After reaching 100million new users, Fortnite have created 'Party Premier Mode' which replaces combat with a social playground for players to engage with eachother.
Now more than ever, people have been discovering the importance of establishing a third place in their lives-- a place that isn't home or work, but somewhere else where they can unwind and spend time with their friends or even by themselves. People are beginning to see that video games provide the perfect third place for people to hang out in, as they are not only an escape from the dull patterns of work and home life, but they are a place to chill with friends, participate in events, and even watch live shows. MMOs such as Fornite are really capitalizing on this newfound knowledge, as gamers and developers alike realize that games provide just as good of a social experience as real-life encounters do.
The biggest example of game publishers fully embracing the idea of games as both fun and social spaces is Fortnite's May 8th Party Royale Event. This was a live in-game concert, featuring Steve Aoki, Dillon Francis, and deadmau5. Players received Neon Wings Back Bling for just showing up to the game from Friday the 8th to Monday the 11th, in celebration of this event. On the island where the event was held, an obstacle court and boat races have been set up for players that want to stick around after the concert has ended. Additionally, an encore performance was held on May 9, which started at 11:00 AM PST, which encouraged even more players to log in if they happened to miss the May 8 concert.
With this Party Royale Event, Epic Games has also announced that the party island will be open to players for non-combat play, even when it is not being used as an event space. This is to encourage players to use the game as a social venue, rather than just a place to duke it out with their friends. In an email from Epic Games to influencers, the space was teased as a place to "leave your weapons and mats behind." Friday, May 1, was the first day that this island was publically tested, following the success of the Travis Scott Astronomical tour on April 23-25. From collaborations with anything from the NFL to Stranger Things, concerts and sponsored events in Fornite have demonstrated the game's success as not just a video game, but a social venue as well, which is why the creation of a "party royale" space makes perfect sense. Best known for competitive Fortnite, Epic has been a leading brand in revamping their image to become a social gaming speakeasy.
In the space itself, players can participate in mini-games, chat, and change out their avatar's skins in the central hub area. This hub area is where in-game events, such as the Party Royale Concert and Travis Scott's Astronomical Tour, have taken place. The success of the Astronomical Tour and its Party Royale predecessor demonstrates how necessary the addition of a social space in Fortnite really is. Over 12 million players tuned in to watch the concert, which spanned 3 days. These huge audience numbers show that people are interested in Fortnite for more than just its battle royale features-- they see the game as something more, something social, and something totally worth telling their friends and peers about.
The use of games as a social space is not a new concept-- in the early 2000s, Second Life and Active Worlds were hubs for anything from business meetings to church services and even online learning. In the 2010s, MMOs like Final Fantasy XIV and chatrooms like Chatlands and Transformice were places where people could hang out, talk to their friends, and even get married. Now, as the world evolves, so has technology, which has given game developers even more opportunities to immerse players in the worlds they build. Even Minecraft is being utilized as an educational tool by teachers and even college professors, as more people begin to realize that games are not only the most immersive way to reach others, but the opportunities for doing so are limitless. The social impact of gaming is astronomical and now that developers have the tools to create more connected worlds, the scope of what they do can only get bigger.
This is why what Fortnite is doing is so incredible-- they're taking a property that people have only ever seen as a battle royale, and adapting it to the changing times. They are pushing the boundaries of their game's structure so that their network of 350 million users can have more than just a game, they can have a "third place" to escape to, even in the unusual times that the world has been going through recently. Fortnite is becoming a place where players can chill out and unwind with friends and maybe even catch a live performance from an artist they like. This "third place" is somewhere that players can feel truly free from the confines of their work or home life-- and Fornite's Party Royale expansion intends to create such a space for its players.
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Images via Epic Games