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Fortnite Thrived With Its Virtual Concert Stage. Now It’s Going Global

New ‘Soundwave’ series will feature five global acts as the game expands reach for its virtual concerts

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With its newly launched concert series Soundwave, Fortnite is taking its virtual concert stage global, announcing a slate of upcoming events for five regional superstars from around the world on Tuesday.

Soundwave will start this week with Egyptian singer Mohamed Hamaki, whose show launches at 2 p.m. EST on Friday and will be accessible on the game throughout the weekend. Hamaki is debuting new song “Leilt Elomr” during his show. In the next few months, Soundwave will also showcase Australia’s Tones and I — whose single “Dance Monkey” was one of the biggest global hits of 2019 — France’s Aya Nakamura, Brazilian rapper Emicida and Japanese artist and producer Gen Hoshino. 

Virtual concerts in games have grown increasingly popular in the past year thanks in part to the pandemic, which forced musicians to find new ways to reach and perform for their fans as in-person live music shuttered. Major superstars like Travis Scott, Ariana Grande and J Balvin had taken to Fortnite while Lil Nas X and Twenty One Pilots played in Roblox. Fortnite has heavily adopted music as it looks to evolve beyond a video game into a broader metaverse where its audience not only plays the core game but also takes to the virtual world to congregate and socialize more casually. As live music resumes, virtual concerts and other video game activations will likely remain as record labels look to gain a foothold in the gaming industry to bolster their digital marketing efforts and reach new audiences. 

The biggest precedent Fortnite sets with the new concert series is access for artists beyond the biggest names in the business. While Fortnite has produced concerts for more niche or developing artists before, Soundwaves marks the most significant access the game has offered to music artists outside of American-centric mainstream pop. The series follows a successful one-off concert the game produced last year with Japanese artist Kenshi Yonezu that brought the largest spike in Fortnite players in Japan that the game had ever seen. Encouraged by the results, The game’s developer Epic Games turned the show into an entire series. 

“The opportunity here is to present these enormous artists, who are hugely popular in their respective countries and regions, to Fortnite players on a global scale,” says Emily Levy, senior partnerships manager at Fortnite’s developer Epic Games. “Fortnite is evolving from a battle royale game to a global social entertainment platform. It’s really important we start on a regional level as we look for talent, and these regions we chose have some of the most positive and engaged Fortnite communities.”

For the artists, Soundwave offers a means of reaching beyond their own regional clout, while Epic gets an easier way of driving heavier engagement to specific areas instead more directly.

“We have players all over the world, and even seeing how our Middle Eastern fans were reacting to us teasing the Hamaki show, they’re excited because they feel seen,” says Nate Nanzer, Epic Games’ head of global partnerships. “We’re doing something hyper-targeted for them. The goal here isn’t to break every virtual concert record, it’s about driving a ton of engagement in these different regions with our players there.”

Soundwave diverges from the more elaborate concerts that Scott or Grande showcased, with third-party creators the Team Alliance and TheBoyDilly developing Hamaki’s upcoming show in Fortnite Creative, a game feature that allows users to design maps and game modes of their own. Nanzer hopes it encourages more artists of all sizes to take to the game and develop music experiences themselves.

“This is the natural evolution of the platform,” says Nate Nanzer, head of global partnerships for Fortnite developer Epic Games. “Our team has continued to show the world what’s possible with interactive entertainment with shows like [Scott’s], but there’s going to be a whole range of experiences from those shows to lighter touch concerts to even just listening to music. We want to create a platform where where it isn’t Epic Games creating the shows, it’s the artists and community creators, where everyone from a bedroom DJ to Ariana Grande has the ability to engage with our communities globally. My hope is that there’s something like this happening in Fortnite every day.”

From Rolling Stone US