Fortnite‘s latest “season” of refreshed content launched on Thursday, complete with a litany of patch notes about changes to its gameplay. But the biggest change arguably isn’t weapons, terrain, or pirate-themed outfits. The Epic Games title also snuck in a high-profile pop-culture mash-up—and thus it snuck in quite a suggestion for the series’ future.
As of press time, should you boot into the game’s “creative” mode, which allows you and online friends to play on a private server without any “battle royale” restrictions, you can choose to fly the game’s veritable “battle bus” to Weezer Island. (Yes, the chart-topping rock band whose first album came out nearly 25 years ago.)
This in-game zone works in any of the game’s versions (console, computer, and mobile), and it’s full of speakers blaring four songs from the band’s newly launched Black Album, out now on Friday, March 1. (Anyone who loaded this zone on Thursday essentially got a one-day sneak preview of the songs, which are not complete versions.)
The Weezer connection is otherwise a bit thin. This island is smothered in the band’s signature “=w=” logos, as seen on its album covers, but you won’t find anything in the way of horn-rimmed glasses, scenes from iconic music videos, or the band’s members hiding around the island as collectible Easter eggs. Instead, this zone includes a selection of non-combat activities that friends can partake in together, including races through indoor mazes and a large skateboard park.
That may very well be the point. The ability for friends to meet online in the free-to-play game’s creative hubs, away from the demands of 100-player combat and full of time-limited pop-culture tidbits, seems to imply that Epic Games isn’t backing down from the popularity of its recent live events. Most notably, Fortnite‘s season-seven finale drew millions of viewers, both in-game and via YouTube VOD, when it hosted a pair of live in-game concerts featuring DJ Marshmello, full of custom dance-hall terrain.
What’s more, most of the content on the game’s new Weezer Island appears to be available to average players via the game’s editing toolset. Default Fortnite gameplay already hinges on the building of walls, floors, stairs, and other geometry (as an action-infused Minecraft of sorts), and players can group up to run and fly around their own private space (and save their progress for future visits) to build it up as they see fit.
The result already appears to be a rebirth of the Second Life dream, albeit one with a more focused scale. Neither Fortnite‘s default battle royale mode nor its creative hubs support nearly as many simultaneous users in a single instance as Second Life ever did, but Epic Games seems OK with this reality. Having thousands of eager users pile on at the same time in their own capped, 100-user instances, then share the results via YouTube and Twitch VOD, seems to spread the “live event” love in much the same way, if not perhaps with greater accessibility than Second Life‘s population has ever mustered.
While there’s no predicting Fortnite‘s future, it’s fair to say that the game has been keen to avoid descending into irrelevancy. As more hangers-on pile onto the battle royale trend (and, in the case of EA’s Apex Legends, do it quite well), expect Epic Games to keep an eye on expanding its player base with pop culture instead of pistols.
Listing image by Epic Games