This past week before Apex Legends stole all its headlines and Twitch viewers, Fortnite was making waves with an in-game Marshmello concert that may not have been the first virtual show ever, but it was certainly far and away the most viewed with over 10 million concurrent players tuning in not just to watch it, but to actually “attend.”
The Marshmello concert, like a number of other Fortnite events, from the rocket launch to the Cube explosion will be burned in my mind for a long while as something unique to not just gaming, but this game, which keeps pushing the envelope in new and unexpected ways.
It increasingly seems like Fortnite is evolving past a popular battle royale title and into…something else entirely. It’s been reported for a while now that Fortnite essentially acts as a social network for many younger kids who get together not just to shoot stuff, but to essentially hang out. I’ve spoken to many parents who relay that their kid almost can’t not play Fortnite, lest they be left out of the social conversation at school. Not being on Fortnite for many of these kids in 2019 would be like me not being on Facebook heading into college in 2004. If you weren’t there, it was like you didn’t exist.
The Marshmello concert really struck a chord for me in particular though. Years ago, I remember hearing about how VR was going to change the world, and we’d all be living online in virtual spaces virtually hanging out and doing things like…going to virtual concerts.
Obviously we do not live in this ultra-connected VR utopia that was promised, as the tech is still barely getting off the ground, and at a much slower pace than most predicted. And yet that place does exist, and more often than not lately, it’s been Fortnite. I wouldn’t be surprised if it took another full decade to get 10 million people to tune into the same Virtual Reality concert, but Fortnite did it without breaking a sweat a week ago.
So, what happens when Fortnite keeps evolving? I’m not sure, but I feel it happening, and I am incredibly curious as to where all this is going. Epic has taken huge steps in this direction with the addition of Creative Mode, a combat-free experimental portion of the game where players can build their own structures, cities and islands using Epic’s own tools.