February 27, 2024

Everyone’s heard of the Big Bang: the theory that our universe was created by an intense burst that distributed hot, dense energy into the ever-expanding world we know today. 13.8 million years later, another Big Bang is upon us – in the world of Fortnite, that is.

On Dec. 2, Epic Games hosted its biggest live event ever, inviting players to participate in its very own Big Bang and create the Fortnite world anew. In the roughly 11-minute interactive event, viewers watched on as a giant asteroid transferred its energy to the map and catalyzed a cataclysmic explosion.

Players were then thrusted into the worlds of Fortnite’s three new game modes: LEGO Fortnite, Rocket Racing and Fortnite Festival, which all rolled out this week alongside existing modes like Battle Royale and Zero Build.

“Fortnite is already much more than a Battle Royale game,” Nate Nanzer, Epic’s VP of global partnerships told Variety after the Big Bang. “We just had our biggest month ever in November: we announced 100 million monthly active users. Obviously, Battle Royale is doing awesome. But if you go into Fortnite today, there’s over 60 thousand experiences that you can jump into. Most of those are built by creators.”

“There’s lots of different types of gamers out there, and lots of people like lots of different styles of gameplay,” he continues. “I think what you see with the introduction of LEGO, coordinated with Rocket Racing and Festival, are three really diverse styles of games that might appeal to different types of gamers.”

When it came time to introduce this new era, Fortnite needed a big name to elevate the hype. Australian content creator Lazarbeam knew something huge was coming when he heard Eminem’s name was attached.

“With someone of that caliber it meant the event itself had to be massive,” he tells Variety. And he was right: Lazarbeam was the top YouTube Gaming channel during the Big Bang. His stream peaked with over 900 thousand concurrent viewers and 4.4 million viewers in total. “It’s always crazy to have that many eyes on you. I definitely let the event itself do the heavy lifting on the entertainment side, and it really felt like myself and the chat that was watching with me seemed to be really enjoying it.”

Eminem rapped “Lose Yourself” as fans got their first look at the rhythm-based gameplay of Fortnite Festival. Fans used their existing controllers for the demo, but Nanzer confirms legacy Rock Band controller support is coming soon: “If you still have that guitar in the garage, it will work!”

Eminem’s longtime manager, Paul Rosenberg, says his interest in Fortnite was piqued by his son’s excitement over the 2020 Travis Scott collaboration with the game. “I started to really pay close attention to it and saw the massive platform that’s inside and the power that it had over fans and players and gamers.”

After inquiring with partners at Interscope, the team reached out about potential opportunities. It was kismet: “The Epic Games folks came back and said, ‘This is incredible that you’re getting in touch with us, because he is one of the top people requested from our players all the time,’” Rosenberg recalls. He and Eminem worked closely with the gaming giant on every aspect of the collaboration, from the “Rap Boy” skin inspired by “Without Me” to the hilarious “Mom’s Spaghetti” back bling.

Top Fortnite creator Nick Eh 30 couldn’t believe it when news of Eminem’s involvement broke. “Seeing my favorite artist in my favorite game was surreal. It felt like a concert just for me. Marshmello and Travis Scott were amazing, but Fortnite keeps upstaging itself. Seeing Eminem come to life on the island was just another level,” he tells Variety.

An overwhelming amount of players logged in to experience the event, which caused Epic Games’ servers to buckle under the pressure. While many hopefuls couldn’t play the event live due to technical difficulties, they turned to their favorite streamers to catch the excitement.

Epic Games

According to Twitch, 186 thousand streamers went live in the Fortnite category during the event, which had the highest concurrent viewership for any event in the gaming category in the platform’s history.

“Every big event that Fortnite does will be massive for myself and them,” says Ninja, who has the most-followed Twitch channel in the world, boasting over 18 million followers. “I expected a bump in viewership, but could have never predicted receiving over 500 thousand viewers on Twitch. We came off OG Fortnite, which was such a huge success, so being able to get all those fans back was great. Fans were excited to see the Eminem event, and even though Epic had a few minor hiccups, I thought the event was massive.”

As Fortnite enters its next stage, its top creators and fans aren’t holding back any excitement. “Fortnite isn’t just keeping up with competitive titles. They’re reimagining the genre at every release. While this chapter’s modes, features, and mechanics are totally new, they feel entirely organic — almost like they were always there. That’s how you know they’ve taken the time to get it right,” says Nick Eh 30. “It’s hard to introduce stuff like that without disrupting built-in habits, but Fortnite is in great hands. You can’t say that about other titles and their releases.”

“Fortnite isn’t just a Battle Royale anymore,” he continues. “The different genres, new features and innovative modes have elevated the game into something else; something much more accessible and honestly – just more fun. I’m most excited to see how the different communities of players are enjoying Fortnite in their own way. The Fortnite universe is growing, and I can’t wait to see how my community grows alongside it in 2024.”

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