Game fads have always come and gone, falling as surely as they rise, but Fortnite continues to act like it's never heard of gravity. At Epic Games' annual Game Developer Conference address yesterday in San Francisco, the company announced that its battle royale juggernaut had grown to 250 million registered players--up 25 percent over just four months prior. Epic also showed off a number of improvements to its widely-used game engine, Unreal 4, and announced a number of new exclusives coming to its new PC game store. What got lost amid the headlines, though, was that Epic--both with Fortnite and through companies like Magic Leap using Unreal Engine to build mixed-reality AI characters--is shaping our connected virtual future in subtle but surprising ways. Epic founder and CEO Tim Sweeney, long a backer of VR and other immersive technologies, sat down after the company's address to discuss how Fortnite is just the beginning of his vision for a million-person connected experience.
My son is dressed as a giant banana and he is throwing hamburgers at me. I am making my getaway on a solid gold quad bike. For once, neither of us has access to automatic weapons. No, our home schooling regime hasn't taken a dark turn. This is Party Royale, the brand new Fortnite mode, where deadly violence is banned and where the emphasis is on messing about and engaging in non-lethal competitions – but mostly messing about.
"Fortnite" creator Epic Games Inc. is now valued at $28.7 billion after raising more capital, funding that comes just weeks before the videogame company heads to trial against Apple Inc. Epic on Tuesday said it completed a $1 billion funding round that includes an additional $200 million from Sony Group Corp. The company, which also counts Walt Disney Co. and China's Tencent Holdings Ltd. among its investors, was valued at $17.3 billion as of last August. Its Chief Executive Tim Sweeney remains the company's controlling shareholder. "We are grateful to our new and existing investors who support our vision for Epic and the Metaverse," Mr. Sweeney said in a statement, referring to the concept of a collective virtual shared space. Epic is set to take on Apple in court next month.
Later this Friday, Fortnite players will stow away their guns and kick back for a movie screening. Three of Christopher Nolan's biggest films - The Dark Knight, Inception, and The Prestige - will be shown in the game's Party Royale mode. What you'll see will depend on what country you're in. But why would anyone want to watch a film inside a video game? "The real world is unbeatable, in my opinion," says Darshan Shankar, the founder of Bigscreen VR - a company that lets users watch films together in cinemas created within virtual reality. "Things like Fortnite and Bigscreen don't necessarily replace the awesomeness of a real world cinema," he says, instead it's about being "able to watch things together with people".