Dec 7, 2023 - Technology

Epic adds Lego mode to Fortnite, putting action behind metaverse talk

Video game screenshot of Lego characters running away from a castle made of Lego bricks

Lego Fortnite. Image: Via Epic Games

Fortnite is back. And so is that word "metaverse," now that Epic Games can show it's actually building a virtual world by expanding Fortnite this week into a platform containing three major new internally developed games.

Why it matters: "Metaverse" isn't the buzzword it used to be, but if a metaverse is indeed an interconnected virtual space where people's avatars can do a wide variety of things, Epic's version is now here.

  • Axios previewed the expanded Fortnite this week at a showcase in New York City.

Driving the news: From today to Saturday, Epic is rolling out three games to supplement Fortnite's long-popular 100-player Battle Royale shooting mode and the more recent Creative Mode, which focuses on user-made experiences.

  • The new games are all free to play, accessed when players load Fortnite, and tied to the same "locker" of outfits, emote animations and other virtual items unlocked or purchased by Fortnite users.

Lego Fortnite is a Minecraft-style survival and building game made for one to eight players to venture through collaboratively.

  • Players can snap virtual Lego bricks together to make campfires, upgradeable towns full of village recruits, and even, in the manner of Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, contraptions with added wheels, buoyant balloons and engines.
  • Epic has created Lego versions of more than 1,000 existing costumes from Fortnite Battle Royale and will let users who have them in one mode use them in both.

Rocket Racing is a wild, drive-on-the-walls-if-you-want arcade racing game developed by Psyonix, the makers of the popular soccer-with-cars Rocket League. Epic bought the studio in 2019.

  • Some of the players' cars from Rocket League will also be drivable in Rocket Racing.

Fortnite Festival is a multiplayer music game developed by Harmonix, the makers of the popular Rock Band games from the 2000s. Epic bought the studio in 2021.

Between the lines: The games arrive at a pivotal time for Epic, which laid off 900 workers in September, as CEO Tim Sweeney acknowledged the company had over-expanded.

  • The three games weren't planned for simultaneous release but began lining up when one was running late, Epic's head of Fortnite's ecosystem, Saxs Persson, told Axios.
  • That enabled Epic to create a moment establishing Fortnite as a convergence point for its developers, customers and potential partners.

What they're saying: "The goal is absolutely to organically have the best teams in the world in different genres develop games inside Fortnite," Persson said.

  • The three games run on the same code-base and will eventually include tools for user-made creations.
  • The introduction of new games as a creativity prompt for its players is key, Wagner James Au, author of "Making a Metaverse That Matters," tells Axios. "This should help nudge the user base beyond the core Battle Royale combat mode, and encourage their user community to build more diverse experiences through the platform's robust creation tools. In other words, evolve Fortnite into the full-fledged Metaverse that Tim Sweeney has dreamed about for decades."

Be smart: Epic set up the games' launch with November's phenomenally successful "OG" event in Fortnite Battle Royale, as the company reverted the game's map to how it looked five years ago and then evolved it through several iconic phases to get to the present.

  • The throwback mini-season drew 100 million players for the month, including 44.7 million users in one day.
  • Epic wants to do OG again in 2024. "It's just a matter of how and when, and how do we make it so it's not just the same," Persson said.

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