WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
If this concert is anything to go by the future of concerts is virtual.
With over half the world’s population under some form of lock down thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, Covid-19, Epic Games recently unveiled their new Fortnite Party Royale mode that ditches the games infamous weapons and buildings and lets bored children and adults everyone ditch those boring Zoom parties for something much more off the wall. Even though Party Royale mode has only just been released and is still “experimental” the latest event saw over 12 million people, yes that’s right, I’ll say it again, 12 million people log in and join in the experience. If there’s one thing you can say about Fortnite’s live events, it’s that they keep getting more ambitious. From the original rocket launch to the Mech Vs Kaiju battle to the black hole that wiped out an entire island, each new event is more elaborate than the last.
Now we can say the same is true of the concerts. Last year’s Marshmello show was an exciting, dynamic example of what a virtual concert could look like, and this week’s Travis Scott performance blew it out of the water.
Epic had been setting the stage for the concert since last weekend — literally. Over the last few days players could see a stage being constructed at the Sweaty Sands beach, and it grew more complete as the days passed. There was a black stage on top of the water, and multiple gold, inflatable Travis Scott heads around it.
As with past events, the pre-show was a bloodbath, with players killing each other to kill some time. Thankfully, respawns were in place. When the show started, players could see a strange planet-like object floating towards them on a circular screen; when it got close enough, everything blew up and the performance started properly.
Really, the entire Fortnite island was the stage. During the opening song, as you cans see from the video, a giant Scott stomped around the island, while players could run across the water to catch a glimpse. As the tracks changed, so did the visuals. At one point everything was fiery and Scott turned into a cyborg; later it looked like everyone had been transported to Tron. When “Highest in the Room” came on, the crowd was submerged underwater, along with a giant spaceman. There were rollercoasters and psychedelic effects and at the end players were literally flying around the planet.
The set was short, lasting around 15 minutes. But what I loved was that it was the kind of experience that could only exist in a virtual space like this. Yes, live concerts have become more elaborate, as anyone who has been to an IRL Travis Scott arena show can attest. But they don’t let you float through the air while a Godzilla-sized rapper walks across an ocean.
Epic also appears to have learned some lessons from past events and concerts. For one, once the show started the game’s UI was automatically turned off, letting you get a better view of the trippy visuals. The developer also limited the emotes players could use to keep things on brand.
Perhaps the smartest thing Epic did was make this a tour instead of a concert. Whereas all previous Fortnite events were one-offs but the Scott concert was the first of five, and if you missed it there are plenty of other chances to get in.
With multiple shows, a more elaborate performance, a bigger name performer, and a captive audience stuck inside with nothing to do, Travis Scott’s virtual tour has the potential to literally go Epic, which then begs the question, just how much more surreal Epic can make its next digital concert series? And the answer of course is that when it comes to virtual worlds nothing is off limits so it’s going to be awesome!