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US content giant Disney is investing $1.5 billion in Epic Games, the maker of Fortnight, with a major metaverse move the apparent aim.
February 8, 2024
It’s worth noting that nowhere in in the Disney press release is the word ‘metaverse’ used. But there is talk of an “open, persistent and social universe [that] will bring Disney stories and experiences to life, interoperating with Fortnite and its more than 100 million active players and creators.” Sounds a lot like the metaverse to us.
For context, Fortnite is an online gaming environment that seems to owe much of its persistent success to facilitating third parties in adding value to it. In one sense, all MMO (massively multiplayer online) games are precursors to the metaverse in that they’re virtual, open environments that allow people to indulge in a wide variety of virtual activities beyond core game play. World of Warcraft was the early leader in this concept but Fortnight seems to be one of the biggest right now.
So we’re being asked to imagine an online gaming environment that is not just augmented by Disney’s impressive portfolio of intellectual property (Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, etc) but through which you might be able to access other Disney content such as distinct games and video. Even the image shared above suggests a number of connected virtual worlds, which is surely what ‘metaverse’ is shorthand for.
“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 Robert Iger, Disney CEO. “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 was one of the first companies to believe in the potential of bringing their worlds together with ours in Fortnite, and they use Unreal Engine across their portfolio,” said Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games. “Now we’re collaborating on something entirely new to build a persistent, open and interoperable ecosystem that will bring together the Disney and Fortnite communities.”
To show how serious Disney is in this collaboration it’s investing $1.5 billion in Epic, which is a private company so we don’t know exactly how big a piece of the action that buys on top of the stake Disney already had. It was apparently valued at $32 billion a year ago. It will also be interesting to see how Disney navigates the conflict between Epic and Apple, which it has traditionally been very close to.
We asked media and telecoms Analyst Paolo Pescatore for his initial thoughts on the matter. “This is a big bold move as Disney builds upon initial tentative (and in some cases failed) steps into the gaming world,” he said. “The Apple Vision Pro has given Disney a sense of the opportunities to create new ways to engage with audiences.
“While it sounds exciting, the whole metaverse is still nascent and unproven. It will require time and considerable investment. All of this is driven by the need for Disney to evolve and kickstart new revenue opportunities rather than solely focus on cost cutting. For Epic, this is a huge deal and is a strong endorsement of its capabilities.
“However, there is a landgrab right now with attention quickly switching towards games. The video streaming market is mature and everyone is now trying to differentiate through games.”
The media technology world is ultimately about eyeballs and, it seems, the big content producers are hoping there is a relatively untapped market in people who spend most of their time gaming, as opposed to watching the telly. If they’re right, gaming and video content is probably what will drive adoption of the metaverse although, if this announcement is anything to go by, the word itself has already lost much of its lustre.
As the Editorial Director of Telecoms.com, Scott oversees all editorial activity on the site and also manages the Telecoms.com Intelligence arm, which focuses on analysis and bespoke content.
Scott has been covering the mobile phone and broader technology industries for over ten years. Prior to Telecoms.com Scott was the primary smartphone specialist at industry analyst Strategy Analytics’. Before that Scott was a technology journalist, covering the PC and telecoms sectors from a business perspective.
Follow him @scottbicheno
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