Crafting a Digital Nation: Epic Games’ Vision for an Expansive Metaverse
As night falls, you find yourself in a mystical forest surrounded by towering trees and radiant mushrooms. A clearing comes alive with others, illuminated by what seems like fireflies. Abruptly, the scenery transforms as a colossal screen overhead showcases Australian singer Tones and I, setting the stage for an otherworldly experience within the title track of her album, Welcome to the Madhouse. In this digital realm within Fortnite, you soar with companions to a haunted mansion adorned with rave lights and Escheresque staircases—a party unfolding in the metaverse.
Fortnite’s Evolution Beyond Battle Royale
Epic Games, the creative force behind Fortnite, originally launched in 2017, has evolved beyond its renowned Battle Royale platform. This mode, engaging 100 competitors in intense shootouts on a vibrant island, captured global attention during the height of the pandemic. However, Epic Games now envisions a metaverse that transcends conventional boundaries, relying on Fortnite’s dedicated gaming community to shape this unexplored terrain.
Empowering User-Generated Content
Since 2018, Epic has offered Fortnite Creative, a sandbox-style mode empowering users to craft their playable maps. March of last year marked a significant leap as Epic introduced a revenue-sharing model, allocating 40 percent of Fortnite’s net revenue—estimated in the billions annually—to creators publishing their games on the platform. As of October, creators have received a substantial $120 million from this initiative. Simultaneously, Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN) was unveiled, providing tools from Unreal Engine, the 3D-graphics framework that birthed Fortnite and previous hits.
Building an Interactive Network
These tools enable developers to transcend mere mini-games, constructing an entire interactive network. Epic, undeterred by the challenges faced by other metaverse initiatives, sees itself creating a unique and promising successor—a metaverse where the users within a digital nation take the reins.
Gaming Community’s Role in the Metaverse
Fortnite enthusiasts turned developers see this as a groundbreaking venture. Chad Mustard, a former Fortnite Creative user turned UEFN developer, highlights the significance of user-generated content, emphasizing that Epic has harnessed its player base’s creativity. Mackenzie Jackson, initially just a gamer, discovered her passion for development through Fortnite Creative. She co-founded Alliance Studios, a consultancy group assisting clients in entering the Fortnite ecosystem while building immersive experiences.
Metaverse’s Growing Landscape
Saxs Persson, Epic’s executive vice president, attributes the 2023 UEFN upgrade to the critical mass of user ingenuity and advanced tech. The response has been overwhelming, with 300 to 400 new “Islands” (individual games) published daily. Developers like Jeremy Pedron, known as “Squatingdog,” contribute to this boom by creating diverse maps, bridging the gap between Fortnite’s combat-centric reputation and a world of limitless alternatives.
Navigating Competition and Celebrities in the Metaverse
The competitive landscape has intensified with UEFN, as noted by Josh Benzing, CEO of 404 Creative. Even big-name influencers are hiring developers for maps, reshaping the dynamics of the industry. Despite challenges, the influx of celebrities like Snoop Dogg and Cordell Broadus into Fortnite hints at its long-term viability.
Pioneering the Unknown in the Metaverse
In the words of Pedron, this marks a new pioneership, exploring not just what players want but what can be created that players don’t yet know they desire. As Fortnite evolves into a multifaceted metaverse, it appears to be at the forefront of shaping the digital landscape, guided by the creativity and innovation of its diverse community.