Last week, Epic Games’ “Fortnite” hosted an event featuring rapper Travis Scott that received a concurrent viewership of 12.3 million people. Notably, the concert attracted more players than a 2019 virtual performance by Marshmello that drew in 10 million attendees.
With Big Tech working to mainstream virtual (VR) and augmented reality (AR), the performance likely previewed the future of live entertainment.
Travis Scott’s Out of this World Performance
On April 20, Epic announced Scott would be conducting a multiday tour inside the massively popular battle royale game. The studio teased “Astronomical” would feature the world premiere of a new single and elements built in the environment. However, the studio’s description did not communicate the innovative and sweeping nature of the presentation.
The “Sicko Mode” hitmaker’s 10-minute concert included eye-popping psychedelic imagery that highlights the possibilities of the digital performance space. The set features a Godzilla-sized Scott, a planetary-scale speaker system, a jaunt into outer space, and an apocalyptic finale. The concert is such a jaw-dropping visual spectacle, its appeal extends beyond Scott’s fan base.
Epic revealed 12.3 million “Fortnite” players participated in the first night of the presentation, making it the game’s most popular musical live event to date.
Admittedly, the spread of COVID-19 might have increased “Astronomical” attendance because the pandemic has prompted the cessation of real-life concerts. However, Scott’s performance is more than just a new self-isolation distraction; it is an example of how to present engaging, time-contingent experiences in the digital space. The event also offers a preview of how live entertainment might look in the imminent AR/VR era.
How Epic Games is Setting the Stage for the VR/AR Revolution
In the last few years, Epic has pushed the boundaries of what constitutes a gaming experience through “Fortnite.” In addition to last February’s Marshmello concert, the title has hosted events promoting the release of Weezer’s Black Album and “Avengers: Endgame.” Though these events served to promote real-world content, they also gave players a new reason to log in.
“Fortnite’s” bouncy game mechanics and meme-referencing add-ons helped it become successful, but its pop culture tie-ins keep it fresh. Epic fights against user apathy by letting players step into John Wick’s shoes or introducing them to blockbuster movie plot points. In doing so, the studio has established the game as a destination for interactive and passive entertainment.
Sometime this decade, two of the world’s most influential technology companies will release connected eyewear products with massive promotional pushes. Early tech adopters will buy them to have sprawling, profoundly engaging blended reality gaming experiences. Both Facebook and Apple are interested in mainstreaming in AR and VR technology. Each firm has spent millions on developing hardware and content that can make smart glasses as popular as smartphones.
By proving video games can also function as concert venues, Epic is increasing consumer familiarity with multifaceted virtual spaces. With 250 million players worldwide as of last year, the studio is communicating that idea to a vast audience.
Thanks to Epic, casual consumers might also purchase AR and VR headsets to take in live performances that are not physically uncomfortable or worse, put one’s life at risk.