Analysis

Imagine if Fortnite had a music streaming partnership…


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We’ve been thinking a lot about Fortnite and music recently. Travis Scott attracted 27.7 million people to his recent ‘Astronomical’ concerts within the popular game, while its new Party Royale mode has already hosted DJ sets from Diplo, Steve Aoki and Deadmau5.

There are quite a few unanswered (as yet) questions around this: for example, the nature of the deals being done with these artists, not to mention the potential licensing implications around virtual performances to millions, sometimes tens of millions of people.

However, it’s also made us wonder what more Fortnite might be able to do with music, and specifically, what it might be able to do with a music streaming partnership (or partnerships). How might music streaming be integrated into Fortnite in interesting ways?

The most obvious would be allowing players to sign in with their streaming service of choice, so that they can use their playlists as their personal soundtracks. It wouldn’t be an enormous leap, though: if they’re playing at home, they could simply stream from another device while playing.

Once you had a decent number of Fortnite players logged in to a music streaming service in-game, though, you could do some interesting things. Collaborative playlists and group sessions within players’ own islands in the game’s Creative mode, for example.

Look at what a startup like Stationhead does with this kind of shared, individually-logged-in listening, and then imagine it scaled up to the level of Fortnite. If four friends were playing together on a Creative island, and they listen to a track from the island owner’s playlist, that would mean the track notches up four individual streams across the services they’re logged into.

Party Royale seems like it has some more potential for music too than just performances and DJ sets on its ‘Main Stage’ venue, too. It’s a new Fortnite island that’s essentially a small town with bars, clubs, restaurants, an outdoor cinema and other spaces. As with the main Fortnite map, it could change over future updates – including expanding to add more locations.

Now imagine if music streaming was integrated more deeply. The bars could have jukeboxes where people could make their song requests (for free, but perhaps even spending the game’s V-Bucks currency to jump the queue?) to be cued up – and again, each ‘spin’ could actually generate an individual stream back on Spotify, Apple Music etc for each player who was in that venue listening.

You could have clubs where players could rock up with their own playlists to play virtual DJ sets, and competitions to win slots supporting the superstar DJs when they come to Party Royale. Australian startup Popgun is exploring the idea of a virtual club where players are the stars within Roblox. Imagine that idea adapted to Fortnite, with streaming playlists rather than AI-generated loops.

(That said, imagine Popgun taking its AI-generated loops music creation tool Splash to Fortnite. Perhaps that’s another partnership for the future…)

We’ve seen partnerships between streaming services and console owners like Microsoft and Sony, but a far-reaching, genuinely creative partnership between streaming services and individual games feels like new and interesting territory.

There would be challenges, of course. How does the licensing work for some of the ideas above, which move well beyond personal use? Would Fortnite need to support as many streaming services as possible, rather than choose one exclusive partner and leave users of its rivals out in the cold?

Still, those challenges feel worth tackling, at least from the music industry’s point of view. Fortnite is the virtual space where a lot of people are spending a lot of time, so if music can be woven into that in a way that also generates royalties for musicians and their rightsholders, it could be an exciting thing.

What do you think though? Dream a little: if Fortnite’s publisher Epic Games were to work with streaming services on integrations and partnerships, what else do you think could be possible? Or pop our balloon: what are the problems we haven’t foreseen in any such moves? The comments section is open for your thoughts.

Stuart Dredge

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