“Where else does Goku hit the Griddy?”
When Epic Games’ vice president of partnerships Nate Nanzer said this during a media-exclusive launch event, everyone in the room laughed—but he was 100 percent serious. Fortnite, a globally popular Battle Royale game, has leveraged a massive roster of collaborative partnerships to create a video game experience unlike anything else that exists.
Since its inception in September 2017, Fortnite was unique from every other BR game that existed, utilizing a building mechanic that truly allowed for every individual game and even every individual battle to be distinctly different. Beyond the gameplay itself, Fortnite has partnered up with some of the biggest names, the biggest brands, and the biggest IPs in the world. In just one 100-person lobby, you can hop off the battle bus dressed as J Balvin with your teammates wearing Marshmello and Ninja skins, and immediately get into a fight with a banana, Peter Griffin, or Batman.
There have been live in-game concerts with the likes of Travis Scott and Eminem, creative game modes with Nike, team-ups with just about every superhero you can imagine (both from the world of DC Comics and Marvel), and so much more. But now, off the heels of the launch of the game’s newest chapter as well as a month-long return to its original map, Fortnite and Epic Games are keeping the momentum going with the introduction of three brand-new game modes.
Players will now be able to experience Fortnite on a whole new level, with the introduction of LEGO Fortnite, Rocket Racing, and Fortnite Festival, three free-to-play distinct modes that will exist in conjunction with Battle Royale.
“There's nowhere else on Earth where you can step with your friends into this universe of games and just socially bond with each other and just travel around to these wildly different gaming experiences,” Alex Rigopoulos, co-founder and studio lead of Harmonix says.
The first of the three game modes to debut was LEGO Fortnite, becoming available to play on the morning of Dec. 7. This particular mode is an open-world survival crafting game that hinges on one key element that binds both LEGO and Fortnite together: building. LEGO’s chief product and marketing officer, Julia Goldin, attributed the partnership to three key reasons and shared passions between the two entities that the partnership is built on: pushing the boundaries of creativity, imagination and experience, and social connection.
The LEGO Fortnite universe is 20 times larger than Fortnite’s Battle Royale map and comes fully equipped with graphics right out of The LEGO Movie. Over 1,200 of Fortnite’s in-game skins have been transferred over to this mode, furthering the interconnectivity between the games.
“But doing this with the LEGO Group, we can't just build an ecosystem for teenagers and twentysomethings, right? We have to build an ecosystem for everybody,” Nanzer says. “People growing up building with LEGO, the pride of creation that you get from building and bringing that pride of creation out of the physical space and to the digital space—anything's possible.”
Simply, LEGO Fortnite is a lot like Minecraft. You are in a massive open world, collecting resources to help you build essentially whatever you want to build. You collect woon, granite, and stone to build homes and structures, but you also harvest berries and meat to keep your character alive. You can work with your friends—or against them—to fully customize just about anything you want. Beyond that, there is a Sandbox Mode, which truly gives you the ability to do anything you want without having to worry about harvesting resources or keeping your character alive and healthy.
“You'll see that in the LEGO collaboration as an example; the two companies sharing a mission around creative empowerment for players is really apparent in the product.,” Nanzer says.
On Dec. 8, Fortnite released its second new game mode, Rocket Racing—which for my money—is the most fun of the three. It utilizes the same engine developed by Psyonix that developed Rocket League to create an arcade racing game with the same physics and mechanics. Players will have the ability to drift, fly, boost, and drive on walls while racing against their friends in private lobbies or against the public in an open ranked mode.
At launch, Rocket Racing will deploy 26 unique race tracks that you can unlock as you rank up, and six different cars that are fully customizable to your liking. When you design your own car inside of the Rocket Racing locker, that will then become the skin of any car you jump into when playing the traditional Battle Royale mode.
Up to 12 of your friends will be able to play in a private lobby at one time, and there will be a global leaderboard, a private leaderboard, and many new game modes on the horizon. Just last month, Fortnite teamed up with Formula One’s Lewis Hamilton to join its icon series, and Nanzer said partnerships along those lines can definitely be expected in Rocket Racing.
“I would say nothing to announce today, but you can expect with the launch of Rocket Racing some pretty cool stuff that we're going to do with cars in the future,” he said.
Remember Guitar Hero and Rock Band? Well, those games are now in Fortnite. Of course, they’re a bit simpler than those two considering that you’re using a controller instead of a guitar or a drum set to play along, but for all intents and purposes, Rock Band is now in Fortnite. Launching in collaboration with The Weeknd, Fortnite Festival is the first free-to-play AAA social music game to that scale.
“The sheer reach of a free-to-play music game on all consoles inside of Fortnite, it’s just a real privilege as a developer to make an experience that can reach that level,” Rigopoulos says.
While The Weeknd will be getting his own duo of playable skins in the game, he will not be the only superstar taking part in the festival. High-profile names like Billie Eilish and Kendrick Lamar are also expected to have playable tracks when the game launches.
“I think more than just him being a massive artist, he is a gamer, " Nanzer says on Fortnite launching the festival with The Weeknd. “If you saw his outfits in the game, they're awesome and super authentic to him.”
The Weeknd also spoke on the upcoming collaboration, sharing "I’m thankful to be a part of Fortnite Festival because not only am I interested in collaborating with partners where innovation is at the forefront, but it’s also about the game's massive cultural impact and how it bridges barriers with players of different ages and genders. It’s exciting for me because it's the first time I've seen all my major visual expressions from my career integrated into one place through these offered outfits."
Nanzer further shared that each new season of Fortnite Festival will come with a new icon collaboration, and that Epic will also aim to revisit past icons like J Balvin and Ariana Grande to give them their own concerts in the game as well.
“I think with the intro of Fortnite Festival, it's super exciting to have that arena for us to always be celebrating music, celebrating artists,” Nanzer says. “And so I think you're going to expect to see a lot more of that. Just think about how many artists we've ever done in the history of Fortnite—we got a bunch of exciting stuff planned for next year.”
On top of the Main Stage game mode where you and your band can perform hit songs, there will also be a Jam Stage mode where you can hop onto a number of different stages and work together to create your own custom sounds. Sounds that you create in the Jam Stage mode will carry over into the actual Battle Royale mode and work very similarly to the way the emote wheel does now.