Screenshot of Unreal Editor for Fortnite

Fortnite isn’t just a game where players run around shooting (and occasionally pickaxing) one another, while occasionally breaking to watch a music concert.

From its earliest days, the game has also had its ‘Creative’ mode – a user-generated content sandbox where people can build their own islands to… well, run around shooting one another, for the most part.

However, the mode is flexible enough to encompass other uses, including islands built for artists and music brands. We wrote about The Kid Laroi’s island in January this year, for example, with its mix of quests, music and virtual performance.

iHeartMedia launched its ‘iHeartland’ in Fortnite’s Creative mode last year, while in 2021, British group Easy Life launched an island with a recreation of London’s O2 Arena venue. In short, the mode enables music activations similar to those built for Roblox, the other key platform for this kind of thing.

All of which is a long lead-in to the launch this week of Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN).

It’s a PC-based application for building games and experiences in Fortnite’s Creative mode, based on the tools used by professional games developers in Fortnite-maker Epic Games’s Unreal Engine software. Fortnite’s version will make it easier for anyone (music companies included) to build these islands.

Here’s the key thing: this comes with a new way to make money from those experiences. Epic Games is calling it ‘Creator Economy 2.0’ and it involves “engagement payouts to eligible island publishers”.

It will reserve 40% of the money made from Fortnite’s item shop and real-world purchases to be shared between people who have built Creative mode islands. “Payouts are based on what players enjoy in Fortnite and account for things like island popularity, engagement, and attracting new players,” it explained.

There’s a more detailed explanation of how that works here, and companies are eligible alongside individual developers. In short, it’s a new way for music companies and artists to make money from building Fortnite islands, which very much sharpens the game’s competition with Roblox for music activations.

There is already a well-established trend of labels and artists’ teams working with professional metaverse agencies and amateur creators in Roblox and Fortnite’s communities alike on projects. Music firms have also been hiring developers and designers with Unreal Engine experience to work in-house.

Now the financial incentives for those partnerships and investments are even more appealing, including a spur to build experiences with a long-term plan, rather than just for one-off campaigns.

That said, here’s a warning: whatever the music industry builds in Fortnite will be up against experiences created by professional games developers, and hardcore Fortnite players who know the game and its culture inside out.

Star power in terms of artists will only get us so far: the music industry will need to bring its A-game in terms of creativity, innovation and giving people who truly understand gaming (and Fortnite) culture the lead in what we build.

Worth the effort? One recent estimate suggested that Fortnite’s annual revenues in 2022 might have been in the ballpark of $5bn. 40% of that would be $2bn. What slice of that pie might we be able to carve out for the music industry and its artists? Let’s find out…

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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