Unless you have been hiding indoors and not going out anywhere – oh – maybe then – you may well be aware of the massive event that has been happening in Epic Games’ Fortnite over the past couple of days.
Last weekend rumors finally began to solidify that the collaboration between Epic and rapper Jacques Berman Webster II, better known to the world as four-times Grammy-nominated Travis Scott was going to happen. The artist was set to appear in a series of Fortnite ‘concerts’ this week – the first taking place on Thursday evening and a further four being spread across different timezones so the rest of the world could easily join in.
Epic has since released that nearly 13 million people logged into the game to take part in the first event, so if that is repeated across the other runs, that could be a combined audience of some 50 million people to promote Cactus Jack’s new single release.
Let’s dig a little deeper. Now our boy Travis is not scraping around for the odd dollar. He has amassed a net worth of $40 million and his girlfriend and mother of his child Kylie Jenner is worth a reported billion dollars, so he didn’t need to do this for the cash.
What has happened here though between them they could well have changed the future of online entertainment and certainly the virtual concert.
Epic has managed to make Fortnite the ideal nest for this kind of event. You couldn’t see the same sort of thing taking place in Call of Duty or Apex Legends, but Fortnite’s cartoon-styling allows the opportunity for the violence to stop momentarily and everybody to come together for one big party, which is exactly what has happened here.
People who until last week never even knew Scott existed – my 8-year-old for a prime example – are suddenly obsessed with him – so much, so he forced me to get up with him in the middle of the night to watch the concert in the Asian timezone after he accidentally missed the far more appropriately timed one the day before. He has been looking forward to the event all week, been doing challenges with his friends to get the Travis Scott in-game skin, and counting down the hours to the performance. Then he accidentally logged out 10 minutes before and couldn’t get back in and was heartbroken. Hence the middle of the night event!
As he sat there wide-eyed, following a Titan-sized Scott avatar striding around the Fortnite world where he usually plays, the new music blaring out of his Corsair headset at 5 am in the morning, it was apparent something special was happening.
Epic has put on a tremendous electronic show that’s for sure – graphically mesmerizing. Players are whirled around into a series of landscapes, picked up and hurled off into the distance as Scott’s foot stomps on the ground, only to immediately run back towards the avatar to be as close to the action as possible.
That is where this differs from watching a Youtube video – strangely, this was genuinely interactive without ever being truly interactive. It was perfect smoke and mirrors. Scott wasn’t performing live. It wasn’t a ‘concert’, at least not in the way we know it. The graphics and choreography of the piece timed to the music were close to perfection though. You felt as though you were partaking in something huge – even though it would be repeated several more times and can technically be turned on and off like a switch by Epic whenever the like because it’s not a spontaneous event – it just feels like one.
Was it partly because of the state of the world right now with limited human interaction? It did feel like an opportunity to party together safely with likeminded people.
I guess it’s a similar feeling to what seeing your favorite band live is like. A night like no other you will never forget – special only to you, your brain not allowing you to accept that the same show would be performed every night for the next few months.
As for Scott, it impossible to calculate how valuable lending his name to this bi-lateral promotion will be to him. Epic will have paid handsomely for his in-game likeness but Scott himself will garner a legion of new fans buying his music who previously had perhaps never paid any attention to him but overnight has become a hero to them.
The last recorded player base figures for Fortnite was 78 million in 2018 – that’s a lot of people suddenly exposed to your brand that previously may not have had any connection.
Epic now has to beat this with their next artist tie-in, and I’m sure they will be actively planning how to do just that. It will be quite the mission.
While they get on with that, this weekend seemed like it was a new benchmark in what we can expect in the future for launches of real-world product in virtual worlds. It was pretty exciting to be a part of it. Anything that comes up short will only have people saying, “Well, it wasn’t as good as Travis Scott in Fortnite.”
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