Image source: Epic Games/Disney
We rarely use the “M” word these days, but the race to build connected, avatar-driven virtual worlds hasn't slowed down over the last year.
The Metaverse is a technology buzzword caught between the eras of NFT and AI hype, and whatever you want to call it, it's still being built. This week's news shows one company is in an increasingly dominant position for the foreseeable future.
Epic Games and Disney revealed Wednesday that they are working together to design a “world of games and entertainment” filled with Disney-style games and purchasable items. The multi-year project will deploy Epic's foundational technology and Fortnite's social gaming ecosystem to bring characters from Disney's vast library of intellectual property to life. Disney will acquire a stake in Epic for $1.5 billion in the process.
In images promoting the project, Disney and Epic showcase their collaboration as a series of futuristic, colorful islands floating in space, with highways running between them, and a glowing magical castle in the center that could be used to print money. I'm drawing. Lighthouse of sex. These highways connect, both literally and figuratively, to Epic's Fortnite, a popular game that has grown into a massive online social ecosystem.
Fortnite is one of the most famous third-person shooter games, where 100 players gather on a shrinking virtual island and fight to be the last one standing. The game is known for its goofy maximalism, inviting players to wear customized “skins” that can be earned by playing the game or purchased through Epic's lucrative virtual goods store. Encouraged. In Fortnite, you play as Darth Vader, slingshotting through the attics of boxy suburban houses and smashing enemies with his giant hamster wheel. Enemies might be dressed as Goku from Dragon Ball Z, Ariana Grande, or the perky shirtless cat Kreese (an Epic original).
In its early days, Fortnite was an extremely popular game that was almost ubiquitous. Streaming his games often draws hundreds of thousands of viewers on Twitch, and a cottage industry of professional Fortnite players has sprung up who are obsessed with Epic's sophisticated battle royale game. By 2020, the game had more registered players than the U.S. population. The game will be revived in 2023, and last November he had 100 million logins.
Those who still think Fortnite is just a crappy battle royale game will be surprised to learn just how ambitious Epic actually is.
Fortnite's massive, chaotic, life-or-death battles may still top the list, but Epic is steadily making its big-name games more like platforms and marketplaces than just standalone games. continues to expand. Fortnite's psychedelic seasonal events, monster Travis Scott concerts, and user-created sandbox worlds have all hinted at these grand plans over the years.
In December, Epic launched three new games simultaneously: Lego Fortnite (a cozy survival game that's a hybrid of Minecraft and Animal Crossing), Fortnite Festival (a rhythm game from Rock Band Studios), and Rocket Racing (a rock band studio rhythm game). Band Studio's fast-paced game) Racing Game). Creator of Rocket League.
These new games are already ambitious, but the surprising news that Disney is about to launch Fortnite (or vice versa) takes it to another level. Disney invested in Epic through its accelerator program in 2017, licensing many of its Marvel and Star Wars characters as skins into Fortnite, but this week's news and accompanying $1.5 billion investment goes deeper. It suggests a longer game.
Disney needs Fortnite
Disney is in an interesting position with Fortnite, needing something it may not be able to improve on its own.
Epic Games is light years ahead of many of its peers when it comes to seamless online multiplayer. Running smooth, fast, and synchronous instances of detailed virtual worlds for millions of people is technically complex and expensive. It's no wonder Fortnite players don't notice this, since Epic's core experience works well most of the time, allowing people on different devices to instantly play and chat together. Fortnite looks and moves thanks to Epic's Unreal Engine 5, and Disney partner Square Enix will also use this engine for Kingdom Hearts IV, which stars Disney characters. The latest installment of the popular series.
In the announcement, Disney CEO Bob Iger called the partnership with Epic “Disney's biggest foray into gaming in history.” Any products launched by both companies will be interoperable with Fortnite, giving Disney immediate access to Fortnite's 100 million monthly players without having to build a player base from scratch.
These benefits could extend in other directions as well, with Fortnite potentially surpassing Roblox's own numbers, which currently have at least twice as many. Similar to Lego, Disney will expand Fortnite's appeal beyond users who play Battle Royale and Fortnite's other shooter-focused games. Other types of Fortnite products appeal to younger and older players, broadening the game's appeal to more women who are currently enjoying the rise of comfortable gaming, and parents looking for a family-friendly game. There is a possibility that you may appeal.
Fortnite's business model will also be key to the success of the Disney collaboration. Games in the Fortnite ecosystem are free, and the company makes money through brand-name licensing partnerships and in-game purchases such as skins, dances, and emotes that change daily in the virtual store.
If the popularity of Fortnite character skins from Disney-owned properties like Star Wars and Marvel is any indication, players will be eager to collect their favorite skins and display them on Fortnite's beautifully animated avatars. Sho. From Elsa and Mickey Mouse to Princess Leia and Iron Man, Disney's vast library of characters is a nearly limitless resource, giving both companies unlimited revenue potential.
virtual universe state
Meta may have gone out of its way to name itself after the Metaverse, but when it comes to solving future problems, the company formerly known as Facebook has set itself back in the equation. Focused on VR hardware (a market the company has nearly cornered since he acquired Oculus for his $2 billion in 2014), Meta has finally found a solution to the problem it needs to solve. . how there is nothing. Apple's new Vision Pro, while technically very impressive, may run into similar adoption barriers.
While Meta is keen to turn its Oculus acquisition into a mainstream consumer product, companies like Epic, Roblox and Minecraft maker Mojang are developing avatar-driven virtual worlds where people want to spend their time. Importantly, these are world wide and hardware agnostic. This means that a PlayStation 5 player can also compete on his PC or iPhone (a complicated conflict between Epic and Apple).
Horizon World was Meta's answer to experiences like creepy legless avatars. But by that time, millions of people had already jumped into a virtual world that worked without the need for a headset. These social game worlds are very sticky and people love hanging out in them and expressing themselves through virtual purchases, but they often can't do it all without VR. Masu.
Given the success of Epic, Roblox, and Mojang, they're cleverly positioning what was once considered a game. platform. Fortnite, Roblox, and Minecraft all host user-generated content, sometimes referred to as UGC. This is a not-so-useful acronym that means players can upload their own game modes and virtual goods for other players to try and purchase. . This content is so popular that Epic says that 70% of Fortnite players play user-generated content in addition to the core experience. This is what people think of when they talk about Roblox. For these companies, user-generated content costs nothing, keeps players coming, and provides easy revenue.
Fortnite, Roblox, Minecraft, and other avatar-based virtual worlds can coexist, but Fortnite has some unique advantages. While its peers are known for their nostalgic look, Fortnite's high-fidelity graphics and intricate animations (so complex that they inspired multiple dance moves) are more future-proof and on-brand. It's kind. Minecraft and Roblox are powerful forces in their own right, but the former is more of a game than an ecosystem, and the latter needs to make sure it can retain its young core users as it ages.
Multiplayer games are not typically thought of as social networks in the traditional sense, but the two categories are merging. Now that Fortnite is becoming synonymous with the world of Lego, Rock Band, and Disney, there's little separation between Epic and a future where these categories become one. With ambitious plans for Fortnite, Epic is poised to usher in this new era, leveraging its deep understanding of how people express themselves and the technological capabilities (and now partnerships) that enable it. it's finished.