Football in Fortnite: New sport collaboration is 'just the start'

By Will Chalk
Newsbeat reporter

image copyrightEpic Games

After putting on in-game gigs that were watched by tens of millions of fans, Fortnite has announced its latest collaboration: The beautiful game.

It's partnered up with some of the world's biggest football clubs to offer licensed skins and emotes.

Fortnite has been one of the most popular games in the world for more than three years, and collaborations have played a big part in its success.

And the man behind it hopes there will be more football in Fortnite to come.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionNate Nanzer worked on the game Overwatch, before joining the Fortnite team in 2019

"We really view this as the the start of what we want to do in football," Nate Nanzer, whose official title is Head of Global Partnerships, tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

"We've dabbled in the past, like we did some stuff with Liverpool Football Club a few months ago, but that's now evolved into this, and the football calendar is pretty exciting over the next couple years, so hopefully we can keep doing more."

Twenty-three teams have signed up to have their kits in the game, including Manchester City, West Ham, Celtic, Rangers and Juventus.

There'll also be a separate game mode where players can use their pickaxes to play four versus four football.

To the uninitiated, the addition of some new outfits and celebrations might not seem like a big deal, but games are constantly fighting to keep players jumping ship to one of their rivals.

This means they have to keep the experience feeling new and exciting, but without taking away from the reasons people loved it in the first place.

image copyrightEpic Games
image captionPep Guardiola is probably firing up his console as we speak

Tweaking little things such as the look of the characters can make a big difference.

"I think I think we're constantly trying to push ourselves," Nate says, "and that's why Fortnite is stronger than it's ever been.

"Back in December we had a Marvel-themed event that set an all-time concurrent user record for us - 15.3 million people.

"So this football launch isn't a reaction to anything other games are doing - it's really an effort on our side to be thinking as globally as possible.

"We're a US-based company, but what we want to do things that resonate all over the world."

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionTravis Scott's performance was watched live by more than 12 million people

Fortnite got the most attention here in the UK last year when it put on gigs, by Travis Scott and Marshmello, that took place entirely within the game and were watched by millions.

But they also had similar success in Japan with an artist called Kenshi Yonezu, and Latin America with Colombian singer J Balvin.

The idea of the world's biggest artists performing within a game would have seemed absurd a few years ago, but Nate says things are changing quickly.

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"Fortnite has hit this level of awareness globally, so we don't have to explain to people what it is any more, so that's a great advantage," he says.

"But first and foremost we're looking for people who're going to be great collaborators - we've never had a situation where someone has come to us and said: 'We'll pay you loads of money if you put us in the game.'

"That's literally never happened."

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