It starts with Dominic Fike performing on Saturday
Music is about to become a much bigger part of Fortnite. Today, Epic is announcing a new, three-week-long concert series that will take place on the game’s party royale island. It kicks off with a live performance by Dominic Fike on September 12th and will be broadcast from a brand-new Los Angeles studio built specifically for in-game concerts. It’s all part of a bigger plan to turn Fortnite’s virtual stage into an important place for musicians.
“This is a tour stop,” explains Nate Nanzer, Fortnite’s head of global partnerships. “If you’re on tour, you want to stop on the Fortnite stage. It’s a unique way to get in front of an audience that maybe you’re not reaching through other means.”
Epic has been building up to this for a while. The developer first launched party royale — a separate, violence-free island within Fortnite — back in April, and it features both a concert stage and a theater space, among other attractions. So far the likes of Diplo, Steve Aoki, Deadmau5, and Kenshi Yonezu have performed music, while the theater has been used to screen a Tenet trailer, Epic’s Apple-mocking short “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite,” and even a discussion about race in America. “They’ve been performing really well, we’ve seen millions of people come and engage with these different shows that have happened to date in party royale,” Nanzer says. “So we’ve been looking at that and figuring out how we can do this more often.”
To do that, Epic built what it describes as a state-of-the-art studio space in LA. It has a massive LED wall and floor and robocams that can be operated remotely. (Nanzer says that much of the space was designed around COVID protocols. “We’ve thought through all of that.”) While past events were successful, they were also limited primarily to DJs performing in their own homes. The studio is meant to make performances bigger and more impressive, starting with Fike. “This will be a full live concert broadcast into the game,” says Nanzer. “He’s going to be playing with his band, and he’s going to be playing his new music live for the first time.”
In the future, the team at Epic is hoping use the stage to utilize mixed and augmented reality effects. (Helpfully, Epic also makes the Unreal Engine, which can be used to build these kinds of experiences.) Nanzer also says that Epic is looking at making these events longer. Many of the early party royale concerts lasted 10-15 minutes, but that might not be the case as the venue evolves. “You might see 40-45 minutes, maybe an hour, maybe even more for some acts that have a bigger catalog,” he explains.
The ultimate goal is to turn Fornite’s virtual venue into one that becomes an integral part of the music scene. “It’s something that we’re thinking about as a platform for artists,” Nanzer says. “Similar to the way if you’re an artist and you have a new album coming out, you might play on Fallon or Saturday Night Live, or some platform like that. We think this is a similar platform where you can get in front of the 350 million plus Fortnite players.”
The existence of this concert series isn’t expected to have an impact on Fortnite’s big musical events, like those from Marshmello and Travis Scott. Those lure in tens of millions of players, but they also take a long time to put together — there was a full year in between the two events. The party royale concerts, meanwhile, are meant to be smaller-scale shows that can help fill in those long gaps. “I imagine we’ll continue to do amazing events in the future as well,” says Nanzer. “But we want this to be a regular heartbeat of awesome live music events, between those bigger moments in time.”
The new concert series kicks off on September 12th at 5PM ET (it will be rebroadcast later on Saturday and Sunday), and Epic says that it will be announcing more artists for upcoming shows on the 19th and 26th.