Sponsored By

Read More from GDC 2024 | Keep up with the latest game industry event coverage from GDC 2024, including news, talks, interviews, and more from the Game Developer team.

Epic execs say IP holders don't care about Fortnite, but they really want its ecosystem

Epic CTO Kim Libreri and EVP Saxs Persson explain why some of the biggest businesses in the world are flocking to Fortnite.

Chris Kerr, News Editor

April 12, 2024

4 Min Read
A character roll call in Lego Fortnite
Image via Epic Games

Epic's battle royale shooter Fortnite has transcended its humble origins to become a leading example of what the 'metaverse' could be. Headline-making collaborations with global brands. Iconic skins that unite characters from movies, television shows, video games, and more under one roof. A perpetually evolving narrative that keeps players in orbit. In-game concerts and comedy shows with major artists. User generated content in spades.

Yes, the early pitch of a live-service shooter has now morphed into something far greater (and perhaps more lucrative) than was initially envisioned, and Epic is acutely aware of how potential partners view Fortnite within the current entertainment landscape.

Just look at Disney. The Star Wars, Pixar, and Marvel Cinematic Universe owner recently sank $1.5 billion into Epic to collaborate on an all new "entertainment universe," underlining where major IP holders feel consumers are currently spending their time.

Contemplating that deal and others at GDC 2024, Epic executives including CTO Kim Libreri and EVP Saxs Persson claimed some of the biggest players in entertainment are coming to understand that experiences like Fortnite house an audience far greater than the ones you can fit into theme parks or retail stores.

"We're not really ready to share what we're going to make [with Disney]," says Libreri. "But I think Mr. Iger has admired what Tim [Sweeney] and the company has been doing for a number of years, and we have a shared vision on how to entertain people. There are going to be some interesting developments, but that analogue of IP and the ability to take players to places they've always wanted to go, together, and maybe even allow them to build their own stuff."

From casual conversation with Disney to a $1.5 billion investment

It's interesting to hear Libreri name-drop Disney CEO Bob Iger. Back in 2019, the veteran chief exec suggested the company needed to focus on licensing, not publishing video games. "We've found over the years that we haven't been particularly good at the self-publishing side, but we've been great at the licensing side," said Iger at the time, outlining why the conglomerate was focused on working with external partners and studios.

Yet, after spending $1.5 billion to grab an equity stake in Epic, Libreri claims Disney is now looking to "do something deeper."

"We've been really close together for a long time," says Libreri, who previously worked under the Disney umbrella at LucasFilm. "Tim and Bob have talked many times. As our entertainment universe has grown, I think it just became really attractive to work out, well, how can we do something deeper than just license the engine, or do the occasional tech demo, or power a ride in a theme park?

"Every bit of Disney uses Unreal Engine, so it just became this natural [conversation]. You know, Bob sees the future of entertainment is not just about passively engaging people. They run theme parks, which are these deeply immersive worlds. In the virtual world they see the potential to bring millions of people concurrently together to experience things you could never in the real world."

Fortnite is a 'blank canvas' for your favorite franchise

Persson chimes in and says that Disney is a "company of dreamers," but noted that turning Fortnite into something of a "blank canvas" has enabled it to meet the different needs of so many IP holders. "Lego saw it the same way," adds Persson. He says Epic's collaboration with Lego Group—which birthed Epic's first party open world survival game Lego Fortnite—has been shaped to give Lego control over their business.

As Lego Fortnite continues to expand, and with select Lego assets heading to Fortnite Creative and Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN), Persson says Lego has finally achieved its goal of creating a bubbling ecosystem that loops in creators. All within Fortnite, although the game itself isn't the hook.

"[Lego wanted to] find a smart way for creators to contribute. Then, people could start making legitimate Lego games, which they can make money on and that are not subject to some crazy licensing agreement. It's not subject to just going and finding assets on the internet. It's the real deal," continues Persson.

"From Lego's perspective, now they have all the elements to make a real ecosystem that's just about Lego. In truth, do they care about Fortnite? Not really. But they really, really care about the ecosystem we've made. "We've invested a lot in how ratings work and how our parental controls work. Or how privacy works. So we have all the basic features you need to have a safe space for when everybody turns up. That's what they came for. That's what they get really excited about."

Read more about:

Top StoriesGDC 2024

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

Daily news, dev blogs, and stories from Game Developer straight to your inbox

You May Also Like