Fortnite’s Vision Of The Metaverse Feels Like It Has Stalled – Forbes

Almost three years ago, I attended a Marshmello concert in Fortnite’s Pleasant Park. While it certainly wasn’t the first digital concert ever, it felt like one of the most compelling, with a wide variety of colorful player skins in attendence, including some licensed IPs, dancing and grooving and being bounced around the map with pre-planned effects to help bolster the performance.
With all this talk of the metaverse, a shared digital space akin to what we’ve seen in fiction like Ready Player One, I have always believed Fortnite was the closest to realizing that vision, and it was in fact Epic’s Tim Sweeney who was talking about the metaverse before almost anyone else in the tech space, before it became a somewhat annoying buzzword.
But in recent years, the way Fortnite has evolved has caused me to wonder when that vision will actually arrive, if ever. And what Fortnite has done is perhaps keep their battle royale game fresh with seasonal updates, but in terms of actual growing as a metaverse medium, things feel…weirdly static.
Ariana Grande
There have been more concerts, Travis Scott and Arianna Grande, most notably. There have been some live events, though lately those have been scripted, instanced sequences that seem more like traditional video game offerings than Fortnite’s older island-spanning live occurrences.
Fortnite’s main push into the metaverse has mainly been to simply start collecting every and any IP you’ve ever heard of in order to fulfill that portion of the Ready Player One fantasy, the one where Chun-Li and Tracer join the Iron Giant in taking on a bad guy at the end of the movie. I’ve been keeping a grand list of all Fortnite’s licensed skins and it’s a massive collection unlike anything else in the industry. I’ve counted 46 Marvel and DC superheroes, and dozens more skins based on TV, movie and even book characters, in addition to some real life celebrities, from streamers to pro athletes.
And yet, the fundamentals of what Fortnite is has not really changed. Yes, it has a creative mode where players can build their own Roblox-like games. It has a “chill” hangout space where some lower key concerts happen. And yet fundamentally Fortnite is still relentlessly focused on its battle royale experience, and has yet to make a larger move into existing as a digital metaverse space.
There is no larger, connected Fortnite world outside of the battle royale map itself, and that’s in a constant state of chaos, serving its main purpose as being a competitive video game. We may laugh at games like Decentraland poorly emulating past experiences like Second Life or PlayStation Home, but I’m frankly shocked to see Fortnite has not produced some sort of off-blockchain version of that by now. I figured my collection of avatars would have our own little Fortnite house in a corner of a Fortnite neighborhood on the outskirts of Fortnite City by now, and yet there is no real “world” here, it’s just a lot of licensed skins jammed into a video game with occasional concerts or film screenings.
This isn’t to say it’s not impressive, but it doesn’t appear to be evolving very rapidly anymore. Epic got bogged down with this futile case against Apple where it claimed the app store was constricting its vision of the metaverse. They may be right, and yet in the years since the Marshmello concert, I have not seen Fortnite be as much as a leader in the space as I would have liked, and the place that felt the most like the metaverse is allowing a lot of competitors to catch up when it had such a massive head start.
I don’t know what the future holds, but it feels like Fortnite needs to expand dramatically past its battle royale and limited creative modes to be a truly major, long term player in this space. Maybe that is what they have planned, but it does seem like it’s taking a while for anything to get here except more and more new licensed skins.
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Pick up my sci-fi novels the Herokiller series and The Earthborn Trilogy.