Fortnite Becomes Much More of a Metaverse Platform with Unreal Editor Integration, Asset Store, Better Monetization for User Creators

Fortnite in recent years has been the least metaverse-ish of the leading metaverse platforms. While interviewing insiders for my book, my strong sense is that Epic hadn’t originally anticipated outside brands considering the platform as a real world application platform, and assumed it would be more akin to a standard modding mode for gamers. And that as a publisher from the traditional AAA game industry, Epic was still holding a tight rein on the platform to protect its brand, even if that meant falling short of the Stephenson ideal.

“It’s insane,” as one frustrated community creator puts it to me. “They want to be a part of this Metaverse, but they are limiting what can actually be done. If you’re really wanting a true Metaverse, then more brands should be able to be in a space whether [Epic] wants to support it or not.”

That all changed this week.

Epic made a series of announcements and updates during GDC 2023 that I’m still combing through, somewhat distracted by Rod Humble’s Second Life-but-XXL mic drop.

For one, there’s the integration of Unreal with Fortnite (watch above), enabling multi-user, multi-platform live editing. (Question: I wonder if live editing can some day be incorporated into published maps, enabling a creator to alter an experience around its user in real time.)  

And then as mentioned in the video, Epic is launching the Epic equivalent of the Unity Asset Store, called Fab:

Epic Unreal Updates GDC 2023 live editing

Fab is a new marketplace from Epic Games giving all digital content creators a single destination to discover, share, buy and sell digital assets. Our mission is to inspire and enable the next generation of creators to build the emerging metaverse together.

We’re unifying Quixel, Sketchfab, Unreal Engine Marketplace and ArtStation Marketplace into one new experience that will connect communities and make it easier to access a massive library of digital assets — 3D Models, Materials, Sound, VFX, Digital Humans, and more.

As a Fab seller, you’ll earn an 88% revenue share so you can build a real business. By making high quality digital assets accessible through an open and fair marketplace, Fab will make world building faster and cheaper, giving creators a greater shot at success.

Then there’s a greatly improved creator economy, which increases the payout from 5% (seriously) to 40%:

Epic places 40% of the net revenue from Fortnite’s Item Shop and related real-money purchases into the engagement pool. Engagement payouts will be made monthly from this pool to the publishers of all eligible islands, including independent creators’ islands, and Epic’s own islands like Battle Royale. The payouts are based on player engagement with each island as described below. 

In other words: Epic builds and sells Fortnite cosmetics, often working with third-party IP owners to bring their work into Fortnite. Starting March 1, 2023, Epic began reserving 40% of that revenue to distribute it based on the engagement created by eligible island publishers’ creative work, both yours and Epic’s. In this way, Epic will further reward creators for their creative work in Fortnite.

More here from the Verge and the Fortnite Creator portal. Much more to say next week, but it’s safe to say this: While most of Silicon Valley has been over-distracted by ChatGPT while writing off the Metaverse, the Metaverse itself has quietly entered a new era.

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