The Walt Disney has announced a massive investment of $1.5bnminority equity in Epic Games, along with a new Fortnite partnership which will result in a “persistent universe.”
“Our exciting new relationship with Epic Games will bring together Disney’s beloved brands and franchises with the hugely popular Fortnite in a transformational new games and entertainment universe,” said Disney CEO Robert A. Iger.
“This marks Disney’s biggest entry ever into the world of games and offers significant opportunities for growth and expansion. We can’t wait for fans to experience the Disney stories and worlds they love in groundbreaking new ways.”
Disney Experiences chairman Josh D’Amaro said: “This will enable us to bring together our incredible collection of stories and experiences from across the company for a broad audience in ways we have only dreamed of before. Epic Games’ industry-leading technology and Fortnite’s open ecosystem will help us reach consumers where they are so they can engage with Disney in the ways that are most relevant to them.”
As for the new Fortnite partnership, Disney describes it thusly: “the new persistent universe will offer a multitude of opportunities for consumers to play, watch, shop and engage with content, characters, and stories from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, Avatar, and more. Players, gamers, and fans will be able to create their own stories and experiences, express their fandom in a distinctly Disney way, and share content with each other in ways that they love.”
It sounds quite similar to what happened in Epic’s recent collaboration with LEGO which resulted in the launch of Lego Fortnite earlier this year.
This is not the first time Disney and Epic have done business, either. Over the years numerous characters from across Star Wars, Marvel and more have appeared in Fortnite, and Disney has also used Epic’s Unreal Engine in its games, movies and theme parks.
My own speculation is that this stems from Disney winding down its desire to craft its own metaverse. Last year it laid off the entirety of its admittedly very small Metaverse department, comprising around 50 people, as a result of Disney’s plan to cut its workforce by around 7,000. However, Epic has remained very bullish regarding its own metaverse plans and has been steadily expanding Fortnite into a crazy multimedia behemoth. This could be a way for Disney to realise some of its metaverse ambitions without so much of a risk.