metaverse. However, this approach has resulted in a solution in need of a problem. Apple’s Vision Pro may face similar adoption challenges, despite being technically impressive.
Meanwhile, companies like Epic, Roblox, and Mojang have been developing avatar-driven virtual worlds that are widely available and hardware agnostic. These social gaming worlds are extremely popular, with millions of people invested in them. They are also sticky, with users expressing themselves through virtual purchases and user-generated content.
Fortnite, Roblox, and Minecraft are all examples of these avatar-based virtual worlds. While they can coexist, Fortnite has some unique advantages with its high-fidelity graphics, sophisticated animations, and brand-friendly image. Epic has a deep understanding of how people want to express themselves online and the technical prowess to make it possible.
As online multiplayer games and social networks converge, the metaverse is becoming more about who you’re with than what you’re doing. The Fortnite cinematic universe is expanding to include Lego, Rock Band, and Disney, which could introduce a huge swath of new players to the metaverse.
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