Adding yet another feather to their cap, Epic have secured another major moment in Fortnite history. December 14th will see players gather at Risky Reels, the game’s drive-in movie screen, to watch an exclusive scene from the new Star Wars film. Hosted by J.J. Abrams, this is another step in Fortnite being 'more than just a videogame’. A partnership with Disney and a showing of anything Star Wars related is big business. We already kind of knew that something was coming, from the recent release of the Imperial Stormtrooper skin and the presence of a Star Destroyer above the island, but how far could this go? And what does it mean for the future of the Battle Royale?
Anyone has to admit this is a pretty big deal. Not in terms of spectacle and audience, but for potential. Discussions between Epic and Disney, two major players in the realms of entertainment, could open up many more events in the future. We’ve already seen Marvel step into Fortnite and now Star Wars, which hints that a deal has been struck between the pair to perhaps use Fortnite as a lobby for entertainment launches in the future. Given that Fortnite’s audience consists of millions of children, movie and comic book companies would be mad not to attempt crossovers. However, it needs to be more than just a new scene.
Players enjoy these things, but also want substance. They need more than flash-in-the-pan advertisements built up as community gatherings. Something needs to happen, and this is the perfect time for it. As mentioned in an earlier column, this inclusion of Star Wars is pointing at a colossal event. Even Epic have been noted as saying it’s something special. Of course, fans have dashed to the internet to speculate and anticipation is high.
One Redditor seems to expand on our previous thoughts that we’ll see an invasion of the island by the First Order bringing with them either a new LTM or an area dictating a Horde mode style of play. Speculation is rampant and the options are many – what if we’re all watching the new scene and slowly the sky fills with X-Wings and Star Destroyers? What if we see holograms of the cast pleading for help and we’re blessed with Lightsabers and blasters? The latter would certainly fit well with the game and, let’s be honest, will drag players old and new to act out our fantasies of being Jedi.
There is however some trepidation. As jaw dropping as something like this would be, it points to Fortnite becoming a vehicle for more and more advertising – which comes on the tail of content creators now having to say the words “hashtag ad” when telling the audience to use their creator codes on the Epic store. Of course, so far Epic have chosen the right projects to cross-over with; John Wick was inspired because of his gun-fighting, never die attitude; Infinity War worked because of the hilariously over the top Thanos inclusion and let’s not forget about Batman, meaning Disney hasn’t monopolised the content away from other companies. Star Wars, again, would work because of the blasters and natural symmetry of combat.
There’s a growing sense that Fortnite is a bit… well, muddled right now. The game, at its base, is probably the cleanest Fortnite experience for a long time. The game is harking back to its roots with simplicity. However, a spark of discontent seems to be sitting within nearly every camp of players. Kids are becoming frustrated with the lack of new content; casual players who have hit the tier cap of the battle pass want more rewards to work towards and pro players feel as if Epic are stretched thin, leaving the competitive scene floundering a little.
The FNCS Squads tournament finals played out on 8th December, seeing $5 million in prizes given to the leading teams. Weeks and weeks of rounds were played, scrims were seen across streams, teams got into routines of drop zones and tactics and it all culminated in an online final which gave off World Cup vibes, bursting with excitement, and upsets. But in the run up to the final, Epic seemingly out of nowhere announced then swiftly afterwards launched the Duo version of FNCS, giving players only a couple of weeks to find Duo partners and practice. So much for taking a step back for Christmas.
A lot of this takes away from the fact that, as a straight-up BR experience, Fortnite is currently in a great place – the guns are tight, the fishing is fun and integral to progression, even the boats have worked well so far. Fortnite has become bigger than anything else out there and covering every type of player is tough. If they lean into the younger demographic, others lose out somewhere and vice-versa. Perhaps we as players have reached a critical point of cynicism, where everything Epic does must be scrutinised purely because it created so much previous success. Maybe that’s what we’re doing here? Have we reached a point where something must be unlocked in order to feel some progression? Do we have to have events for the game to succeed and keep a stable player base? Is a Victory Royale not enough anymore?