“Fortnite” will continue its evolution from a game to a full entertainment platform when it debuts a new musical experience featuring hip-hop star Travis Scott at 4 p.m. Thursday. Encore events will roll out through Saturday, with staggered performance times geared for multiple global time zones.
The Scott event, in which the artist will premiere a new single, furthers Epic Games’ continued attempts to evolve “Fortnite” from a competitive multiplayer game to a communal hangout full of limited-time events. Last year, “Fortnite” put director J.J. Abrams live into the game to introduce a less-than-60-second clip of his then-upcoming film “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”; before that, it had already promoted other large cultural events involving “Avengers: Endgame” and the NFL, among others.
The Travis Scott/"Fortnite” team-up comes at a time when the live music industry has been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, with some not expecting large-scale concerts to resume anytime soon, perhaps not until 2021. (Scott was scheduled to headline April’s Coachella festival, which has been postponed until fall.) The interactive worlds provided by games are becoming the new hangout spaces of our new quarantined normal, as seen by the way in which Nintendo’s “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” has been embraced as a social gathering place.
Epic’s announcement of the Scott event, news of which leaked early Monday, was relatively vague, but it’s being pitched as something closer to a “Fortnite” spin on a music video, meaning that while it won’t be a concert, one should still expect interactive elements.
With five events set over three days, the Scott experience, dubbed “Astronomical,” will feel slightly more organized than a free-for-all, in that visual and sonic elements will repeat. Scott has a reputation for creating playful live experiences — his concerts are known for their carnival-like trappings.
Users can expect Scott’s event to be more akin to the live in-game concert from electronic artist Marshmello, who hosted a 10-minute DJ set in “Fortnite” in February 2019. His appearance was reportedly seen by more than 10 million users.
“Fortnite” is already one of the biggest games on the planet — more than 250 million people are estimated to have given it a try — and over the last year, it’s proved itself relatively adept at advertising, becoming a rare place where carefully cultivated Disney brands such as Marvel and “Star Wars” get “Fortnite” makeovers rather than the other way around. In December, Epic laid out its ambitions at the Game Awards, where Donald Mustard, Epic’s worldwide creative director, said the company’s goal was to “push the idea of what a persistent virtual place can be.”
Virtual doors will open to the events 30 minutes before start time, and it’s recommended arriving early to deal with any internet/server hangups.