With a $1.5 billion investment, Disney aims to create a platform that will feature its iconic intellectual properties, including Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and Avatar, among others.
Although the term ‘metaverse’ was notably absent from the announcement, the initiative is described as a “new persistent universe” where users can engage in play, entertainment, shopping, and interactions with beloved characters and stories. This move signifies a significant multiyear project to blend Disney’s extensive entertainment universe with the digital frontier.
The new integration with Fortnite opens Disney up to an initial potential audience of 400 million registered users.
Disney CEO Bob Iger commented on the collaboration:
“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.”
Tim Sweeney, CEO and Founder of Epic Games stated that Disney was an early believer in the merging of the Disney Universe with Fortnite’s. He highlighted that the current collaboration aims to create an entirely new, persistent, open, and interoperable ecosystem to unite the Disney and Fortnite communities.
Disney’s recent collaboration with Epic Games marks a strategic pivot in its metaverse ambitions, avoiding direct mention of the term possibly due to past challenges. Under former CEO Bob Chapek, Disney initially embarked on a metaverse journey, dubbing it “the next great storytelling frontier” with Mike White leading the initiative.
However, this endeavor was halted in April 2023 amidst company-wide layoffs affecting 7,000 employees, leading to the dissolution of its metaverse division. This new partnership with Epic signifies Disney’s renewed effort to carve a niche in the metaverse landscape, leveraging Epic’s proven success in the gaming sector.
The partnership between Disney and Epic Games could significantly impact the gaming and entertainment landscape, and position Fortnite as a platform for immersive content collaborations, dynamic season events, and interactive live experiences. Notably, the Marvel Nexus War event in Fortnite captivated over 15.3 million concurrent players, showcasing the powerful engagement potential of these collaborations.
Beyond gaming, Unreal Engine, a cornerstone of Epic Games’ technology, facilitates the creation of high-quality assets and content across Disney’s diverse portfolio. This includes pivotal roles in the development of blockbuster video games such as Kingdom Hearts 3 and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, as well as in cinematic production and animation for major films and streaming services. Unreal Engine has also been instrumental in developing attractions for over 15 Disney Parks worldwide, including the acclaimed Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
This evolving relationship was initially fostered through Epic Games’ participation in the Disney Accelerator program in 2017, aimed at driving technological innovation and redefining entertainment experiences. This strategic partnership underscores both companies’ commitment to pushing the boundaries of storytelling, technology, and user engagement in the digital age.