While Super Bowl LIII was hyped as the big cultural event of the week, a 10-minute concert by EDM star Marshmello on Feb. 2 has far greater implications. Last Saturday, the “Happier” hitmaker held a show inside Epic Games’ monster hit “Fortnite.” And according to some estimates, Marshmello’s show drew an audience of 10 million virtual attendees.
And what a show it was. Taking full advantage of “Fortnite’s” Showtime mode, the show featured gigantic holographic cat women, massive bounce balls featuring Marshmello’s logo and lots of gravity-defying antics. At press time, a recording of the concert has been viewed more than 16 million times on YouTube.
A New World Record?
Although it might end up being the biggest event of its type, the Marshmello in Fortnite show was not the first virtual concert. In 2007, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic performed inside massive multiplayer online game, “Second Life.” And in 2018, “Minecraft” hosted an entire in-game music festival called Coalchella.
However, neither of those games has the “Fortnite” audience, which was recently announced as being 200 million registered users. If the estimates are correct, Marshmello might now hold the world record for highest concert attendance. The old record was 3.5 million people and was set by a free New Year’s Eve concert performed by Rod Stewart in 1994. With the amount of interest it generated, it stands to reason that the Feb. 2 concert won’t be the last “Fortnite” music event.
Why the Future of Live Entertainment is Virtual Reality
While all the details of the Marshmello and “Fortnite” collaboration have yet to be disclosed, the information that has been released is fascinating. According to one report, the concert was promoted by in-game flyers and challenges and on Marshmello’s site. If that really was all the advertising that was done for a show that drew in millions of people, that is a game-changing development.
“Fortnite’s” architecture is already set up to process micro-transactions for outfits and emotes. It probably wouldn’t take much work to add concert tickets to the game store. As such, other recording artists whose appeal crosses over with “Fortnite’s” audience might be able to profit in a major way.
Theoretically, artists like The Chainsmokers and Calvin Harris might be better served with Epic as their promoter rather than Live Nation. Primarily because the revenue brought in by the concert would be split between the artist and the games studio, not the artist and the promoter, the venue, road staff and various travel providers. The millions in reduced overhead costs offered by virtual touring might prove tempting for artists that emerged in the SoundCloud era.
In terms of the appeal of virtual tours to audiences, there’s the interactivity element. At a traditional concert, the interactive elements of the show are limited to call and response sing-alongs, slapping an errant beach ball and being bathed in the sweat of strangers. In “Fortnite,” concert attendees can fly.
With new advances in virtual reality technology being among the highlights of CES 2019, the possibilities of games-as-concert-venues seem boundless.